That’s a serious package you have their, my friend.
As previously mentioned in my review of the Alien Breed Trilogy from Team17, packaged together on one disc by Mastertronic, I can see both the benefits and the appeal of having multiple arcade game together in one package, especially when they are part of a series. Serious Sam HD: The First and Second Encounters brings together the ageing adventures of the legendary Serious Sam on one disc. These games are the High Def, polished versions of the original Serious Sam games, released on XBLA in 2010 by Croteam.
This represents the smallest of the recent Mastertronic XBLA compilations, offering only two games. However, each of these games are available on XBLA for 1200MSPoints, so the two on disc for £19.99 at GAME still sounds about right. But what can the player expect to find?
Well, unlike the other compilations that I have reviewed, I am going to discuss Serious Sam as a whole. Frantic first-person shooter action, masses of enemies, impressive weapons and cheesy one-liners. That is the sum total of the Serious Sam games. Don’t get me wrong, there are stories hidden within the two games, but they are largely inconsequential. The most important thing is shooting stuff, a lot. Think of Sam as Duke Nukem’s slightly less sexist cousin and you will know what to expect from the character. It’s not rocket science. In fact, you could probably send your brain away on holiday whilst playing these two games. But it is pure and simple fun. Roll on Serious Sam 3.
Being that Serious Sam one and two are just polished re-releases of old PC games, this trip down memory lane will not be for everyone, and the modern FPS fan may find the simplistic run and gun gameplay far too limiting for their liking. But if all that you want to do is shoot stuff that moves, very quickly and in your general direction whilst screaming, missing a head and holding large explosives in each hand, the Serious Sam will be right up your street. Both games furnish the player with an incredible amount of outlandish weaponry and give the player a bizarre collection of enemies to shoot, such as the previously hinted at headless suicide bomber, biological mechs armed with rocket launchers, stumpy creatures with mouths that span their torsos and flying harpy creatures. Death comes in a variety of forms, and it usually comes very quickly.
Which is why I am incredibly grateful for the inclusion of the quicksave button mapped to Y. Without this little button, I would be cursing repeatedly at the screen whilst smashing my controller. The format of the game is run, shoot, save, die. Rinse and repeat. It really can be that difficult, with enemies rushing you from in front, shooting at you from all angles, pouncing on you from the skies and generally being a pain in the neck. It may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but the sense of satisfaction when wading through a blood stained battlefield is so sweet that it makes it all worthwhile.
Each of the two games have something else to offer besides the standard story. First Encounter includes a four-player co-op mode that certainly turns up the fun, making it far easier to stay alive. However, Second Encounter is where things really hot up. The inclusion of a number of competitive modes is welcome, such as the death match and the beast hunt. But due to the game showing it’s age, these modes will likely entertain for only a short while. The real stars of the show are the single-player and co-op survival modes. The player/players will be attacked from all sides with increasing ferocity and challenged to simply stay alive. If I tell you that you get an award for lasting one and a half minutes, I am sure you can work out how hard this mode is. It is, however, more fun than should be allowed.
For all of the spit and polish applied to these games, they are still showing their age. This limits their appeal to maybe the older gamers like myself who can still remember the thrill of hearing a screaming headless suicide bomber running through the long grass in their general direction. The new game modes increase the fun though and ensure that this pack of Serious Sam games will entertain any shooter fan that wants to give their brain a rest.