Well, Sam is back. Not the crazy bartender from Cheers, rather the tall, white shirt wearing superhero. This time his spaceship crashes into the earth, which happens to be inhabited by vicious nasty-looking baddies. More specifically you start in a Mayan-like civilization, filled with houses, trees, bushes and a whole bunch of tasks to complete. Later on you visit other ancient civilizations and pretty much do the same.
Since you can’t exactly make a life in a place like that, you head out in search for things that can fix your spaceship. Luckily you have a robot pal who gives you a description of your current level, tactical data and information regarding weapons and monsters, which you receive when picking up a new weapon or when you blast away a monster you haven’t encountered before.
The objectives in Serious Sam 2 are very basic; for instance, find item X in building 1, find item Y in building 2 and then place X+Y in the big statue, which you can see from afar. Actually, I was disappointed at how few interesting objectives there are, even though some of the levels are very innovative and basically fun to play.
Croteam made a new graphic engine for Serious Sam 2. It supports a variety of fancy effects and is able to render a whole lot of enemies on screen at a time. However, in levels where there are a lot of buildings and pixels in general the engine struggles, because it makes the CPU do a whole lot of work. Even though the levels look fairly nice and complex they could have been rendered faster. This may be optimised in a future patch, but be sure to at least have a 1ghz+ processor if you want it to run smoothly at all times.
The various monsters, buildings, weapons and items all look colourful and pretty non-scary, so even though there is A LOT of blood it shouldn’t frighten people like for instance Aliens vs Predator 1-2. I was really surprised at some of the effects Croteam have included. You start the game with a chainsaw, so I figured; why not go over to a tree, start the chainsaw and just see if anything happened. I wasn’t just a little surprised when parts of it started falling down on me, and in the end it was all a pile of wood. Speaking of being surprised, some of the levels a bit into the game are really original and are different from anything I’ve seen in a first person shooter before.
Character animation is an area I would’ve improved if I worked at Croteam. All the monsters move the precisely same way, which is also somewhat simple. Secondly, software / hardware anti-aliasing should also have been improved since the edges on pretty much everything are jagged. Yes, I am being picky, but a fact is a fact.
The Sounds / Music:
In Serious Sam 2 the background music is faded on once enemies are near. When facing an especially taxing situation like fighting a boss real rock music fades in. I must say that the regular monster-bashing music is somewhat boring, but the boss-bashing music on the other hand is very good and makes the good old adrenaline flow. The sound effects of monsters, weapons, items etc are also generally good. Just like in basically any other first person shooter. However, the sound effects have a very small “vocabulary”, meaning the rocket launcher sounds just the same no matter what you do. The score would’ve been greater if there was more diversity.
Score: 7 of 10.
Pretty much everything feels the way it’s supposed to. The physics model works in a way where insane movement speed isn’t in focus, rather running somewhat slowly and shooting whatever happens to move. The guns pack a great punch, but I feel you acquire almost all of them too early, so that there’s less of a surprise in the last half of the game. Even though Serious Sam 2 isn’t a game that tries to be as realistic as for instance Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, I think it should be impossible for anyone to constantly hit when firing off two revolvers at a target that’s several hundred meters.
After having played Serious Sam 2 for quite a few hours now I feel that the game could have been better if you actually interacted with actual people. The only thing you do is to look for certain items, stealing them, placing them in large things, exploring ancient lands and just generally reducing the size of your enemies to a red spot on the floor.
There are three modes: cooperative, scorematch and fragmatch.
Cooperative means you play missions along with a human being. Scorematch is a bit innovative by having you collect score points by picking up weapons, armor, health and of course fragging an opponent. Fragmatch is your basic deathmatch; kill as many opponents as the frag limit is set to.
Secondly there is a mode for split-screen, which to my surprise worked very well. Obviously, beforehand you are required to set different keymaps for the two players, but the graphic engine has no problem at all with handling two players on one screen.
There are eight maps to choose from. They are all very different from one another, but they are slightly boring, simple looking and will probably not keep a lot of players playing it endlessly.
You can host dedicated servers, running as a spectator or not, by simply selecting what you want. In short, too few multiplayer modes, slightly boring levels, but a good multiplayer engine.
Fans of the original will definitely like this sequel. A level can easily contain 800-1000 monsters; so trigger-happy people will have their work cut out. However, people who are fans of more realistic (yet not) first person shooters like Aliens vs. Predator 2 and System Shock 2 will find that the gameplay is a bit boring and can even be unchallenging in terms of brain activity required. Regardless, if you’re looking for a game where you can simply eradicate legions of baddies you will want to have a look at Serious Sam 2.