Serious Sam II was, at the time, Croteam’s biggest project. Released after four-years of little activity, the game followed Serious Sam: The First Encounter and its semi-sequel Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, which were first released in 2001, and 2002 respectively. A large amount of anticipation, generated by the hope of a return to what is now considered ‘boomer shooter’ gameplay, Serious Sam II honoured all that had gone before it.
Serious Sam Series
Thoughts on the first game differed. ‘A little crazy’ is the phrase many people liked to use, ‘manic’ is another. Some just went for absolutely brilliant madness. But in every case the overall description of the first Serious Sam is the same as ours; “total nonsense all-out-mash-‘em-up”. A slightly more relative view on the game as there isn’t another way that sums up how nutty it can really be. Later Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2 conversions individualised the player’s experience of Serious Sam further; with each being treated to their own vision of the series. Then of course, we had the exceptional Serious Sam 3: BFE and the somewhat disappointing Serious Sam 4.
Serious Sam II
Serious Sam II is just as mad as the original. All the content you’ll be familiar with is included; lots of guns, enemies to shoot, and areas to run around shooting all the enemies with all the guns. But apart from the basic structure, Serious Sam II seems to have been oblivious to the progression made within the genre in the five years prior to its 2005 release. This results in a game that survives on sheer wit alone. And with Sam “Serious” Stone, as the main character likes to be known, it truly excels in that area. He is the a-typical square-jawed American beef-head stereotype, following in the footsteps of the likes of Duke Nukem. He knows nothing more than to run and shoot stuff.
Luckily if he ever gets stuck – on something like a locked door, for instance – he has his handy Narcessa to hand. Or, rather, to mind. As it’s a small device implanted into Sam’s brain. This can be used to inform him that a key may well be required to get through that door. She – yes it has been programmed with a female personality – also doubles as a HUD unit, providing visual data on your health, armour, ammunition and other useful stuff like that. Narcessa can also do helpful things like providing you with a targeting aid and provides, as said before, useful hints and tips, along with some rather sarcastic comments, as you go through the game.
Be nice to her though, she’s the only friend you have out of the 30 or so other character models on screen that are constantly trying to split you two apart. Yes, there are many, many enemies to fight at any one time in this game. They generally come in waves, air dropped around you or crawling out of every crevice and cranny. Or if you’re lucky both.
The humongous variety of enemies available really helps the game pull this off well. There’s little fast ones. Medium powerful ones. Medium fast ones. Big powerful ones. Big powerful and fast ones. Huge ones. Monstrous ones. And many varying shapes and sizes in between. Various air units, tower units and artillery placements litter the arenas if you get bored of the basic run-n’-gun technique. Starting to sound a little daunting? Well Croteam thought of this too, and gave you a huge array of weaponry with which to play with.
The weapons in Serious Sam II follow the same format as the rest of the game: they take the basics of what makes an FPS and exaggerate it to the extreme. Take for example the humble shotgun: a requisite weapon of any FPS game. Here in Serious Sam II it kills everything smaller than a tank in one shot. You’d think that having a gun that powerful would make the game a bit too simple, but alas in their infinite wisdom Croteam have thought of this too; you have to reload the shotgun and even when you take out four enemies at the same time. Meanwhile, there’s still another 20-odd running towards you!
It’s a risk-reward system implemented to allow the player to balance their favourite weapons against the enemy variety. The mini-gun doesn’t need reloading and just streams through its bullets, strewing down the enemy as they come towards you. However, it’s not very good with the big guy’s. There’s fifteen other weapons available, including some so enjoyable they have to be played to be believed.
Seriously, There’s a Story?
The story though-out the game is totally ridiculous. Some of the funniest things I have seen within a game have happened in this one. You follow Sam’s story of universe saving through many different types of worlds. Woodland, dessert, lava and other similar stuff. All while trying to, well, save the universe. Along the way you meet many people that you can make friends with. Then, if you like, you can use them as a small diversion for the enemies’ attacks while you get some ammo. The ultimate aim being to find guy named Mental – some big evil guy, intent on destroying the human race, and few others – and kill him, thus saving the universe et al. Rather a simple story, but then it’s the shooting bits in between that really make the game anyway.
More Sams, More Guns
The Xbox version offers multiplayer through LAN or online. These take you and up to four other people through a set of arena’s taken from the single-player game, and lets you all team up to shoot the enemies that pour from all sides. Operating in the co-operative mode is great lots of fun, but it’s a little disappointing that there weren’t any other multi-player options available.
Everything in this game based on a parody of the FPS genre, and it’s done very well. The graphics are slick and polished far above what is expected on the original Xbox and a stunning improvement on the first Serious Sam attempt. The explosions look brilliant and the sound just adds a proper kick to all the action.
The only disappointment in it all is the multiplayer that lacks some of the replay value you might expect. However, the single-player is worth looking at all by it’s self. All the levels are replayable individually and five difficulty settings to choose from. I’m sure that once you play it through once you will find reason enough to play through it again. And maybe again. And, like us, maybe in fifteen years time when you’ve forgotten its existence you’ll find it in an old pile, smile, dust off the old Xbox and sit and play just one more time.