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Review: Serious Sam 3: BFE on XBLA boasts crazy enemies and even crazier FPS action

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These days we see a lot of developers creating first-person shooters in an attempt to evolve and revolutionize the genre. Serious Sam 3: BFE from developer Croteam does no such thing, instead  relying on old school mechanics, all the while refining the formula and design to suit today’s standards. The result is an action-packed FPS that reverts back to some pleasantly retro mechanics, all the while delivering an experience that’s deliciously enjoyable, refreshingly fast-paced, and rewardingly brutal. Originally available on PC, the game is now downloadable on Xbox Live Arcade, and it’s great to see that its violent action and humorous wit are still totally entertaining.

Serious Sam 3 takes place before the first game in the series – with BFE translating to Before First Encounter – and tells the story of Sam “Serious” Stone’s journey through Egypt as a member of the Earth Defense Force. To be honest, the game’s plot is neither very gripping nor all that important. This is a game that relies heavily on its visceral FPS action and the occasional quip from Sam, and really, it’s all the better for it. An epic tale of man versus invader wouldn’t have been fitting, and a convoluted storyline would have done absolutely no favors for the game. As it is, Serious Sam 3 offers up some great pacing due to its lack of story sequences.

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If you’ve played past Serious Sam installments, the first few hours of this latest entry may seem a bit bizarre. This is because rather than thrusting you into wide open spaces littered with droves of enemies, you’re put into tight corridors and environments and tasked with picking off small groups of baddies. Though these initial sequences are still fun, it goes without saying that they don’t do the spirit of the franchise much justice. Don’t let these first few moments fool you, though. Serious Sam 3 amps up in the insanity after a few levels and it does so quite gloriously. It doesn’t take long for you to discover expansive arena-like areas where seemingly endless waves of enemies rush you. This is what old school shooters were known for, and Serious Sam 3 brings that classic style back in a massively enjoyable manner.

While the story aspect may be limited, it’s impossible to deny the amount of attitude and personality that exists within the confines of this downloadable game. The enemies, weapons, and Sam himself tell a story greater than any written plot or surprise twist could have delivered. Throughout the course of this bullet-laden journey you encounter several enemies new and old. Headless Kamikazes rush toward Sam, releasing a terrifying shriek as they prepare to blow themselves and their target to smithereens. There are also the ever annoying Kleer Skeletons, which hurl projectiles before ultimately leaping at you. Minigun-wielding Hatchling Arachnoids shower you with bullets or attempt to sting you if you get too close. Space Monkeys hop around columns and pester you with their quick attacks. And Major Biomechanoids, one of several massive enemy types, bring the heavy artillery with devastating missile attacks. These are just a few of the enemies that you encounter throughout Egypt, and they all pose a major threat.

What makes Serious Sam 3 so enthralling is its reliance on flooding the screen with enemies. At any given time you’ll collect some health and armor or stock up on guns and ammo only to realize that you’re being set up for a major encounter. Sometimes you don’t even have the luxury of collecting plentiful resources, and you’re instead forced to face waves of enemies with what you’ve got on you, even if what you have on you is a shotgun with 20 shells and 10 points of health left. The coolest thing about the game, though, is that a major encounter doesn’t necessarily need to be a boss battle. As a matter of fact, these sequences, though largely enjoyable, immediately take a backseat to the awesomeness of the game’s hectic gunplay across its sprawling areas.

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Of course, it would be impossible to praise Serious Sam 3 without mentioning one of its most important elements: the guns. This weapon-heavy adventure is rife with firearms galore, many of which you’ll instantly recognize if you’re a seasoned FPS fan, and others that will surprise you. Need a rocket launcher to blow up the floating Witch-Bride of Achriman? Would a minigun of your own be more to your liking while battling massive threats? Or would you perhaps like to make all of those alien bastards suffer with a portable cannon? Serious Sam 3 gives you a lot of tools to work with, and thankfully, they all deal some ridiculously heavy damage. Unfortunately, selecting weapons with the Xbox 360 controller’s D-pad can be a pain when trying to equip a gun that’s placed on a diagonal corner of the weapon submenu.

The fact that you have so many powerful weapons at your disposal doesn’t make the experience any easier. Serious Sam 3 is a gruelingly tough game that will challenge and kill you, all the while leaving you wanting more. Oftentimes you’re overwhelmed by insurmountable odds that leave you a pitiful mess of failure. The solution: Dust yourself off, ready your weapons, and try to survive. Oh, and don’t tell me that you were doing that all along. I mean, really try to survive out there. Move around, jump, strafe, and for the love of Sam make every single bullet count.

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Games: Serious Sam 3: BFE

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