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Serious Sam 2 Review

Serious Sam 2 Box art
Publisher:2K Games
Genre:First Person Shooter
Official Site:http://www.serioussam2.com/sam_home.html
Release Date:October 14, 2005 (UK)
Reviewer:Craig Dudley (Mani)
Buy now at Amazon.co.uk

The first Serious Sam game and it's follow up Second Encounter seemed to be very well received by the gaming community and did very well. Insanity, high speed action, and the odd puzzle mixed well to give genuinely fun gameplay. It's therefore been a little bit of a shock to me that Serious Sam 2 doesn't seem to have done all that well up to now. Of course, that hasn't stopped me from coming back to it at the first opportunity because no matter how late, Serious Sam games have always been at the very least worth a look. With the recent addition of mulitplayer co-op and deathmatch modes it's perhaps an ideal time to fill in a glaring hole in our review catalogue.

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Serious Sam 2 has the same sort of semi-comic book art style of the previous games, colourful and amusing yet slick and detailed. CroTeam's Serious Engine II is just that, Serious. (Sorry I had to, just once). Textures, animation, backgrounds, character models and effects are all of high quality. So much so I'm very surprised at least some of the engine hasn't been licensed out for other titles, but then maybe it has but I certainly haven't seen anything about it.

For me the most impressive thing about the way the game looks is partly down to clever level design and quality background images, all the maps seem to have real depth with buildings or trees stretching out into the distance. You certainly don't feel like your running around bland little corridors while playing Serious Sam and it's not a dreadful system hog either. It chugs along very nicely even with dozens of bad guys chasing you, which is a good thing as it's somewhat common to have rather a few enemies on screen at once.

Most first person shooters these days are becoming more and more about telling stories in an interactive way and less about being pure shooters. In a lot of ways that's a good thing as it can add to the experience and widen a title's audience. In other ways it's not so great, if not careful a lot of the joy can be taken away from a shooter by trying to make it too realistic. I guess the trap some developers fall into is trying to be in both camps which makes creating a fun game extremely difficult.

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Fortunately Serious Sam 2 doesn't have such split personality issues, t's a shooter in the oldest of old school senses, and very refreshing it is too. I should mention that it does have a story, there's a reason for the hordes of bad guys you must despatch in short order but for the life of me I can't remember what it is. By some way through the first level of each episode the story just fades from memory, only to be temporarily reminded by the next set of cut scenes. It's either my age or that fact that it truly doesn't matter and I prefer the latter explanation. I did plan to play through all the intro's again before I penned this review, but what's the point? Nobody will be buying Serious Sam 2 for it's storyline so I'll be cheap and skip it entirely.

Yes, Serious Sam 2 is all about shooting things, lots of things. And pretty much everything you must shoot seems to be bizarre in some sort of way, as are the surroundings in which this must be done. This is certainly no short game either, which means you'll be blasting away for many days before reaching the final goal of completing some sort of medallion, I think. See! I've already forgotten! One thing I can say in it's defence is that it's extremely good practice for any dedicated first person shooter player. Your reactions and ability to stay cool will get severely tested while completing Sam Stone's quest. Puzzle solving skill will be stretched very little though, a lot less than I seem to remember form the earlier titles. Again though, perhaps that's just the rose coloured spectacles. They don't make them like they used too you know!

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SS2 has very much reminded of a lot of very old shooters that I've played over the years: shoot bad guys, get points, get enough points and get an extra life or power-ups. Each mini episode section will give you a score, which it is expected you'll try to beat in true 'old skool' fashion. At the end of each episode there's the end of level boss which does usually require something a little different to be done in order to progress. Some of them are huge!

You won't always be running around, weapons blazing either. Sometimes you are sat in gun emplacements, weapons blazing. I see a theme. Seriously though, the gun emplacement sections don't really add anything for me other than a little variety, although riding about on a small dinosaur is mildly amusing too for short periods.

Humour is big part of Serious Sam 2, just as it was in the earlier game, but just as they were highly amusing at times, Serious Sam 2 tries to be funny too often and it can get a bit cringeworthy. It does poke fun at itself as well as lots of other things though, which is always good. The one thing that sticks in my mind of some reason is Sam entering an old style red British phone box and asking for an end of level boss which is to be charged to his credit card, right before the end of level boss appears. Not all that funny but does give you an idea of the level of humour which generally made me smile a little while groaning. A bit like all those terrible jokes your dad used to tell at family get-togethers.

It's hard to say what I might add or change about Serious Sam 2 in order to make it more enjoyable, having some more writers would be top of the list and perhaps even the only list item. The rest of the shooter is a very solid game and quite a lot of fun, it's just not very funny.

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'Old Skool' shooter playability can only take a game so far, for short periods of time it's awesome fun but soon becomes dull. Without any real depth, Serious Sam 2 is just madcap mayhem, madness and insanity packaged in an impressive way. OK, the gags and the general stupidity don't always work and as the game went on, I was tending to find myself groaning more often than smiling. If you can't see why something might exist in a place then you just can't relate to it and it's just mental, "mental" gets old quite quickly. It still works well in small doses, a bit like slapstick humour.

I think that last statement says everything pretty well - Serious Sam 2 is great fun in small doses, it really is. Any game that has a trained, exploding parrot as a weapon can't be all bad. However it's just not as funny as it tries to be and as such loses a lot of the charm that the previous 2 titles in the series had. Co-op certainly adds some extended life to the mix though, as does the addition of multiplayer. In this day and age, however, they really should have been in from the start.

Good stuff

  • Graphically impressive
  • Solid sound and music
  • Some good level design
  • Intense, fast gameplay
  • Great for honing those reactions
  • Occasionally amusing

Not so good stuff

  • More groans than giggles
  • A bit tedious at times

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