Serious Sam 3: BFE
Developer: Croteam/ Publisher: Devolver Digital
Available for the PC and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
You might have been wondering where all of the old-school first-person shooters have gone. You know, the ones where large groups of enemies came at you from every angle, and all you had was your trusty shotgun, your wits, and some really excellent strafing skills. There wasn’t really a storyline to all the mayhem, just loads of enemies between you and the stage exit.
Those were the good ol’ days.
While the genre has evolved quite a bit since then, there are still games that embrace that classic gameplay model, preferring to throw legions of foes in the player’s direction instead of having them sit through cutscenes and play through linear, small-scale skirmishes. Croteam‘s Serious Sam is one such franchise that been doing this for a while now, providing players with a frenetic Doom-like shooter since 2001. Now the next entry in the series, Serious Sam 3: BFE (Before First Encounter), aims to continue with the tradition, bringing the cult old-school shooter to a new generation of players. Although it was previously released for the PC, it’s appearing for the first time on Xbox Live.
Serious Sam 3: BFE features the eponymous character Sam “Serious” Stone, a badass member of the Earth Defense Force that rivals the likes of Duke Nukem in both skill and the use of ridiculous one-liners. Despite carrying the number ‘3’ in the title, the story takes place before the first two games, and details Sam’s first encounter with Mental’s alien forces, who are hell-bent on conquering Earth.
While the story is pretty light, the action is quite the opposite. Simply put, Serious Sam 3: BFE is a extremely chaotic game, but in a very good way.
The game, just like its predecessors, plays out in the same vein as the title that inspired it, Doom. Players run through large stages with multiple corridors and pathways, aiming to reach the end of the stage. However, hundreds of enemies stand in the way, from grotesque cyborgs, large one-eyed monsters known as Gnaars, to huge scorpion-like creatures with gatling guns in its pincers, and more.
Killing them one by one is easy, but taking on 30 of them at the same time is quite a feat, as the game constantly puts on the pressure by flinging as much enemies as possible at the player. Due to this, the game’s difficulty can quickly escalate at times; with so enemies filling the screen and attacking you at the same time, you’ll really need a cool head to persevere. Combat, however, never becomes frustrating because it’s so damn fun. Each encounter, be it with one enemy or dozens, is pulse-pounding and nerve-wracking, guaranteeing that the player going to feel awesome if they make it out alive.
And make it out alive they will, because Sam has a nice selection of guns to play with. From the typical pistol and the classic double-barrel shotgun, to rocket launchers and guns that shoot lasers, Sam has enough firepower to decimate everything that comes his way. These guns aren’t really enough though, because the player will need some great strafing skills as well.
For a game like this, control is everything, and in Serious Sam 3: BFE the controls are absolutely phenomenal. Movement is precise and straight-forward, and strafing, which is crucial for survival, is simple and effective. Thanks to the wide-open environments in the stages, you can strafe without a problem, as otherwise you’d just be trapped and killed in a matter of seconds.
New additions to this entry are the use of iron sights for some weapons, like the pistol and assault rifle, sprinting, and the ability to perform melee kills. While most of these additions aren’t really necessary (Sam is already quick enough on his feet, and the sights don’t really do anything you can’t do by shooting from the hip), it doesn’t affect the game negatively either.
Despite the repetitive nature of the game, it’s pretty addictive to run around and shoot things. Gameplay is so fast and fun, and with so many enemies to shoot at, you’ll really have a hard time of putting the controller down. An expansion has also been released, titled Jewel of the Nile, so there’s plenty more to do once the main campaign is done.
Serious Sam 3: BFE also comes with offline/online co-op and competitive multiplayer. In co-op, up to 4 players can team up and tackle all the story missions together. In competitive multiplayer, players can take on each other in typical gameplay types like CTF and Deathmatch, or other unique modes like Beast Hunt and My Burden (players earn points as leader, while others hunt them down). While I didn’t get to play multiplayer as much as I wanted, due to it being severely unpopulated, the games I did participate in were enjoyable.
Graphics-wise, Serious Sam 3: BFE doesn’t really stand out. Graphics look outdated, bland, and unattractive, and environments look empty, lifeless and repetitive. Character animations are also stiff as hell, with weird movements and joints that bend in awkward angles. But considering how the predecessors looked, this game is a major improvement. I mean take a look at the first two and then check this one out.
The sound in the game is not too shabby, but not too great either. The soundtrack fits nicely with the game, with soft tunes during the downtime and rock during the encounters. The voice-acting is pretty terrible however, but perhaps it’s aiming for a B-movie feel.
When all is said and done, Serious Sam 3: BFE is a great game. Although it lacks polish in the graphics department and can get quite difficult at times, it’s still a thrilling joyride that reminds us why old-school shooters were loved in the first place: you just can’t stop playing.