– By Mike Bezek
For a while now, something has been missing from my life; I have been plagued with a distinct hollow feeling. I have been longing to gun down headless, yet screaming undead kamikazes, and know my S key isn’t satisfied with me as a lover due to so much neglect. All I wish for is to rectify this distressful situation. Thankfully, for people like me, Serious Sam 3: BFE is here to fill this void and reintroduce us all to one of the progenitors of large scale run-and-gun goodness.
It’s been quite awhile since we have seen a Serious Sam game released on the PC, in fact, it’s been 6 years. Croteam has had a long time to give the franchise a much-needed facelift, and they are definitely delivering with this latest incarnation. Gone are the blocky, low quality models of SS past that were designed to keep your game from crashing while facing 30+ enemies on your screen at once. The game now features lush environments that allow the destruction of certain elements. For example, aliens are able to break down trees in their path, which is a welcome interactive element that was missing from the static environments used in Serious Sam 1&2. Levels are based in Middle-Eastern locales like Cairo, where you will be navigating the battle-torn cityscapes that are filled with small corridors that lay on the pressure thick when surrounded on all sides. Added into the mix are desert levels where you will be rushing from village to village, trying not only to avoid sand worms, but new aerial aliens that have a penchant for commandeering military helicopters to rain death upon you via chain gun.
Ground clutter is copious and the maps are fresh with plenty to look at, and while it is not overly detailed like other current games, it’s still a breath of fresh air over the sparsely detailed maps from the previous games. Lighting and shadows make a surprise entrance here, the sun accurately and beautifully cuts through various objects, creating lifelike shadows on the environments and Sam himself as well. Exploring maps and finding hidden treasures was always something I enjoyed in the Serious Sam series, and not having to trek through endless fields of nothingness this time around is very welcome.
The preview allowed me to tinker around with about one third of Sam’s total arsenal, which includes sticky bombs, an assault rifle, and a sledgehammer for gory whack-a-mole gameplay. Gunplay feels crisp and clean, and very precise when aiming down the sights of applicable weapons. Being able to whip around and mow down aliens with precision is a trademark of the series, and remains ever-present here. But the biggest surprise is the inclusion of melee combat that functions well and gives the player more tactical options. Sam will automatically raise his Sledgehammer over his head when an alien is in range, allowing you to slam it down on them at the most opportune moment. If aliens are getting too close for comfort, you are also given the option to stomp, punch, head butt, or just plain rip their heads off. I couldn’t have been more obliged to dislodge the heads of the skeleton freaks that used to run me down in previous games.
I had come to this party prepared to get the same treatment from the past: aliens drop in from portals in unrelenting numbers once you find a rocket launcher. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were scripted events in this game; a mechanic that used to be an afterthought in this series. I was treated to scenes where aliens were jumping out of windows from above and hulking behemoths crashing through walls unexpectedly, shattering the only moment I was given to collect my thoughts. The aliens’ direct interaction with the game world gives them a whole new level of personality, as they shed their old husk of mindlessly running at you from the moment they spawn.
You can’t really say much about a Serious Sam game when it comes down to the details. Sure, there are new items, and added elements that spice up the gameplay, but people are shelling out cash for something specific: the premise of picking up big guns and running down hordes of freakish aliens, while spouting off cheesy one-liners. These are the staples of the Serious Sam franchise, and this iteration is shaping up to be a nice new addition to this simple formula.
Serious Sam 3: BFE is scheduled for release on October 18th and is available for pre-order via Steam. -End
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