Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Serious Sam 3: BFE

Post-Launch Review
Serious Sam 3: BFE
Developer: Croteam
Released: November 22 2011 (Windows)


Serious Sam 3: BFE is a run-and-gun first person shooter and a prequel to the first Serious Sam game, set during the alien invasion of earth (BFE stands for Before First Encounter). Sam is dropped right into the middle of things and tasked with finding a way to activate an ancient artifact called the Time Lock, which may hold the key to saving the Earth. And of course he'll have to blast his way through thousands of aliens to do it.

At Launch

Serious Sam 3 received average review scores in the mid 70s. Reviewers enjoyed the classic shooter gameplay, the challenge, and the soundtrack, while criticizing it as a little repetitive.

Post Launch

Ports to Mac, XBox Live Arcade, and Linux have been released. A PS3 version is in the works but a date has not been set.
The Jewel of the Nile DLC includes three new campaign missions, new multiplayer content, and new achievements.

The Good

Run and Gun
Just like some early classic FPS games, Serious Sam 3 gives you a huge arsenal and pits you against a ton of relatively weak enemies (or tons of powerful ones once you complete your arsenal). The way to avoid damage is to keep moving and kill the aliens as fast as you can. It's a lot of fun and very fast-paced compared to games that use cover. But what makes this particular game stand out is the enemy design. Other than the guys with guns and some standard melee bruisers, there are suicide bombers who run at you and detonate, and skeletons that do a very quick charge. These enemies require situational awareness and movement to fight effectively - you can't just stand in one spot and blast away.
The game looks pretty nice overall. The setting - Egypt - allows for some colour through the yellow and tan, with plenty of green and blue in many levels. The aliens also throw in some colour, and have some really crazy designs (which I'm sure are updates of the aliens from the previous games). Explosions look good too, but of course they'd better in a game like this.
The only real flaw is character animation. It's kind of bad. Most noticeably, Sam's hands don't really move at all, which is kind of annoying when you see him walking around in cutscenes.
Suicide Bombers
These guys are hilarious. I love them. They hold a giant bomb in each hand and run towards you, screaming a constant non-stop AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Not even a pause to take a breath, because they're mechanically reanimated, so they don't breathe. As I said above, you need situational awareness when many of them are coming from different directions, but the funniest part is that if you have a decent stereo or surround sound setup, you can roughly judge their proximity and direction based on the screaming. It's great.
Serious Sam 3's music isn't the kind of stuff I'd listen to on its own, but it really works well for the game. It adds to the excitement and awesomeness without getting in the way. It's repetitive enough that it kind of fades into an awesome background, but not too repetitive that it gets annoying.
Last Level
Holy crap. What is this I don't even.
I've played a lot of games and Serious Sam 3's final level is the craziest level I've ever played. I lost count of how many times I emptied my rocket launcher (50 rockets), minigun (500 rounds), and devastator (80 explosive shells). There are just so many enemies, and so many powerful ones too. Words cannot describe the insanity of the last level.
Another old-school touch is that Serious Sam 3 can be very hard, even on normal difficulty. Some encounters require you to use specific tactics or certain weapons, and the game leaves it up to you to figure out how to win. I can't even imagine the last level on the highest difficulty.

The Neutral

Jewel of the Nile
The DLC is 3 more campaign levels that fit into the story between chapters, after you've activated the generators. You get to use the jetpack a little more, and ammo the sniper rifle and laser gun are given out like candy, so that's cool. There's not really anything different or special that sets these levels apart from the rest of the game. If you like the gameplay, Jewel of the Nile is more of that, but in my opinion it's pretty optional.

The Bad

Loading & Hanging
On my laptop levels are taking almost two full minutes to load. It runs well once I get started (with occasional hanging), but the load times are absurd. Kind of annoying. And to make things worse, when you clear a level, the game automatically loads the next one, meaning you can't even quit between levels if you want to take a break - you have to load the next one, which will take a minute or two, and then quit.
Kill All Enemies to Proceed
Sometimes the game requires you to kill every enemy in an area before you can move on. Due to the way the game spawns enemies, and the way the AI works, this can be very boring. Sometimes you'll have slow spawns where a handful of enemies will come at you, you dispatch them easily, a few more arrive, etc. That's no fun, it'd be more of a party to have them all at once. Sometimes in the wide open spaces there are lots of enemies, but they're running around really far from both you and their friends, so you have to run long empty stretches and gun them down. And sometimes you're nearing the end and you just can't find that last guy because he got stuck in a little nook somewhere.
Final Boss
I'm kind of bewildered that such a bad boss fight actually made it into the finished game. It's terrible for three reasons.
One: it introduces a brand-new mechanic in the last five minutes of the game - the jetpack. You're expected to learn the jetpack in the middle of the game's deadliest boss battle. Dumb.
Two: the level has boundaries, but it doesn't tell you. If you fly too far from the centre of the level, your jetpack fails and you fall to the ground. But there's no visual indication of what "too far" means, so it's possible that you won't figure it out and just think the jetpack is terrible.
Three: there are zero cues or hints to tell you that you need a special trick to defeat the boss, which is especially bad when every other boss in the game can be killed just by dealing enough damage, with the most complex ones requiring nothing more difficult than specific weapons or timing.

The Verdict

Recommendation: maybe.
If you're a fan of run-and-gun shooters, you'll have a blast with Serious Sam 3. Lots of guns, tons of enemies, and varied terrain create a lot of opportunities for awesome. It's fast-paced and intense and even throws in a handful of decent scares in some of the tombs. There's not much to the story, though, and you might find Sam's cocky growly voice annoying. This is a game for people who already play shooters. The relative monotony and difficulty probably won't convert players new to the genre, but for lovers of the classics, Serious Sam 3 is a serious party.

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