Serious Sam HD: The First & Second Encounter

Once upon a time there was a little Engine that could. This Engine was labelled the Quake Engine and it was the beginning of an era which would bring about a passel of more ‘realistic’ first person shooters into the marketplace. Croteam saw this trend appearing and they did what any good game developer would do – they did everything they could to make the most unrealistic shooter possible at the time. Thus, Serious Sam was born.

Serious Sam was created back in 1996 to be the protagonist of the most unrealistic shooter which Croteam could create, and he was a fantastic one. To say he takes a page or two out of Duke Nukem’s book would be akin to saying that James Cameron may have once been in the same country as a copy of Pocahontas, but the gameplay is where the biggest difference lies for The First and The Second Encounter. Where Duke mocked gaming trends by copying it in a satirical way, Sam steps in and simply attempts to do the complete opposite to try and buck the trend. Now he’s back in crisp HD graphics and both his XBLA titles (The First Encounter and The Second Encounter) are now bundled up into one convenient shelf-filling box. The game(s) are full of open sprawling levels, never reloading weapons and randomly warping enemies of bizarre and unique forms. The enemy forms alone deserve an entire paragraph dedicated to themselves, as they are so ridiculous.

Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming. Here is a list of just a few of the enemies which I can even recall: screaming headless man carrying lit bombs, screaming headless man who’s replaced his skull with a saw and headbutts you, giant Cyclops Domokuns, skeleton bulls wearing pieces of armour, 20 foot tall fish wearing metal legs, scorpion-human hybrids wielding gatling guns, 6 armed demi-Gods shooting homing snot at you… NEED I CONTINUE?! The entirety of the gameplay is then to massacre these beasts in an as quick and brutally enjoyable way as possible. You get the standard array of pistols, shotguns, rocket-launchers, chainsaws (‘sup Doom) and flame-throwers in which to end their pathetic little lives while trash talking the whole time. You even get up to do all this while rocking it 4 player co-op style! Though that’s only available online and not through splitscreen, which is a bit of a downfall for a game I’m sure doesn’t need that much 360 processing power.

Here’s what I have to label as the biggest issue with Serious Sam HD: I’ve just described the whole breadth that the game has to offer. You run around alone (or with up to 3 buddies over Live) and kill everything you see from the Menu screen to the Game Over screen. I’m not saying I was expecting any different, I’m not one of those idiots who expects all remakes to have aged well, but it’s definitely a drawback of the collection. You see both games are quite long, not to mention that the achievements are quite difficult to get (and they’re only 200 points a game), and so it doesn’t take long while sitting in front of the television for the slight feeling of tedium to kick in as you shotgun that 1,000th bull skeleton who’s been jumping all over the place while in a desert so humongous it could rival Texas.

Serious Sam HD still deserves credit where credit is due though. It promises nothing beyond carnage and mayhem in HD, just like it did ten years ago back on the PC – and it keeps its promises. I’d be lying if I didn’t find a lot of released tension flowing out of my finger tips and through the controller for the first few hours as I decimated everything in my path with a rocket launcher and a double barrelled shotgun. It’s just little more than that, but for a cheap and cheerful bundle of classic shooter with a beautiful HD gloss then it certainly is all you could need for a beer powered gore weekend.







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