“Best played co-operatively.” It’s something that’s fairly obvious for some games: Left 4 Dead, Payday 2, Killing Floor, the works. These are the kind of games that are built from the ground up to be played co-op with friends or random players, but can also be played by yourself if you want to. To me, the term also applies to games that have a single player campaign, but is infinitely more fun with a few friends. Like Sven Co-op is for Half-Life. That describes Serious Sam, the chaotic shooter series, to a T.
My friend Cambertian (@cambert123 on Twitter) had requested I played one of the classics, Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, and sure enough, it was the first game where I abandoned the early “wheel” picking system in lieu of a more simpler “Request a game, put it in the queue” system. I had played Serious Sam games in the past, co-oping through The First Encounter HD, Serious Sam 2 and even Serious Sam 3: BFE with a few friends. I had tried to play through the classic games before thanks to the HD remasters, but I never got very far.
The Second Encounter is basically an expansion pack to 2001’s The First Encounter. It adds a few new enemies to its bestiary such as a pumpkinhead looking monsterwith a chainsaw, an Reptiloid Demon that throws homing fireballs, and even alien monsters of the simpler headless foes of First Encounter. There’s a few new weapons in addition to the common arsenal of shotguns, miniguns and rocket launchers, including the sniper rifle – a valuable weapon against middle tier enemies – and the Serious Bomb, the game’s answer to the BFG. There’s a few new locales like the jungle, some temples, even a snowy land, each area defining a certain episode of the game.
Serious Sam is part of a genre I’d call “slaughter FPSes,” as they relate to the Doom community’s “slaughter map” design of straightforward levels and lots and lots of tra enemies to kill. Lots of rooms in The Second Encounter throw loads of enemies in fairly open spaces, which isn’t particularly hard. Until I got partway through the second episode, where Croteam loved putting loads of Kleers – the skeleton monsters – in very cramped corridors, making it difficult to push through without getting stuck and repeatedly hit. I ended up using the flamethrower a lot in that section as it killed them pretty fast.
There’s a bunch of silly secrets and really bad sections where I had to dodge death traps and do precarious jumping puzzles, which sometimes felt like Croteam showing off what the Serious Engine could do, rather than making an amazing game to put around them. Even games like Doom or Quake didn’t throw death traps that often, but Croteam liked doing it a fair bunch, leading to frustration on my part a few times. Despite that, I still had fun in some of the levels, because of the interesting tricks, the funny secrets, and even some of the boss fights were fun if a bit simple.
When I think about it, Serious Sam almost feels like a twin stick shooter in the vein of Smash TV or the later Geometry Wars, but in first person. Serious Sam and Painkiller fill that void of basically throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the player and killing everything along the way. In a way, Serious Sam carved its own retro FPS niche. Unfortunately, this has lead to people thinking “a classic first-person shooter” falls into the Serious Sam mold of “throw everything at you,” and some shooters that are made to be a “classic FPS” end up emulating Serious Sam’s chaotic gameplay rather than the exploration-based key hunts that Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake did. Though games like the 2016 Doom hit the perfect balance between feeling old-school while also feeling modern at the same time.
I think Serious Sam is “best played co-operatively.” Get a few friends, turn on arcade mode to make points mean something, and to hear that amazing “extra life” sound effect. Blast through the levels, and have fun. If anyone ever requests me to play another Serious Sam game on Budget Shooter Theater, I’m definitely grabbing a few friends next time.
As for the differences between the original and HD, I don’t think it matters that much. Cambert requested I play the original Second Encounter – which I snagged on CD at a thrift store a few years ago – and surprisingly it still worked on my modern Windows 10 machine with little issues besides occasionally having powerups not disappear upon pickup. I’ve heard good things about Serious Sam Classics Revolution, which takes the First and Second Encounter and puts them in an updated version of the original engine with Steam Workshop support. The HD versions just look prettier, but it can be played with Croteam’s new Serious Sam Fusion, which makes it so one can play First Encounter HD, Second Encounter HD, Serious Sam 3 and their VR efforts all in one client, without having to swap between games. So I’d go with whatever sounds nice to you.
PART ONE (played on February 25, 2017):
PART TWO (played on March 15, 2017):
On this part only, Bobinator of GC9X/Hardcore Gaming 101 tagged along with me on commentary. Thought I’d give team commentary another try, and I might do it some more.
PART THREE (played on April 28, 2017):
PART FOUR, FINALE (played on June 29, 2017)
Budget Shooter Theater is a stream series where I intend to play (and finish) as many first person shooters, third person shooters, and light gun rail shooters as I can. Occasionally joining me will be guests. Watch as I show off my amazing skills and shooting dudes and monsters in the face.
This happens at http://twitch.tv/tonicbh (almost) weekly. If you wanna request a game for a future Budget Shooter Theater stream, feel free to leave a comment on this post or contact me on Twitter (@TonicBH). The master list is here, though you can request any game not on the list. Though doing this may mean your request may not be played immediately. 😛
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