Serious Sam 3: BFE Review
While the change to a modern setting does have a slight impact on the functional side of playing the game - namely that the more complex environments and increased clutter make it harder to see where you're supposed to be going - it's the tonal change that makes the biggest difference. Simply put, ancient Egypt may have offered a simpler and boiled down environment, but it compensated for this with style and charisma.
Or, to put it another way; Serious Sam used to be known for its huge number of enemies and wild, interesting levels. Now it's just known for its huge number of enemies; the levels are of the standard ruined-city template we've seen a thousand times before.
Strengthening the feel that Serious Sam 3 has taken a step away from its arcade roots and moved closer to the status quo of modern shooters are a smattering of smaller additions to the formula. Little features, such as the ability to aim down the iron sights of some of your weapons, or the introduction of a new melee attack for up-close insta-kills, paint Sam as less of a fun caricature and more as a familiar sheep.
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Delving deeper into Serious Sam 3 uncovers a few redeeming features, such as the continuing support for modders and a plethora of customisation options for online games. There's a whole lot of excitement and laughs to be had from upping the difficulty to insane levels, for example, or turning on Mental Mode and making all your enemies not only tougher, but also invisible.
The graphics are worthy of praise too, and not just for the way that you can switch over to ridiculous colour modes, swapping enemy gibs for pumpkins and carrots or making them bleed flowers with Hippy Mode. Beyond these jokey additions the game also looks utterly fantastic, with massive levels and detail plied into every decal. Croteam continues to up the scope of the violence throughout the game too, so that bosses keep getting bigger and the arenas edge closer to overwhelming.
Survival mode returns from the HD remakes of the older Serious Sam games too, providing an excellent way to burn off steam if you're stuck with one of these gargantuan bosses in the campaign mode. Here you're dumped into a small level where enemies constantly spawn and you're tasked only with surviving for as long as you can. Victory is measured in seconds, usually.
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Ultimately though, no matter how good Serious Sam looks with its new engine, or how satisfying it is to clear an especially tough level with a friend, BFE still feels like a step back compared to the other games in the series. Much of this comes from the fact that the HD remakes have Croteam's formula feeling unfairly familiar and recycled, but it doesn't stop there.
The lack of humour is the real wound; Serious Sam 3's violence often made us smile, but it never made us laugh. So, while there's still gleeful carnage on an impressive scale, the game is still a little dimmer than it might have been if not for the sadly slightly straightened face that Sam wears.
Serious Sam, indeed.