|Serious Sam II|
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-4 System Link or Xbox Live
I have no idea why Croteam thought that Serious Sam needed a storyline, the square-jawed T-shirt ‘n’ jeans wearing hero is back - the ‘plot’ is something to do with Sam’s nemesis ‘Mental’, a big magic medallion being broken into five pieces and various badly-drawn aliens called the somethingoranothers who need Sam’s help to retrieve the pieces and stop Mental’s attempts to…. – Jeez – who needs plot, cut-scenes and dialogue in a game like this? To me Serious Sam was a Doom/Duke Nukem homage/spoof, and does it need a plot or a reason to go shoot stuff? – The hell it does.
Surely the pure blasting action that has made the series (mildly) famous is all you need, and it’s as far away from the likes of Halo, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Far Cry Instincts, Chronicles of Riddick or Doom 3 as you can get whilst still being a first person shooter, it’s gaudy, loud, brash and proud. You play each shortish chapter and simply blast everything that comes your way – and they ALL come your way because the enemy AI is as simple as the core gameplay – they ALL run towards you shooting, growling, snarling snorting – some even scream at you – yep, those headless weirdo kamikazes have returned, only this time they have bombs for heads!
If it sounds like I have a problem with the no-brainer gameplay, well then yes I do; there's a 'temperature gauge' late on in the game but the only real attempts at innovation are the ability to carry/throw/put down objects with the ‘black’ button (in order to get to previously unreachable ledges), the old-style ‘spawn-out-of-nowhere’ enemies, and some almost tacked-on feeling vehicles spread thinly throughout the game... But the biggest problem with SS2 is the way it looks. The game is very brightly coloured and although there are some nice textures here and there, some decent smoke effects and at times it manages to paint a pretty overall picture. But the numerous enemies and friendlies lack detail and smooth animation and apart from some more organic settings than before (and by ‘organic’ I mean lots more trees and water), and new, even weirder monsters, Serious Sam’s latest outing looks hardly any different to the first game on Xbox which appeared some two years ago. The game even has the same ugly horizontal screen-tearing problem on occasion when you turn to look – and that is serious!
Okay, now this visual horror is hardly a rare occurence on the Xbox and I’ve been told by several developers that this is because they do this to keep the frame rate solid, which it does - regardless of the number of enemies on screen the remarkably hectic action stays smooth. It’s just a shame they didn’t figure out a less eye-scratchingly ugly way of doing it - less enemies/fx perhaps? (the Gamecube ‘Serious Sam - Next Encounter’ didn’t have this problem). And yes the trees look fairly good and it’s still cool how they get blown to smithereens during battles, but OH MY! the "water" (which at best looks like painted cellophane wrap and at worst looks like crinkled foil) is just terrible. e.g. After one particularly lengthy battle you come over a hill to a pretty view of a fairy castle, with the ocean down below… you walk to the cliff edge to admire the view, and the hideous “sea” texture glitches and warps all over the place as it tries to perform its bizarre "reflection" routine – honest to God, sometimes it’s like Halo's lapping waves never existed…
Exploration to find the secrets spread around on each level soon gets exasperating too, as the use of invisible walls to hem you in gets on your wick, and who cares about a score at the end of a FPS level these days anyway? – haven’t games evolved beyond that? I reckon you’ll be hard pushed to find them all, and if you do, you deserve a medal (and probably need psychological help, or a new game). Despite the sameyness of many of them, there are a few highly enjoyable levels though, and some rather good (if typically mental) boss battles. To avoid spoilers I won’t say anything more than that we loved the Micro Machines-style map, getting chased by a huge mech named Hugo was spectacular, and that the best boss for me was a purple dragon that sounded like Julian Clary - you get the idea, this game is mental, and it doesn’t care what you or I think of it.
- Fast, frantic blasting action that gets better as it goes on
- It’s quite a big game
- The ‘giant’ section
- Some um… “imaginative” enemies
- System link and online co-op
- Lacks variety and thus gets old very quickly
- Isn’t as funny as it wanted to be
- Despite loads on-screen, the graphics fail to impress