Serious Sam 3: BFE is the epitome of the old school shooter. It is incredibly fun and manages to accomplish what games such as Duke Nukem Forever or Hard Reset couldn’t: make the repetitive nature of these shooters immensely fun. Croteam has created a game that is totally unashamed to be what it is. There are no frivolous driving levels, few extended breaks from shooting things and a ton of awesome secrets to discover. But more than that, there are a ton of interesting, freaky and creative enemies to find and kill. Serious Sam 3 is an excellent example of why the old school shooter should not be considered dead, or rather, how it is very much alive.
To begin, Serious Sam is one of the most purely fun games I have played this year. There is no huge story, no characters to really get attached to, save Sam himself, and no nonsense. There are just guns, enemies and more enemies. Then some more enemies, just for good measure. The gameplay, while it can get repetitive, is almost constantly refreshed by interesting arena settings where you must navigate through streets or temples and kill most, if not all, enemies around you to move on.
While there is not a huge amount of environmental variety within Serious Sam 3, there is enough to be enjoyable, and just as it begins to get stale, the game changes the scenery. The levels all look great, especially the Egyptian Temple levels. Further, the stages are mostly destructive. While walls often keep you penned in, the pillars and such are constantly exploding as rockets, C4 and other explosives disintegrate them. Dust is kicked up from machine gun fire, obscuring your view. Overall, the stages feel very organic and alive because of how they can be changed due to the destructive nature of Sam’s enemies, as well as Sam himself.
The sounds of the game also add some great atmosphere to the game. Each monster has their own unique grunt or warning sound, be it the mechanical servo sound of the biomechanoids or the unique groans of the zombified clone soldiers. The guns also sound great, particularly the awesome sound of the minigun as it annihilates your enemies. Perhaps the best part of the sound design though is the awesome soundtrack. The music is very appropriate and actually serves as the best clue as to when you’re about to be attacked. The music is also awesome, especially when it switches to a more heavy metal sound. It fits the game perfectly. I also have to mention that Sam’s one liners are hilarious. They’re macho, but not overtly sexist like Duke’s. Sam is kind of a jerk, but he knows it, and it makes the game more fun when you defeat a large boss and get a pretty great quip.
But while the graphics are great and the soundtrack is awesome, that isn’t why one buys a Serious Sam game. The gameplay is where it is at. You’re still fighting hordes of monsters and scrambling around arena like stages, or twisting through corridors to the next arena. Best of all, you’re doing so with the help of some awesome weaponary. What sets Serious Sam apart from his competition is that every gun is awesome ad fun to use. Every gun feels like it has its own unique place in the game. While the early stages build you up nicely (unlike the older games, it is a somewhat slow buildup – not a bad thing), it isn’t too long until you’re using the minigun or the cannon to wipe the stages clear of monsters. There is no 2 weapon nonsense, you can carry everything with no issues. Your pistol has unlimited ammo, the double barreled shotgun is incredibly powerful and the minigun is still amazingly fun to use throughout.
In spite of the awesome amount of weaponary you get to wreak havoc with, the game is not easy. I played through it first on Normal, and even then it still presented a reasonable challenge. Serious Sam creates difficulty through hordes and hordes of monsters. Early bosses become more standard enemies later on as your arsenal improves. In spite of the challenge presented, the game is never impossible, never frustrating, just occasionally damn challenging. You will quickly learn to loathe the Kleer Skeletons this time around. In the past games they were annoying, now they’re positively vicious, and a total pain to take out from afar.
The worst thing that Serious Sam 3 suffers from is repetition. The levels can all start to look very similar, mostly because they are. There is some variety, and it is never repetitive enough to become boring, but it is notable that the game is pretty much as pure of a shooter as it gets. The game does throw a few wrenches into the mix, either through boss fights or sending you into underground corridors, but for the most part, it is a very straightforward shooter. This is not exactly a bad thing, but some more environmental variety would not have hurt, especially when one consideres that the average recommended level time is around 40 minutes a level. So each chapter is ridiculously long by today’s standards, and it takes serious time to play through the game. We aren’t talking Skyrim here, but Serious Sam 3 is lengthy enough that you will have trouble beating it in a weekend.
Of course, things do tend to go a bit faster if you decide to play the levels multiplayer. The game features up to 16 player co-op, and while this can get ridiculous, it also makes the game ridiculously fun. There is also a competitive multiplayer in Serious Sam 3, and it is very traditional. Players take each other on with the standard weapons from the series, but it is never quite as fun as the co-op or the single player. The levels just feel dead without hordes of enemies to conquer. Still, it is a step forward for a series which prides itself on its stubborn adhesion to the old ways of shooters.
Serious Sam 3: BFE has all the personality and fun that Duke Nukem Forever lacked. It is a game that is very aware of itself, but it is never apologetic for its nature. It is the perfect combination of challenging and fun. The guns, in spite of being standard, still stand out because of how the game encourages the player to use them. Serious Sam 3 is an excellent, lengthy and awesome adventure through Egypt, and should be enjoyed by anyone who likes shooters, old or new.