First Impressions: Get ready for some serious shooter fun.
When Serious Sam first debuted on the PC back in 2001, no one could have predicted how hugely successful it would be. After all, it was a budget title from little-known Croatian developer CroTeam, and was an old school first-person twitch shooter where all you did was run around mowing down dumb enemies who ran straight at you ? a stark contrast to the industry trend pioneered by Half-Life that emphasized story and intelligent AI. But as we all know now, you can't judge a book by its cover because Serious Sam gave gamers one hell of a fun time.
Running on the proprietary Serious Engine, Serious Sam and the follow up Serious Sam: The Second Encounter featured a ridiculous number of enemies onscreen at the same time, with no slowdowns or dropped frames. Not only was this a remarkable technical achievement, it also gave gamers something they've never seen before: a literal swarm
of enemies that made you howl with both fear and delight. The maps set in ancient civilizations were very pretty and absolutely enormous
; the action was frenetic and non-stop; and it was damn funny. How could you not laugh at the infamous headless Kamikaze bombers as they ran screaming at you like crazed maniacs? Or Sam Stone's hilariously cocky one-liners and trademark T-shirt with the grimacing cartoon bomb on the front? Or how CroTeam set a record for not only the most onscreen enemies, but also for the biggest boss ever in a video game?
Serious Sam was the man, quickly becoming the gaming world's newest superstar and spiritual successor to the languishing and nearly forgotten Duke Nukem. CroTeam has been rather quiet for the past few years, and now we know why: they have been working on two big projects. The first was the development of a completely brand new game engine, the Serious Engine 2, and the second was the official sequel to their sleeper hit. (Trivia note: The Second Encounter ? or as it was known on the PS2 and GameCube, The Next Encounter ? was not a sequel; rather, it was actually the second half of what was originally one large game. It was cut in two to keep the titles at a budget price).
From the looks of it so far, both projects are coming together swimmingly. Thanks to the Serious Engine 2, Sam never looked so good; the engine not only features beautiful graphics with 100 times more detail than the original, but also proprietary particle and ragdoll physics that are quite impressive. Enemies gib in a juicy bloody spray, and the explosion, weapon and flame effects are looking great.
And the engine isn't named lightly; this is one serious gaming development platform here. CroTeam is boasting that they will break their own records for the most enemies onscreen at the same time ? which is mind-boggling since this means we're not talking dozens here, we're talking hundreds
? and for the biggest boss ever. You remember that towering leviathan at the end of SS? In SS2, he will be a puny dwarf compared to the final boss CroTeam has planned for us. Yikes!
In fact, everything in SS2 will be bigger. The enemies have obviously been using Barry Bonds' ?flaxseed oil? because they're huge ? ones that CroTeam call ?medium-sized? are larger than houses. There will be over 40 enemies in all, including returning favorites like the aforementioned Kamikaze bombers (only this time they have giant bombs mounted on a spring for heads ? sort of like killer bobblehead dolls), the rampaging rhinos and those annoying skeleton-like Kleers, along with new baddies like cavemen, Yeti-like creatures, aliens with tank treads for legs, giant man-eating plants, zombie stockbrokers, Halloween witches on rocket-powered brooms, and what no self-respecting shooter should be without, deadly circus clowns who throw explosive cakes. Seriously. Are you sort of getting the idea that the developers are having as much fun making this game as we will have playing it?
Wait, it gets better. All of Sam's weapons return, including the dual Colts, SMG (which you will be able to dual-wield), chaingun, shotgun, sniper rifle and the ultimate Serious Bomb cannon. New weapons include a circular saw melee weapon that can also shoot buzz saw blades, a six-barrel rocket launcher, and my personal favorite, the Klodovik bird, which is a bomb-carrying parrot that will seek out any living thing in sight ? including yourself if you accidentally release it when there are no enemies around.
New to the series will be vehicle combat. In addition to the standard gun turrets, armored boats, jeeps, helicopters and planes, Sam will be able to control ATVs, the Serious surfboard, a hoversaucer, and a giant hamster ball covered in deadly steel spikes that Sam can hop into to run over and squish enemies. Let's see the Master Chief top that!
The story ? if you want to call it that ? involves Sam pursuing the evil Mental to the planet Sirius (where else?) to try and take him out once and for all. (As a side note, the story within the SS games was always minimal at best, yet the series has a ridiculously long and detailed back story that goes on for pages. Oh, those crazy Croatians!) But to defeat him, you will need to collect seven pieces of a special medallion; so not surprisingly, the game takes place across seven different environments, including an ancient Chinese village, a swamp, a tropical island, a lava field, an arctic environment, and a land of giants reminiscent of Brobdingnag in Gulliver's Travels, filled with towering blades of grass and boulder-sized grains of sand. There is even purportedly a land filled with Elvis worshippers.
Unlike the originals, SS2 is a full-length game with over 40 levels in all. It will also bear a full-sized price tag for the first time, but it will be longer than the first two combined ?besides, it looks like we will be getting a lot of gaming goodness for that price, including multiplayer. Unfortunately, CroTeam has not released much information about multiplayer beyond confirming that co-operative play will return. However, it would be surprising if deathmatch, team deathmatch and other standard modes over Xbox Live do not appear. Some fan sites report that the game will support up to 16 players; if true, this is a good sign.