Review: Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter
Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is a dangerous and exciting world and gives a very genuine first person shooter feel while keeping the old fashioned first person storytelling style as well. This game is a high-definition remake of Serious Sam: The Second Encounter which debuted on PC in 2002. The original Serious Sam: The First Encounter was released in 2001 and was developed by Croteam as a way to showcase the game engine under the hood. It is very possible that Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is one of the best story-driven First Person Shooters I’ve ever played, and given that this is a flooded genre, I’ve played thousands so it means a lot.
I must admit I never played the original Serious Sam: The First Encounter. While it was a hit for many, it was a sleeper to me as I was off playing some other game. I nonetheless was very excited to hear about Serious Sam: The Second Encounter being brought forth in HD. I have been hearing from friends that Serious Sam is very serious! And they were right. I attacked this game and was steadily surprised and satisfied by the traditional format but more so what they had done with it. This game is a hidden gem from PC gaming that clearly still stands up to shooters out today.
The game play in Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter Simultaneously reminds me of many great PC shooters from the golden age while managing to stand out from them all as well. There is certainly never a dull moment in this game. Fast paced and awesome action that will have even the most jaded of gamers saying “Whaaaat?” provides the fundamentals for a huge fun factor. Everything you must do in the game is learned intuitively from level to level in campaign mode. Any shooter fan should be able to pick this up right away and become decent at it over night. This covers how to deal with various types of projectiles, puzzles, and enemies along the way. What you learn will always prepare you for a new more complex threat which you must master.
Sometimes the nonlinear way you must access the various areas in a level play out great, other times it’s confusing which door you are supposed to go through next and how, walking to new areas or wandering around is usually enough to get u back in the action though and often times surprise attacks will start out of nowhere.
When it comes to graphics this game sticks to the traditional style of fps but brings superb lighting detail and well used color palette that keeps things fresh. The frames per second remained locked most of the time and provided a fluid experience. The depth and detail on textures was very good for a title of this price. Animations are pretty great and never seem to look totally ridiculous. The extra filter options allow you to totally customize the look and colors of your graphical experience in Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter and allow you to get the best graphics no matter your preference for style.
A.I. is great usually but sometimes not so great. Slight glitches in A.I. sometimes make it easy to shoot enemies around the corner saving your bullets for the more intense moments is a good idea here. Harder modes have much better AI though, and the game presents a serious survival challenge so this can be forgiven. Complex hoards of enemies must be killed tactically and efficiently with a mastery of the full weapons selection. Strategically enemies find a way to use the entire area of each massive level to their advantage. Challenges are presented in a fun exciting interesting manner that keeps the fun factor high and the confusion factor to a minimal.
The puzzles reveal themselves naturally through a bit of observation or trial and error and enemies will surprise you in fun new ways constantly causing you to switch up your weapon usage and keeping things fresh. Item exploring and adventure also become an added bonus woven into the fast paced action.
Each mission is massive and filled with creepy enemies that without a doubt will make you cringe as you shoot and saw them to bits. Enemies can shoot you from hundreds of miles away with homing projectiles but you can blow them up before they reach you. Enemies will have every angle plotted out on how to kill you, expect to be surprised with the way you are completely dominated at times by your foes. Until you figure out a strategy that will work for each stage there will be a lot of dying.
Most of the story is told through brief cut scenes displaying areas of the map and how your interactions with then progress such as opening up a new temple. There is also a text messaging stream coming in telling the player more detailed information, sadly I actually prefer not to read in a game like this and found the text mostly lame at times. The basis of the story is that Sam must save the world from total annihilation! If you are a long time fan of the series you probably already know all of the ins and outs that go along with that or maybe you just like to shoot things and the fact the world is ending in front of you is exciting enough! Either way the story definitely feels like it does a great job of giving this game an overall theme that is eerie and exciting.
The music in this game is pretty good and fits the mood for each stage well. There is a little more repeating of tracks than I would have liked but for the low price of this title, beggars cannot be choosers. The humor elements in the game thrown in with funny music or overall humorous situations that arise are pretty great. Comic relief is a welcome element in the intensity of this shooter.
With the quick save hotkey in classic fps form you will be hitting a lot of saves in sticky situations and challenging yourself to get out of them. This is great fun although may be a bit confusing for newcomers to fps, are there actually newcomers to fps on earth still? The auto save feature is great but sometimes it produces less than favorable conditions similar to the quick save function. In the worst case scenario, you may get a save that spawns you in front of a speeding wall of spikes and inevitably be crushed every time you load it. This will mean using your last quick save instead, so don’t be stingy with disk space, spend a lot of it on your saves! Also, manual full saves are a must as any PC gamer knows, quick save are traditionally the temporary save and full saves reserved for those epic moments of achievement such as clearing an episode.
Unfortunately, the game has many repetitive sound effects. High pitch squealing ones are annoying at times but overall the sound quality in the game is pretty great. Most likely your most embarrassing death in the game will result from you entering doors too slow and being crushed like a ‘noob’! This is pretty hilarious and one of the many nice touches in the game such as the UFO/pyramid room and the one-liner comments from the main character.
The Boss fights in this game will challenge you in creative ways. Expect the unexpected. Disgusting, scary, and just overall ridiculously awesome boss fights take place in this game that will have you doing cannonballs into tubs filled with mirrors. Unexpected surprises prolong each one continuous times keeping you guessing and on your toes. Plenty of minions come to back up the bosses and you will find yourself stocked on mirrors when you see hoard after hoard bringing you to minion slaying exhaustion as you become lethargic in an over-gorge of blood. The only thing I can say bad about this game’s boss fights is that there should have been more of them!
In the Courtyards of Gilgamesh the player is faced with perhaps the hardest challenge in the game. If you do not want to know how to beat this please skip to the final paragraph of this review now. The player is faced with wave after wave of intelligently structured enemy hoards. Quick Saves must be used very carefully and often and the cannon-balls must be saved for a very long time. Players will have to run to the center of the larger-than-a-football-field death corridors and then, while running backwards, utilize their weaponry to kill all types of enemies from chainsaw wielders, rocket-launcher beasts, dragons, and more.
Use the weakest weapons you can at this point in the game because the waves that you are faced with get worse and worse and you will need every plasma charge and rocket you have for the final waves. There are much more waves than any reasonable gamer would probably expect! The sheer enormity of this section of the game will have you wanting to quit, but fear not. Continue trying using these methods and you are sure to win.
Certain enemies like to charge head on at the player. You can blast cannon-ball bombs that will split right through them. You will need to be able to identify which enemies merit such a blast while switching quickly between this weapon and your others to dish out additional damage to the hoards of minions the main antagonist constantly sends after you in every level.
A lot of points in the game where difficulty gets extreme the player can simply use a smart bomb (if they have one) to eliminate all of the enemies at once. The key in this is to know when to use it and when not to. The snow level where the player is ambushed is a great time to use this. There is a certain moment in the middle of the level when the amount of enemies is beyond what the player can handle and bullets start to run out.
The game gets ridiculously brutal at times like in the courtyards of Gilgamesh but if u keep a lot of various saves around the level and keep going at it you will eventually overcome this insane challenge! In Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter it’s not about what gun you have but using the right ones at the right times. There is plenty of ammo around throughout the campaign, but you must use your weaponry efficiently. Obviously some weapons are more powerful than others to take a quote from the game “the man with the mini-gun fears not”. You just need to know which situations merit the bullets.
The online in this game is pretty great, especially the classic Deathmatch mode, Survival mode, and co-op mode. Overall however, the multiplayer component seems to fail at capturing the entire Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter experience by just a hair. Turn it up to the higher difficulties though, and this game will rock your socks off with or without friends to back you up.
At times throughout the story mode you may feel that the pacing was a little off. Areas that are harder than they should be typically did not bother me but what I did notice were the lack of harder levels towards the end. The end boss Mordekai the summoner was also too easy compared to bosses and levels leading up to him, and relied on more hoards of enemies rather than his own power. Overall, this game just barely missed the mark for dead-on perfect pacing and being so close to the maximum intensity a human can handle the entire time that it felt a little anti-climatic at the ending levels when it became less intense.
Every time you think this game is over, you are just getting started. Every time you think you have seen the hardest part of this game, you don’t know what hard is yet. This game will re-define what first person shooting can be to anyone who has never played a Serious Sam game and is an ode to gaming in general. Even with the extreme difficulty the game can have (especially for newcomers to the genre) I expect any person that remains dedicated to this game enough to beat it to become an even greater gamer than they were before hand. This game nails it in so many categories; you just want to ignore the few things it missed out on. A few more unique sound effects and a little more to the A.I. and the game would be perfect. This game belongs in the masterpiece category of your game collection, which throws it back to old school fundamentals that shine bright, and should be a pre-requisite for anyone who considers themselves a hardcore PC gamer.
Single Player Story Mode Game-Play Footage:
System Tested On
Operating System: Vista SP1 Home Basic (64-bit)
Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Q9400 @ 2.66GHz 1333FSB 6MB L2 Cache 64-bit
RAM: 2 GB Corsair Dominator® DDR2-1066
Video Card: 1 GB Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT
OS: Windows XP w/SP1 or newer
Processor: Intel Pentium 4 3+ Ghz or AMD Athlon64 3500+
Memory: 1 GB for Windows XP or 2 GB for Windows Vista
Hard Drive: 2.2 GB free space
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 7600, ATI Radeon X1600 (Shader Model 3.0 Required)
Sound: Direct X 9.0c compatible sound card
DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c August 2009 Edition or newer