Serious Sam 3: BFE
Platform: PS3 + Xbox + PC
Reviewed on: PC
Remember the days when you didn’t have to worry about realistic gun physics? Where the gun’s crosshair floated onscreen at all times and wherever it was pointing guaranteed a 100% accurate shot no matter how insanely obtuse the shot was taken.
If you don’t, too bad! Serious Sam 3: BFE is going to initiate you, one spawning enemy at a time!
With the colossal failure of Duke Nukem Forever, many gamers were disillusioned and would have probably been wise to reject another videogame that harked back to old school principles in such an unapologetic manner – on paper, Serious Sam 3: BFE fits this description perfectly, so naturally its form and function compared to modern day FPS videogame principles were going to come under scrutiny.
As a long time gamer who started his journey playing FPS games such as Hexen, Doom, Counter-Strike and Half Life, I was more than aware of the true nature of Serious Sam 3: BFE and felt I was able to embrace it more for the principles that mattered in the game rather than the shoddy comparisons to its modern day FPS counterparts, which it doesn't share much in common with.
The premise of the game is incredibly simple, but bear with me if you get lost: Serious Sam 3: BFE is a prequal to the first game in the series. You play Sam “Serious” Stone, who in 2060 A.D. and is Earth’s last hope of repelling an Alien invasion, which could cause the extinction of the human race. To combat this, Sam has to travel back in time to a pivotal period near the ruins of an ancient alien civilization to combat and destroy the aliens of the past to save the present.
Ok, so basically the story is stupid. What makes it more hilarious is that the game’s map and world doesn’t change at all from how it looks compared to the modern day present levels and the past levels.
Throughout Sam’s journey, you are provided with weaponry to combat the many hordes of enemies that appear in your way. Weapons range from melee, like the Sledgehammer, assault rifles which mimic Call of Duty’s, almost making fun of their laser dot sights (as using the normal aim reaps the same accuracy results as it would without it) and others such as rocket launchers and the infamous “Cannon Launcher”, which gained fame in the orignal series (I’ll talk about how satisfying this weapon is later!).
On the receiving end of your arsenal is a horde of barmy alien enemies that have been kept largely untouched design-wise from their orignal incarnation in previous games. We have headless running suicide bombers, giant yellow bulls, demonic bull-like skeletons that charge at you with unwavering ferocity (or maybe it’s because they have only basic designed A.I.) and the odd half-man half scorpion …with gatling guns for arms.
On one hand (the one without a gatling gun), Serious Sam 3: BFE is a fantastic self-parody of the FPS genre. Embracing its stupidity and brashness, the game has kept the principles that originally put FPS games on the map.
As levels progress, enemies spawn en-masse. It is not uncommon to find yourself hopping backwards whilst shooting at roughly 50~100 enemies on screen. Near the end of the game, the maps become larger and wider. You will often find yourself running miles back to the beginning of the level just to survive an encounter of 70 bulls and 2000 skeleton bulls chasing after you!
As mentioned before, you do have a large arsenal of effective weaponry and my favorite amongst the bunch is the “Cannon Launcher”. Basically, it involves you shooting a gigantic large cannon ball out of a very small cannon, which then proceeds to bounce around the level like a poorly thrown bowling ball – once it comes into contact with enemies, they are immediately eviscerated and can cause the cannon ball to explode causing massive damage.
Even the simpler weapons such as the sledgehammer and assault rifle feel extremely satisfying to wield as you successfully pummel 100s upon thousands of waves of enemies as you approach the finish line in a level.
Although there is a secondary aim function, its largely not needed as Serious Sam 3: BFE relies heavily on old-school FPS aiming principles that basically means that anything in your crosshair is going to die. I have to say it feels liberating not being hindered by modern “realistic” physics mechanics from guns and bullets …and the odd head bob.
I guess what it boils down to is that the game shows what games used to be all about: arcade-like fun. Action happens at the drop of a hat (or in this case, at the drop of each spent shell/bullet casing) and mechanically the game is focused around the player’s skill rather than their participation to get from pre-determined point A to point B in a linear fashion. In saying that, there are some tiring aspects, such as the waves upon waves of enemies that start to frustrate in later stages. At first it comes off more as a novelty as you shoot Sam’s balls down at them (yes, I’m fully aware of how that last sentence sounds - this game forces you to convey such exquisite imagery!).
Level variation is also very lackluster, exclusively taking place in the arid desert wasteland that houses old Egyptian-like architecture such as pyramids and various temples. There are, however some nice underground alien facilities later in the game.
Graphically, the most major difference is that the Serious Sam franchise has been updated for the “HD” generation of gaming, boasting a lot of really nice effects – so much so, even my own PC struggled to run the game on its highest settings. Although the game can look gorgeous in many respects, it’s yet again let down by its environemnt (which I've already mentioned).
All in all I will keep this review relatively short because the game isn't terribly complex or particularly memorable, but I will say it did everything right in respect to building a healthy homage to the yesteryear of FPS gaming.
I do miss the days of just having fun during a FPS game, rather than being bogged down in all the grey-brown bro-mance co-op styled gameplay that is force-fed upon us in the genre nowadays. Too often we’re seeing modern day equivalents foregoing gameplay for high graphical fidelity and realism – two traits which seem to have caused the investment and focus of modern developers to forego fun gameplay for a more “film-like” gaming experience.
Would I like to see a Serious Sam 4? Yes, definitely! However I would like to see a LITTLE more environmental diversity. If it kept the same gameplay and attitude of this release, we would have little need for another Duke Nukem reboot.
For those wanting a fun game to pass the weekend with your friends – it's a definite rent. For those who are obsessed about their online rankings and all the bullshit that comes with the modern day FPS Major League Gaming lark – ignore it. Those who want to relive a classic moment in FPS gaming history, revamped and looking graphically glossy – get it! Just remember to bring a good set of action movie one-liners with you for the journey.