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Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter
Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Croteam Official Site:
Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD Review
Review By @ 06:07pm 01/12/09
It's funny how some things can stand the test of time. Gaming is one of those mediums, however, where time is absolutely relative, meaning almost everything you play has a visual or mechanic stamp representative of the time in which it was released. This usually means games age terribly in the wake of technology advances, and it's often a shame because you've likely held a torch to a game for so long, only to pick it up in more recent times and realise - in its current form - it's near unplayable (this happened to me recently with Goldenye).

With this in mind, I'm a massive proponent of the classic-to-HD revival we've been seeing of late, and it's in this trend I back the idea of platforms like the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare or... well, the PC, allowing for older, less technologically advanced games to have a new coat of gloss and sheen added to their exterior with minor (or sometimes major) tweaks to gameplay. The latest in this batch of retooled bargain bin games is Croteam's infamous Serious Sam series, with the suffix "HD" added to let you know all of Sam's seriousness is now in glorious high-definition.

Grabbing this off Steam, I can't stress my use of the word "glorious" in relation to its new high-definition polish. Serious Sam HD looks stunning. It's by no means a system cruncher, and the mechanics and gameplay formula have remained almost completely unchanged, but it's amazing to see a game this old looking this damn good. Textures are all intricately brought to life with the HD sheen, and the engine is as smooth and consistent as ever - you've never mowed down an onslaught of Gnaar beasts looking this good before.

Unfortunately, this is all Serious Sam HD brings to the table; a palatable gloss worthy of bragging rights, sans braggable gameplay upgrades to go along with it. But, in this day and age with emerging gamers dabbling in new areas, we have to assume there are likely people out there who've never played, nor seen, a Serious Sam title before, and in this instance there's nothing wrong with giving them the very first outing with this type of presentation.

So for those of you unaware of Sam's exploits, it's all enjoyably simple and anti-complex, yet its masterful scope is decidedly epic in scale and comedy. Sam has travelled back in time to stop an Earth invasion that will readily wipe out the human race. He's the most decorated, the most fearless, the most serious. And that's it. You move, jump and shoot - and there are no puzzles. No moving boxes, hitting switches, hacking computers, guarding stupid NPCs, jumping across rooftops, commandeering vehicles, taking point or bringing up the rear. There are no incredible cut-scenes to invoke and no major story arcs - there's the enemy, he (or it) wants you dead, so kill it first. Hell, you don't even manually reload here - as I stated "anti-complex".

Enemies are not smart, unless of course you count holding ticking time-bombs and gunning for you at full running speed a smart tactic, but that's essentially all they do. Every enemy in the game has one single, murderous goal in mind, and that's to kill you so they can get on with the rest of the human killing. It's like Space Invaders only with a few one-liners capable of putting Duke Nukem to shame, and that glorious, glorious sheen. You're never forced to solve puzzles, only to stay alive and press on. Doing so will eventually reward you with new weapons and new areas, with each area, in Doom and Wolf homage, harbouring some form of secret with even more treasures (usually in the form of health or armour pieces).

You can play online cooperatively with up to 16 people right through the entire single-player campaign, and doing so will send even more hordes at you (something I highly recommend, if just for the spectacle alone). Of course you can play with just one other person, or entirely on your own, but as stated throughout this review, the one main drawback is nothing here, beyond the game's visual overhaul, is overly new. No new weapons, bosses or areas. Newer multiplayer options wouldn't have gone astray, but they have, presumably because Croteam are hard at work on Serious Sam 3, which I can only hope takes the visual benchmark of this and multiplies it like so many SS battlefields filled with seemingly endless multiples of enemies.

On the one hand having such an old-school game brought back to life in HD really is very cool - especially for anyone who never dabbled in the first. It's cheap and easy to run, plus multiplayer is more than worth it. On the other hand, however, there are missed opportunities, and given the length of time between the game's announcement and release, I find it hard to believe we couldn't have been handed at least a few new areas, some new enemies, a new weapon or two or a new multiplayer mode. It's the game's biggest let-down, but also has me chomping at the bit for Serious Sam 3 more than ever now (if only to play a visually stunning game with even more on gameplay offer).

If you like your shooters easy to play, easy to digest and edge-of-your-seat by sheer number, Serious Sam HD will either spark some awesome memories for you (only these memories will be in HD), or you'll get a glimpse of why this series is so revered among old-school PC shooter fans. All I want now is SS3 - bring it on Croteam.
What we liked
  • Look incredible
  • Not even remotely capable of crunching your system
  • Non-stop action
  • Super simple gameplay
  • 16-player co-operative
What we didn't like
  • Nothing new here beyond the visuals
  • Missed opportunity for some fresh Sam reinvention (even just a SS3 tease would have sufficed)
We gave it: