It’s been nine years since we last had an instalment of the well known Serious Sam series from the developer Croteam – Now published by Devolver Digital, and we are definitely overdue some mindless massacring of alien hordes with our favourite mercenary Sam “Serious” Stone, who is here to defend humanity against our extra-terrestrial overlords, and don’t forget, looking badass while doing it with dual-wielding chain guns. Find out our thoughts of this title in our Serious Sam 4 PC review.
This game is set in the 21st century and is a prequel to Serious Sam 3, humanity is currently at war and under siege against Mental’s hordes of alien enemies which have finally reached Earth, Mental is almost like the Thanos of the series. Now it is up to you to embark on this mission as Sam, who is part of the remaining resistance to this invasion known as the Earth Defense Force, to find the Holy Grail, a powerful alien artefact which may turn the tides of battle.
Although you don’t play Serious Sam for its deep and philosophical storyline and although the story sounds decent enough, albeit basic, it is poorly delivered and without playing the previous titles you will be lost as to what is going on, the game starts you off leading an awesome all-out assault against Mental’s armies at Tunguska were you mow down a few hundred enemies before being knocked unconscious. The game then goes back in time a few days earlier, so you play through the events leading up to this battle. This is where the game starts to fall short in storytelling as the cinematics are riddled with bad lip-syncing to go with the mediocre dialogue, wonky eyed character design and jokes which largely miss the mark a lot of the time, almost like a budget Borderlands.
Serious Sam 4 is extremely reminiscent of the previous iterations in the series and while other similar titles like Doom appear to have “updated” successfully to modern times Serious Sam has not. It hasn’t gone forwards or backwards in the last 10 years. more so just side stepped in its core gameplay. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing right? If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.
The game pits you against hordes of enemies in an almost arena style area armed with an arsenal of classic weaponry such as a Deagle, Assault rifle, Double-barrel shotguns etc. the movement in this game feels good as Sam glides across the ground effortlessly, which is nice not to be stuck or clipped onto objects while strafing past Werebull’s. The AI in this game is basic and mostly boils down to enemies charging straight towards you while you satisfyingly blow them apart and you’ll still be taking on the favourite enemies of old such as the Gnaars, Arachnoids and Reptiloids, and there is a bountiful variety of enemy designs to try to keep things fresh but there are only so many hordes of aliens you can plow through before it starts to get minorly repetitive and dull.
The gunplay in this game feels smooth and felt like it received a lot of attention from the developers as there is nice visual feedback such as gore splatter and decent accurate hitbox for enemies. In previous series you’d have to stop sprinting before shooting as there is a ‘ready’ animation however in this game you can cancel this by firing which is a nice change as it speeds up gameplay which is what you want really from Serious Sam is fast, fun, run-n-gun style shooting. The choice of weaponry is nothing special and basically consists of a standard arsenal for military shooters, however there are some new gadgets to play with which you can obtain via completing short side objectives throughout the missions. These can be really powerful and fun toys to play with such as a blackhole generator which sucks enemies in and dispenses there liquified corpses afterwards or call down a god-damn nuclear missile like you just got a 25 killstreak on Call of Duty, which will obliterate all aliens in the area.
Serious Sam 4 looked incredibly vibrant and smooth in some areas when traversing the game with the volcano area looking particularly gorgeous alongside the full-scale battle with Mental. However these visual treats are scattered few and far between with the city areas looking dull with various shades of beige and grey and looking like something out of a generic Call of Duty map and the open fields of France, although vast and providing some Braveheart moments for Sam, feel lifeless and empty with blank looking textures and a lack of vegetation. The enemies are interesting and colourful, but the game does suffer from quite a few rendering moments, graphical pop-ins and rushed textures in a lot of places. The interior lighting looks like it could be from an early Xbox 360 game with minimal lighting and just plain lazy ambient occlusion.
The voice acting in this game is decent and Sam’s voice is buttery smooth with Duke Nukem vibes, which you could listen to for hours. The guns in this game feel and sound good although they are mostly unimaginative and straightforward they get the job done and the explosions have depth and reverb to them alongside the bullet impacts feeling heavy and powerful leading to nice feedback in gunplay, and it’s satisfying to hear the screeches and groans of hordes of enemies as you grenade launcher and shotgun their heads off.
Just like the previous Serious Sam games the overall point is some simple mindless run-n-gun FPS action while mowing down hundreds of enemies and it is definitely challenging and enjoyable if you just want a game you can hop onto after work and shoot some bad guys. However, this style of gameplay hasn’t aged well and there is a lack of innovative additions over the last 10 years, simply adding more enemies and dual-wielding isn’t enough, and the lack of drop-in co-op is unacceptable in this day and age particularly when I feel this game should be marketed for that sort of thing. The texture pop-ins and rendering issues in lots of places are a glaring issue that isn’t hardware related as I feel my AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Intel i7-6700k shouldn’t have a problem with the graphical standard of this game.
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