Developer/Publisher: CroTeam/Devolver Digital
Platform: Xbox 360 [reviewed], PC
Genre(s): PEW PEW PEW/Samicide
Mode(s): Single player/online co-op
Time clocked: Around 10 hours or so
Last week, I won a free download code from That Videogame Blog, and all I had to do was follow them on Twitter. My prize? Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, a shooter à la DOOM that is hardly serious and was seemingly inspired by a combination of sugar rush speedtrips and masochistic tendencies.
I’ve voiced before on here that I’m just no good at first-person shooters. Let me clarify that more. Fallout 3 is the kind of shooter I’m decent at because it’s not really a shooter at all. I did moderately okay in the single player modes for games like Red Faction and Killzone, which were slower, zone-to-zone sort of adventures, and I have many fond memories of taking down Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D. However, scenarios where you have to be quick on your metaphysical feet and spinning like a madman while still shooting with precise accuracy as hordes of enemies barrel down on you—yeah, not my favorite dish to order.
That said, with numb hands, I recently completed Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter. It wasn’t a good time. Continue reading to find out why.
Having known nothing about the game prior to playing it, I loaded it up and found myself with a strange menu screen. From what I could tell, I was either heading to Egypt or the Vegas strip. After reading through a bunch of green terminal text, none of which is interesting, the star of the show appears via some alien teleporter: Duke Nukem Serious Sam. Then it’s up to me to, level after level, kill the bad guys and reach the end. Seriously, that’s every single level, and the only speedbump CroTeam ever throws your way is that, sometimes, every now and then, on occasion, maybe, just possibly maybe, you’ll have to hit a switch to open the exit door. In other words: sigh.
So, Sam’s on a mission to stop an alien invasion (in Egypt?). The aliens have a mission of their own: kill Sam. And there are a lot of enemies bent on this. I don’t mean that there’s a lot of enemy variety, just a lot of enemies. At certain times, the screen will be filled with anywhere from 25 to maybe 40 monsters all after your head. The worst of these are the charging bull-beasts. Why, you internally ask? Well, when one charges, the vibration in your Xbox 360 controller goes off. Imagine ten of them coming at you, and the controller nearly shakes its way out of your grip. Needless to say, if you don’t kill them fast, all of them, your hands will go numb before you know it.
And speaking of enemies…they aren’t tough. Where they get challenging is when they show up in droves and you yourself are cornered. But yeah, each has a pattern to their attacks, as well as a specific weapon that works best blowing them to bits (or carrots and pumpkins if you set the difficulty to “hippie”). Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter has been described as a monster closet. I’ll take it one step further and say it’s a monster closet full of malignity. Enemies pop up at the strangest of places, and CroTeam was probably laughing their heads off when they placed triggers for monster swarms right before a health or ammo pickup, the sick bastards. Yeah, it’s one of those kind of games.
Graphically, it’s obviously old. Textures are flat and ugly, enemies look decent from afar, but when they get right up close to you it’s like Attack of the Bad Playstation 1 or something, and the sky overhead is laughably bad. Despite the levels mostly being set around Egypt, there isn’t much to see. A lot of brown, a lot of murkier brown, and some fugly statues of pharaohs. Rooms are gigantic and solely made for monster swarms, and when the graphics switch to the “cut scene” portions, well…it’s jarring.
And since this is an Xbox Live Arcade game, it now supports Achievements. But they definitely don’t support you. First and most annoyingly, the Game Master Achievement (which says “beat the game”) did not unlock for me after I most definitely beat the game. I know I beat it because I watched an alien spaceship float away while Serious Sam made a collect payphone call from an Egyptian tomb. Right. Alas, it’s glitched, and now no one will ever believe that I suffered greatly all the way through Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter. It’s here where such an achievement feels like something you’ve earned, and for the first time in many years, I’m disappointed.
Ultimately, Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter is not for me. It’s frenetic, punishing gameplay did not turn into fun, fun, fun, and I’m just glad I didn’t pay to play. My hands, however, are not so forgiving.