“Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD” is a game that sets narrative aside in order to create ridiculous scenarios of intense, though sometimes frustrating, destruction.
"Serious Sam: The Second Encounter" is about shooting down hordes upon hordes of enemies and not much else. At some point during “Serious Sam: TSE” I realized Sam is searching for the Holy Grail. I have no idea when the hunt for the Holy Grail became the driving “plot” point… and that is the point. There really is no story to push the player through the game. Bad humour, random “plot” points, and lots of guns are what make up the “story” and the fun of the game.
Shoot Anything that Moves
“Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD” is a relatively simple game. The player points and shoots at anything and everything that comes charging towards him or her. The enemies are not very complex and generally shoot, claw, chainsaw, and explode their way towards the player. Enemy behaviour on its own is nothing special and nothing difficult to handle. However, when 50+ to 100+ enemies charge the player at differing speeds and with differing attacks the simple formula of shoot everything suddenly requires a fair amount of strategy. When playing one must always be aware which enemies are spawning and which weapons to use against each enemy. The minigun and flamethrower work best against fast moving hordes while missiles and grenades work best against slow moving brutes. So far nothing sounds that exciting but when the player has to constantly manage the onslaught of different enemies while rapidly switching between weapons, frantically looking for health and ammo, and searching for the best spot to aim and shoot the game can actually become engaging, intense, and a lot of fun.
The downside to all this mayhem is that it never changes. The pacing is always the same—ramped up to a million. The over-the-top action can become grueling and frustrating at times. However, every time I was ready to toss the controller in frustration I managed to get past the onslaught. I am not sure if my continual miraculous success at defeating the hordes or enemies during my “last try” was due to the developer’s ability to gauge difficulty and set the level up just right or was just pure luck.
Another problem is that there is very little level variety. Most levels consist of wide-open spaces that give a lot of room to shoot and a lot of room for enemies to spawn. Some levels require the player to gather up certain items to unlock a door but the player still has to shoot his or her way to the item and then shoot back to the locked door. There are only a few levels that are truly unique. For example, there is a section of a level that has the player and enemies literally bouncing off the walls at incredible speeds and an ice level that has both the enemies and the player sliding around trying to deal damage to each other.
HD graphics (and sound?)
The graphics in the game have been updated nicely. The game will not wow like “Call of Duty” or “Crisis” but there is a fair level of detail given to the environments. The sound however can be incredibly annoying. Serious Sam is all about campiness and the sound is no exception. However it is headache inducing when one has to fight off a horde of screaming enemies that all sound exactly the same—lucky the enemies usually explode well, which shuts them up.
“Watch for Hidden Portals”
“Serious Sam: TSE” is filled with secrets. Hunting down each secret will probably add at least another hour to the game (and most likely more). The in-game secrets range from a hidden armour power-up behind a structure, to entire new sections of a level to explore and fight through, to ridiculous moments like shooting a stuck Santa out of chimney. Finding these secrets is fun and can often reward the player with acquiring a powerful weapon early on or the reward may simply be a laugh.
Kill Everything that Moves… With Friends!
The new multiplayer additions to the game have both traditional and new game types. The usual game modes of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag are present. Also included are “Last Man Standing” and “Last Team Standing”: two game modes that have the player or team fight to be the last player or team alive at the end. “Instant Kill” is a sniper shoot-out where one shot kills. “My Burden” has players fighting for control over a weigh (the player who has had control of the weight the longest by the end of the match is the winner). “Beast Hunt” and “Team Beast Hunt” has players killing off different enemies to gain points and the player or team with the most points at the end of the round wins. “Beast Hunt” and “Team Beast Hunt” each allow up to 4 players on one map while all other versus multiplayer variants can have up to 8 players playing at once.
The game also has three different co-op options. First there is “Classic” co-op, which has players battling through the single-player campaign. “Coin-Op,” which has players battling through the single-player campaign but with only 3 lives available. Finally there is “Survival,” which has players fighting off hordes of enemies to stay alive as long as possible. Each of the co-op game types can have up to 4 players playing at once.
All these multiplayer options seem great, however there are very few online matches available. When playing online the games are fast-paced, fun, and intense. The problem is finding an online match to join and few matches actually have the full 8 or 4 player spots filled. In other words, do not buy “Serious Sam: TSE HD” for the multiplayer because no one is playing.
“Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD” is a fun and ridiculous battle through hordes of enemies. The gameplay is solid and facilitates the intense action perfectly. Frustration will set in as the difficulty ramps up near the end of each level but as long as you can set the controller down and come back in an hour or so you might just find that face of anger is replaced with a smile. It is disappointing that there are so few online matches available through Xbox Live because the multiplayer options are plentiful and offer fun and fast-paced action. “Serious Sam: TSE HD” is not a game for everyone. Know what you are getting into with “Serious Sam: TSE” and enjoy it for what it is: an adrenaline pumped ride of bullets and bombs with bad humour, worse characters, and a whole ton of enemy hordes to destroy.
Reviewed by James Farrington | 10.15.10
- Fast paced and fun action
- Wide variety of multiplayer options
- Nicely updated visuals
- Does not take itself seriously
- The action can become grueling and frustrating at times
- The enemy sounds can get annoying
- Lack of online servers for multiplayer
- Little level design variation
Similar Games: Serious Sam: The First Encounter (8.0)