There is a story to Serious Sam but, to be honest, it’s not really worth talking about. Some alien called Mental is attacking humanity and you are mankind’s only hope. So you get sent back in time to ancient Egypt to collect some magical runes and disappear into the Great Pyramid which is actually a giant alien radio that summons a huge spaceship. Ancient Egypt also has the benefit of being pre-Duke Nukem, so nobody can make any comparisons between you and him.
That’s the plot in as much detail as we can remember, most of which is laid out in a scrolling text at the start of the game which nobody ever reads.
Serious Sam isn’t about the story though. It’s about the prolonged tension of the biggest gunfight you’ve ever seen forcing you to the edge of your seat until you’re only held upright by the strength of your sphincter. It’s about miniguns that are nine feet long and how the thunderous staccato of your tommy gun is drowned out only by the yell of the hundred screaming suicide bombers who are charging at you from the horizon. It’s about arena battles and bosses so big that they speak in surround sound regardless of your speaker set-up.
That’s what the first Serious Sam game, The First Encounter, was about – and it’s therefore true of the latest game too. Serious Sam HD is a high-resolution remake of the first game in the new Serious Sam Engine. Nothing more, nothing less.
The fact that Croatian developer Croteam has chosen to revisit the first game is a little odd though as, despite being almost nine years old now, the first game really couldn’t have aged more gracefully if it tried. Revisited nowadays The First Encounter may look the tiniest bit plain, but it’s still incredibly smooth and good looking. The lack of HD content and complex new rendering options doesn’t hinder the game at all and we still hold it up as one of the best co-op games, ever.
There’s no denying that Serious Sam HD looks good though. In fact, it looks fantastic and Croteam has done a brilliant job of updating the old character models to show off a bit more detail, while the huge levels are equally enticing even if they never hide the fact that they’re made of carefully gated arenas.
The aftermath of a minor skirmish
The game performs solidly too. 3.25GB of accessible RAM, an Intel Core 2 X6800 clocked to 2.93GHz and Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 (native screen resolution 1,920 x 1,080) was all that was needed to run the game on Ultra settings across the board and the system easily handled the huge crowds and wide open spaces that are the signature style of the series.
And when we say huge, we mean huge. Serious Sam isn’t a very sophisticated game when it comes to character development or innovation – none of the guns ever need reloading – but it makes up for that elsewhere. Namely, in the simple and straightforward push to survive through the next wave of brilliant enemies and see just how extreme the wave after is going to be. The game is constantly one-upping itself in scale and you’re being pulled along in it’s wake – and that makes Serious Sam brilliant despite the primitiveness of the actual design.
Well, that and the cartoony enemies and superb balancing. War bulls who charge towards you and who must be quickly dodged and shot in the back make for delightful foes, as do bare-chested, headless bombermen who carry their heads in one hand and a detonator in their other.