"Never let them see you coming" was the catch phrase of Al Pacino's Satan in the The Devil’s Advocate, and is quite relevant when considering the Serious Sam franchise, capitalising in a time when the realisation that the current king of gaming was never going to show up to the party at the turn of the millennium and that old school FPSs had peaked. We are of course talking about Duke, and possibly the biggest misstep in gaming history leaving the path wide open for a worthy young whipper snapper to show him a thing or two.
Serious Sam 3: BFE is the third true Serious Sam game amid a handful of HD remakes and re releases on many formats over the past decade, Serious Sam 3: BFE is gracing the xbox live arcade after being released almost a year ago on PC. It is the culmination of work from Croteam and their unyielding quest to bring you the best tribute to the very game franchise they ousted, giving you an updated experience in almost every aspect compared to previous instances of balls out alien annihilation.
Surprisingly it takes the form of a prequel detailing the original assault of Mental (that's the bad guy) and his horde on planet earth following the discovery of a mysterious artefact found buried under the great pyramid of Giza. From there serious Sam Stone is sent in to Cairo to extract a clever professor fellow who has all of his research (pertaining to the artefact) tucked away in his lab in the centre of the city. So you can wreak glorious 80s action hero style havoc in the presence of the last wonder of the ancient world while strutting around in Samuel's boots.
The old school gameplay is still present and as brilliant as ever with circle strafing and split second reactions being your main tools to keep you alive. Your set of death dealing weaponry is rather extravagant but also familiar, ranging from a mix of bullet spewing firearms to explosive rockets launchers and even an old school naval cannon which spits out huge rolling cannonballs. to squish many opponents in their wake. The first you may notice is the campaign being set in Egypt has a lot of similarities with other FPS's set in certain desert locations. The second thing you will notice is that's where the similarities end, as you start riddling headless zombie grunts with bullets, cracking mutant cockroach carapace with your bare hands and ripping out mutant cyclops eyes within minutes. Combine the mental enemies of Mental’s horde with huge bosses and insane pacing Serious Sam 3: BFE is the first time in ages we have experienced pure panic. Turning a corner to find a literal smorgasbord of enemies numbered in the hundreds all making a B line directly for you can result in sheer terror. This is handled superbly by the pacing and organised chaos you will find throughout the campaign and this is the real talent of the Croteam which some bigger developers could learn from.
After a while the shortcomings of the campaign may show themselves, playing on easier difficulties is a joy allowing you to feel like Arnie in his glory days with your ever growing pile of dead bodies evidence of the pure ease with which you can deal out death. Ramp up the difficulty however and you may find Serious Sam 3: BFE is a little unforgiving, with unbalanced health and exponential damage from your opponents becoming more apparent, and may leave you frustrated by the need to retreat and hide quite often. The other niggles which may crop up are the visuals which are average at best by today's standards and the general issues with clipping on scenery mid fire firefight can cause an untimely death. One other gripe during the campaign is the check points which are instigated sometimes mid firefight and cause a stop in the action for a second or two as the game saves, which can be jarring when taking on a huge horde of enemies.
Serious Sam 3: BFE includes the full package from the multiplayer side with an elaborate suite of features on line and spilt screen, while it is also bursting with avenues for you and a mate to take on the horde together in co op. The multiplayer aspects are the usual run of the mill death match, team death match, capture the flag, last man standing and beast which is a competitive hunting game where you hunt down as many AI controlled baddies in a multiplayer arena as possible to win a match. You are however limited to eight players which seems a little stingy compared to other multi player experiences online. It is a blast however but maybe doesn't have the legs of the other multiplayer aspects of the game.
The endless mode is where Serious Sam 3: BFE really shines, with wave after wave of enemies all coming for you until you fall, in print this seems rather run of the mill but if you throw a few buddies in there it is an absolute blast with so much mayhem going on. It is another heart pounding brilliantly paced experience, watching your friends being followed by a conga line fifty strong into a dead end Benny Hill style is an amazing and funny sight, and will no doubt raise a chuckle or two when you decide to leave them to their fate.
As part of this review we also look at the jewel of the nice DLC which is a three level campaign expansion made up of a side story campaign where you take on the temple of Isis guardian on the island of Philae. It carries on the great work done in the main campaign with great pacing and a few more enemies to boot.
In an age of game design where innovation is everything and some of the greatest success stories in recent times are those titles which marry loving nostalgia with superbly executed game design, the Serious Sam franchise has been one of those enigmas of the gaming world. Sticking to its balls out mid nineties gaming tribute genre and giving you the best of both worlds without being over hyped or pompous as a result. Serious Sam 3: BFE is a worthy entry to the series delivering old fashioned fun in spades and should bring a joy to any one one young or old who plays it despite its minor technical failings. All hail to the new king baby!