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The Talos Principle makes me feel smart and dumb

Nov 16 // Darren Nakamura
The Talos Principle (Linux, Mac, PC [previewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: CroteamPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: December 11, 2014MSRP: $39.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit As a pure puzzle title, The Talos Principle begins fairly simply. Each area is separated into small, discrete puzzle rooms (a la Portal's testing chambers) and there are only a few tools available. The robotic protagonist can walk around, jump short distances, and pick up objects. The first of these objects is the Jammer, which will shut down any one electronic device it is pointed at. This comes in handy, because in between the player and the Sigils that must be collected are electric barriers, automated turrets, and explosive proximity sentries. By solving puzzles and collecting Sigils, new objects come into play that open up new puzzles. Manipulating lasers to unlock doors is generally cool. Unlocking Hexahedra (large weighted cubes) seems a bit mundane in comparison, but one of the difficulties to overcome in solving puzzles is having to figure out firsthand everything that objects can do. For instance, cubes are naturally used to weigh down pressure plates, but can also be used to climb on, to block laser beams, to stack objects, or to redirect sentry bots. That flavor of puzzle-solving is a bit of a double-edged sword. Discovering a new function for an object through trial and error makes for some "eureka" moments that are satisfying, but sometimes the path to get there reaches "this is not fun any more" territory. For instance, one puzzle took me so long to complete that the disembodied voice in the sky encouraged me to move on. Once I learned the simple mechanic that allows the player to drop items while airborne, it became trivial. After solving that particular puzzle, I felt dumb instead of feeling smart. [embed]283929:56346:0[/embed] The other major aspect of The Talos Principle is its discussion of philosophy through narration from the voice of a god and text found on computer terminals scattered around the environment. One of Croteam's goals is to make that content available for those who want to engage with it, but to make it optional for those who only care about the puzzles. Personally, I could not imagine skipping over the conversations with the entity behind the computers. Through the use of extensive dialogue trees, the digital assistant asks some pretty heavy questions about consciousness, and it remembers the player's answers to follow up on later. Though it is not what most would consider the "meat" of the experience, it is what sets Talos apart from other physics-based first-person puzzle platformers. Only about one-third of the way in, I have already had moments where I had to sit at the keyboard and just think for a bit before choosing an answer. Is a tree conscious? No, obviously not. Can an electronics-based artificial intelligence be conscious? Hmm, I guess so. Could a sufficiently complex network of tin cans attached to strings that acts as a computer be conscious? I honestly don't know, but I took a lot of time to consider that. So The Talos Principle is made up of two distinct parts: puzzles and philosophy. Both make the player think. Both can make the player feel smart or stupid. Blazing through a puzzle by seeing what tools are available and figuring out the solution is intellectually rewarding while plodding through only to stumble on what should have been obvious stings a bit. Similarly, not being able to articulate how I know I am sapient makes me reconsider that sapience. The real test of merit is in whether The Talos Principle can marry the two pieces in a meaningful way. Where The Swapper's game mechanics were intrinsically tied to its philosophical discussion, that relationship is still unclear with Talos. Though the protagonist is presumably a robotic artificial intelligence, that seems to be the only link between the discussion of self-identity and consciousness and the weighted cubes and lasers found in the puzzles. If that picks up as the story continues, The Talos Principle could be incredible. If not, then it is still looking like a competent title worth a puzzle fan's time.
The Talos Principle photo
Back at E3 2014, I got a brief chance to get my hands on The Talos Principle while talking to one of its writers Tom Jubert (FTL: Faster Than Light, The Swapper). In the presentation, Jubert explained the intended approach to...

Devolver Digital photo
Devolver Digital

Devolver Digital releases public test for The Talos Principle

A quantum leap forward in games marketing
Nov 07
// Rob Morrow
From the shy, but devilishly good-looking people at Devolver Digital and Croteam's department of theoretical philosophy comes a brave new thought experiment in games marketing. Rather than relying on the tried-and-true ...
Sigils of Elohim photo
Sigils of Elohim

Devolver Digital and Croteam release free puzzler mini-game

Complete sigil puzzles to unlock Items in The Talos Principle
Oct 18
// Rob Morrow
Croteam, the independent development studio behind the Serious Sam games and debonair indie publisher Devolver Digital have recently released a free mini-game prelude to their upcoming philosophical first-person puzzle gam...
Talos Principle photo
Talos Principle

Serious Sam devs ditching guns for a mysterious puzzler (with lasers)

From the writer of The Swapper
Jul 08
// Steven Hansen
The Talos Principle was revealed at E3, from which Darren Nakamura got a nice preview of the game. The latest from Croteam (Serious Sam) seems more Portal than shotgun eviscerator and will be available this yea...

The Talos Principle explores philosophy and lasers

Jun 18 // Darren Nakamura
The Talos Principle has three main parts to experience, though they run together throughout. Most of the core gameplay involves solving puzzles from a first-person perspective, using various gadgets scattered around the environment. The puzzles are self-contained, so the player knows when he is entering and exiting a particular puzzle, and that any given challenge can be completed without using outside items. There are several tools and traps that appear in the puzzles, though the ones shown during the vertical slice were a bit on the mundane side. There were impassable energy barriers, automated turrets, and tripod-mounted jammers that would shut either of the former down. There were lasers that needed to be shone into detectors, and beam splitters to redirect them. An early puzzle involved three barriers but only two jammers. Picking up a jammer deactivates it, so players cannot just walk through with one in hand. The solution involved pointing both at one barrier, allowing the player to sort of leapfrog them past one another. It was simple, but still satisfying to figure out and implement. The puzzles do get more difficult; one of the later puzzles required me to get a tip from the developer in order to solve it before the appointment was up. By solving puzzles, the player gains tetrominoes, and once a set is acquired, they can be arranged into blocks at specific terminals to unlock new sections to explore. That said, progress is not locked to any one specific puzzle. If a player is stumped, he can save it for later, explore elsewhere, and move on. Exploration is a key component, because a good portion of the philosophical questions are delivered through it. Jubert's goal in crafting the story was to make it a personal affair, with the idea that "whatever kind of philosophical baggage you carry around with you, you'll be able to express that in the game." Part of the time, a godlike voice in the sky will talk to the player, and part of the player's expression is that he can choose to listen or ignore the voice at will. More interesting are the data terminals scattered throughout, which allow the player to interact with an unknown entity on the other side. Upon walking up to one such terminal, the protagonist's hands are shown as fully metal, robotic facsimiles, hinting at a theme of artificial intelligence. The terminal is then interacted with in the form of dialogue trees, but one player's experience can vary from another's pretty substantially. Jubert explains, "Because everything is philosophically focused, we can actually go into a lot more depth and give you much more genuine agency within that. So, you can come to this as someone who believes in God and have a largely different conversation and relationship with this character than another player would." Jubert continues, "You can try and defend your ideas while he challenges them, you can give up on them and tell him he's right, you can do a bunch of things and he will do his best to remember. Philosophy isn't the sort of thing you can do very easily by just shouting at someone." Therein lies the hidden strength of The Talos Principle. By using dialogue trees in this way, the game intends to discuss philosophy through conversation with the player, rather than through a single rehearsed monologue. Though a lot of the player's attention will be spent in solving puzzles, Jubert and Croteam also want the player to think about issues centered around personhood and its relation to advancing technology. Jubert closes, "Most of us think that by being persons who are self-governing and make our own decisions, that makes us different from everything else. That makes us moral beings. As we look forward, we're going to have a lot of very difficult questions to solve as soon as we start with genetic manipulation and fucking around with people's brains. These are going to be really political hot topics in the next hundred years. It's pretty fucking shocking to me, having to discuss them in videogames." It sounds like it is aiming to be very thought-provoking. My one concern at this point stems from Jubert's previous work. One of the reasons The Swapper was so incredible was its marriage of gameplay and theme, in which each fed off the other in a very meaningful way. It is not clear yet how closely the puzzles will tie in to the narrative of The Talos Principle, but if Croteam and Jubert manage to pull it off, this could end up as a great example of videogames as a powerful form of philosophical expression.
The Talos Principle photo
'Whatever kind of baggage you carry around with you, you'll be able to express that in the game'
Nestled in a parking lot across the street from the convention center in Los Angeles was Devolver Digital's phalanx of air conditioned campers. The publisher had a good mixture of highly anticipated titles like Hotline Miami ...

Serious Sam photo
Serious Sam

Serious Sam Classics: Revolution out now on Early Access

Would you consider attacking one at a time?
Apr 30
// Brittany Vincent
It's time to get serious. Or stoic. Actually, if Serious Sam is your thing, you might even want to get excited. A team of fans (with Croteam's blessing, no less) has launched Serious Sam Classics: Revolution on Steam, an ite...

Croteam dev hates Windows 8, calls it a 'walled garden'

Suggests certification processes should be abolished
Nov 06
// Jim Sterling
A number of game developers have already shared their less-than-positive views on Windows 8, slamming Microsoft's new interest in ruling the PC gaming market through proprietary services. Croteam's chief technical offer ...

Serious Sam 3: Jewel of the Nile DLC and franchise sale

Shooty shooty run and gun!
Oct 17
// Alasdair Duncan
If you were salivating at the chance to play more Serious Sam 3, then your wait is over. The Jewel of the Nile DLC is now out for Croteam's old-school FPS, consisting of three new levels as the titular hero travels to the&nbs...

Rich Knuckles announces Serious Sam 3: BFE coming to XBLA

Wait, who's Rich Knuckles?
Oct 12
// Brett Zeidler
That's right, Serious Sam 3: BFE is finally making its way to Xbox Live Arcade, and it's launching in less than a week, no less. The single-player and co-op parts will be available for 1200 Microsoft Points, while the multip...

A Linux version is next for Serious Sam 3: BFE

Jul 24
// Jordan Devore
The latest update on Valve's interest in bringing Left 4 Dead 2 and Steam over to Ubuntu was a spot of bright news for Linux users, and there's more where that came from. Croteam and Devolver Digital have announced that Serio...

Live show: Serious Sam giveaway on Mash Tactics

May 16
// Bill Zoeker
It's about to get all super serious on Mash Tactics today! King Foom is going balls to the wall in Serious Sam 3: BFE multiplayer. On top of that, we have a bunch of codes for the Serious Sam Complete Pack on Steam, courtesy ...

Serious Sam 3 DRM = Immortal Pink Scorpion

Dec 07
// Jim Sterling
Despite Serious Sam 3 promising to fight piracy simply by being an awesome game, it turns out that developer Croteam has snuck some DRM in there. Fortunately, it's the best kind of DRM -- the kind that only affects illegal c...

Review: Serious Sam 3: BFE

Nov 25 // Jim Sterling
Serious Sam 3: BFE (PC)Developer: CroteamPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: November 22, 2011MSRP: $39.99Rig: Intel i7-2600k @3.40 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 580 GPU (SLI)  When playing Serious Sam 3: BFE for the first time, one could be fooled into thinking Croteam had bowed to mainstream gaming conventions. The first few levels are quite slow paced, giving Sam only a limited handful of generic weapons and pushing him through corridors filled with scant, evenly distributed enemies. This is not the Serious Sam you're used to, and those looking forward to a mindless cavalcade of violence may feel disappointed.  It is, however, little more than a trick. Although the game starts off with a deliberately slow build, it does not take long for Serious Sam 3 to become perhaps the most ludicrously violent, brutally stressful game in the entire series.  Serious Sam 3 preserves the wave-based gameplay of past iterations, in which enemies spawn at a rapid rate and assault players in unremitting legions. Once again, Sam's arsenal of weapons are fairly standard but wholly satisfying, with rocket launchers, sniping devastators and miniguns mercilessly chewing through the opposition. New to the series is an assault rifle with a sight scope -- perhaps the only concession to the modern shooter this game ever makes.  [embed]216475:41879[/embed] If Sam is near enough to certain enemies, he can take them out instantly with a melee attack. Melee attacks allow Sam to rip the hearts out of beheaded rocketeers, pull Kleer skulls from their bodies, and even remove a Gnaar's cycloptic eye. While melee attacks seem overpowered at first, performing such moves during intense enemy waves soon becomes impractical, since Sam will take damage during the attack animation and will also have to drop whatever he yanked from the monster's body before using weaponry again. When one can safely pull off an execution, it's sadistically amusing, but it's never overpowered since performing them is not always sensible.  Most of the enemies are familiar, with headless kamikaze troopers, laser-spewing Biomechanoids and vicious Kleer skeletons returning with their familiar attacks in place. Every enemy has been redesigned to make them look more detestable -- and even disturbing -- than ever. There are some new monstrosities to encounter, chief among them the ape-like "space monkeys" that are actually quite frightening in their first appearance, since they hide in the dark and leap out at Sam. They get quite irritating after a while, though.  Whatever new items have been thrown into the mix, this is the Serious Sam fans know and love. The large environments will cause players to become agoraphobic, as a wide space only means that an absolutely gigantic wave of enemies is coming. These waves are consistently oppressive, and will regularly push players back as they constantly retreat to gain space between them and the approaching aliens. This "one step forward, two steps back" approach is a series staple, but sometimes it can get a little aggravating, especially once you've cleared an area and need to walk through a huge empty corridor. Still, one cannot deny the simple pleasure of knowing that you just took on an entire army and won.  Of course, winning isn't quite that simple. Serious Sam 3 is damn hard, and swearing at the monitor can be a common occurrence, especially in the last few stages, with Croteam perfecting the art of combining certain enemy types to create the most potent threats possible. Players will learn to truly despise the Kleer this time around, as they always come at the least helpful moment, backed up by other creatures that cover them with explosive projectiles while they get in close with their bony blades. I've not even mentioned the Brides of Achriman yet, with their telekinetic ability to hold players in place while other monsters take potshots. This is a strenuous, savage, unapologetically "hardcore" game, and I don't think I'd have it any other way.  Fortunately, manual saves are in place, which is useful considering how long this game can be. Single levels can take between twenty minutes to a whole hour, which is almost unheard of by today's standards. Most first-person-shooter campaigns take four hours in total to beat these days, but you won't get through a quarter of this game in that time. The only downside to such a setup comes with the last level, which ramps up the length to an extreme degree and forces players down a very linear, tight canyon for over two hours. Over two hours for one level. It doesn't help that it's a rather boring and dull level, leading the game to end on a frustrating, almost demoralizing note. Without that final chapter, Serious Sam 3 is a huge amount of punishing fun. The final stretch is all punishment, no entertainment. The combination of challenge and level length makes for a game that can actually become exhausting. After tackling legion upon legion of single-minded cosmic horrors for over an hour, it's not uncommon to feel mentally and even physically drained. One's clicking finger will be overworked, one's mind full of the screams of kamikaze warriors and the hoofbeats of Sirian Werebulls. Serious Sam 3 can put players to sleep -- not through being boring, but through wearing them down to the very bone. If that sounds like a criticism, that is not my intention, as a game that can maintain such levels of rigorous intensity over such extended time periods is remarkable, and deserves a measure of high praise.  In addition to single-player, the campaign levels can be conquered with up to sixteen allies in a variety of cooperative modes that allow for limited or endless respawns. While co-op is not quite as challenging as going solo, having a squadron of players in one map can be pretty damn fun, especially with the range of silly character skins on offer. There is a Survival Mode, which simply tosses players into a map and spews out enemies until all players are dead. So, it's basically the campaign without a story.  Competitive multiplayer also returns, and it is by far the roughest offering in the box. Environments look significantly uglier and everything feels rather sparse and alienating as players run around each other, firing off shotguns until somebody stops moving. The gameplay is barely evolved from the early nineties, which is part of the charm, but definitely isn't worth playing very much. The biggest issue is that Serious Sam is a game about overwhelming odds, and stripping that down to a small amount of players runs contrary to the philosophy. I think Croteam would do well to infuse multiplayer with the same spirit as the solo mode, perhaps having players fight it out in environments that regularly spawn alien enemy waves. That could turn multiplayer into something truly special.  It has to be said that Serious Sam 3: BFE is not graphically impressive. In fact, the whole production is unpolished and a little messy. The new Serious Engine produces visuals barely on par with early Source Engine games, and animations are pretty terrible, especially when it comes to melee attacks. It is not the ugliest game on the market, but it's definitely not a looker. However, that absolutely does not matter in a game like this. BFE never set out to wow players with aesthetics, and the fact that a team as small as Croteam got it looking this good is admirable, to say the least. The rough look, if anything, just adds to the ballsy, reckless attitude that drenches the entire game, and the gorgeously hideous creature design more than makes up for any engine trouble.  The game's brilliant musical score and sound effects do a lot to cover up the visuals as well. One hardly has time to pay attention to graphical flaws when metal guitars are roaring and fifty exploding corpses are screaming in your direction. I am a little disappointed that Sam's idiotic one-liners aren't quite so common, but when they do show up, they're gloriously stupid.  Serious Sam 3: BFE is not a game for the faint of heart. It will challenge your resolve while it constantly pushes you back under a tidal wave of skeletons, fireballs, rockets and chaingun-wielding scorpions. Its levels can last up to an hour, its gameplay never deviates from one note, and it will cause players to thump their desks and roar with rage, but it's so much fun. There was such a significant gap in the market for a game like this, its simple charm and sheer wealth of content serving as the perfect antidote to all those "cinematic" military shooters and po-faced "edgy" games that have burrowed deeply into this generation. This is a game that remembers how much fun it can be to just give a player some guns and a bunch of uglies to shoot.  It's a lot of fun indeed. A lot of backbreaking, grueling, soul-destroying fun.

As games become increasingly complex and try to explore new, innovative ideas, the market is ripe for a game that takes us back to square one. Despite our lofty ideals and desire to treat videogames as art, there's still a ba...


Serious Sam 3: BFE update kills game saves (Update)

Nov 24
// Jim Sterling
[Update: The Croteam member who confirmed the issue has said that the studio may be able to fix everything. A new patch will arrive tomorrow that will attempt to rescue both old and new saves. Fingers crossed!] A small update...

Your Serious Sam 3: BFE launch trailer is here

Nov 22
// Jim Sterling
Sick of turgid military shooters and po-faced space marines? Do you just want to shoot a lot of things while a mentally stunted meathead laughs in the face of violence? Well, Serious Sam 3: BFE is ready and waiting.  Th...

New Serious Sam 3 trailer contains a lot of blood

Nov 17
// Harry Monogenis
Remember when Croteam's Serious Sam 3: BFE was hit with a delay? I know, we all cried a little inside at the fact that we wouldn't be able to rip out the eyes of Sam's enemies with nothing but our bear hands, or get to ...

Serious Sam 3: BFE gets its arsenal out in new trailer

Oct 31
// Jim Sterling
Here's a new trailer for Serious Sam 3: BFE, showing off the juicy selection of weapons that Sam Stone will use to make mincemeat of Mental's ugly thralls. From assault rifles to lazer guns, you'll have plenty to play with.  The game's shaping along nicely from what I've played of it, and I expect a diamond in the rough. Who's looking forward to this one?

Serious Sam 3: BFE pushed back to November 22

Sep 30
// Jim Sterling
Serious Sam 3: BFE has been hit with a delay, missing its October 18 launch date to instead come out on November 22. Croteam says it wanted to polish things up before revealing the final product.  "The team wants to take...

Fantastic Arcade: Serious Sam 3 may be the best one yet

Sep 27 // Allistair Pinsof
Serious Sam 3: BFE (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC [Previewed])Developer: CroteamPublisher: Revolver DigitalTo be released: October 18, 2011Serious Sam games always seem to overstay their welcome. They are fun at first but become repetitive and tiresome. Yet, I find myself revisiting Doom and Quake every year, despite id Software’s classics being based on the same format: In/Arena/Out. What makes those games so timeless is the level design, an element that always felt disregarded in the Serious Sam series. Serious Sam 3 feels like it's taking great strides to change that -- to the point where I may no longer think of it as Painkiller’s inferior companion.After getting a good hour sample of the game, including a look at some new levels and its balls-crazy final stage, I am taken aback at how this series has found a way to excite me again. The game is still full of sprawling outdoor arenas, but they are are filled with alleyways, walls and indoor areas. This makes crowd control feel interesting and challenging, in a way that id Software games did back in the day. My favorite mission had to be one partway through the game that felt like you were playing in a bombed out Middle Eastern village. The game does feel a bit too much like Modern Warfare, but since this level recalled obsessively playing the favela level in Special Ops, I won’t hold it against Croteam. In past Serious Sam games, you’d just stand in an open area and fire away. In Serious Sam 3, you’ll evade enemies by running down alleyways, taunt them into a closed room and rip their heads off if you are feeling brave. The game is still built upon the repitition of killing hordes of enemies, but there are so many variables that the levels and rebuilt combat system offer this time. As long as you are still up to shooting things in the face, the game will give you enough tools to keep it fun. The melee weapons in this outing are made to be used as secondary weapons, not last resorts. Your fists won’t do you much good, but swinging your giant hammer in a 360-arc will. The game’s weapon load-out might be a bit daunting at first, but you’ll soon find yourself comfortably switching weapons to match your enemy. Fans will be happy to hear that the classic laser gun is in the final game and it's as great as it ever was.There are some things that concern me about Serious Sam 3, however. Although the game only has 10 minutes of cutscenes, it does have some levels that slow down the pace a bit more than I liked. One found Sam walking through a dimly lit museum filled with alien eggs, when he should have been busting ass through a crowd of demons.  I’ll give the game the benefit of the doubt that these slower scenes will make for an interesting change of pace when played within context. However, everything else about Serious Sam 3 looks like a great addition or welcome return of a past feature in the series. You’ll still have your insane 16-player co-op (along with a very rare 4-player split-screen option), point system, and memorable weapons (THE CANON!) On the other hand, you also get new features like destructible environments, sand storms that limit your vision and a terrifying, Tremors-looking Sand Whale that keeps you within the level’s parameters (kind of like the shark in Jak and Daxter). I’m especially fond of the new enemy Scrap Jack that looks a direct throwback to Doom II’s Mancubus with its sagging gut and guns for hands.Based on what I previously saw and heard, I expected Serious Sam 3 to be a half-hearted sequel that tried its best to fit in with all the military shooters that currently populate the market. While I am disappointed the game’s levels don’t have the visual variety of Serious Sam 2, I am pleased to see that the game makes the most of its Egyptian setting. The changes to combat, level design, and other aspects are enough to keep me invested, however. It seems those four years Croteam spent developing this sequel were put to good use. I can't wait to shoot crazy numbers of demons with 15 friends when the game drops October 18.

[All this week, I'll be bringing game coverage from indie game festival Fantastic Arcade in Austin, TX. Be sure to check Flixist for my coverage of film festival companion Fantastic Fest.] A Serious Sam 3 ...


Rich Knuckles talks co-op in Serious Sam: BFE

Sep 12
// Jim Sterling
Serious Sam 3: BFE Helpline operator Rich Knuckles is back in a new trailer, this time detailing co-op. He's revealed that split-screen will be a feature, allowing up to four players to shoot stuff on the same machine. Given...

Review: Serious Sam: Double D

Sep 10 // Jim Sterling
Serious Sam: Double D (PC)Developer: Mommy's Best GamesPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: August 30, 2011MSRP: $7.99 Serious Sam: Double D takes more than a few notes from Weapon of Choice, being a scrolling shooter with a colorfully hand-painted artistic style. Despite the shift from a first-person perspective, Double D has adapted the Serious Sam formula quite faithfully. The game is a simple, no-frills carnival of violence, as Sam takes out excessive swarms of bizarre creatures across a range of time-traveling levels.  Familiar enemies such as Kamikaze troops, Kleer skeletons and cycloptic Gnarls are joined by a few creatures cooked up in Nathan Fouts' fertile and demented mind -- legless primates that fire banana bombs, gigantic female Kamikaze soldiers, and living plates of pancakes that wield deadly vuvuzelas. The twisted imagination shown in Double D's design is quite impressive, if somewhat worrying. The best part about the designs is that they're silly without looking like somebody tried too hard. One gets the impression that Fouts just casually thought caterpillars with machine guns would be a fun idea, and ran with it. Fortunately, that artistic flair is married to some solid gameplay action. As is typical of Fouts' style, the art direction informs the gaming, which means there's still a strange "floating" feeling to Sam's movement. It makes him a little unwieldy at times, but fortunately the mouse-controlled aiming is tight enough to make up for any imprecision. Not to mention, players get a good deal of control over Sam's jumps, allowing players to maneuver quite deftly through a hail of bullets in mid-air. Although Double D sticks quite close to the Serious Sam formula, it manages to contribute a few original ideas to keep things interesting. Chief among the fresh material is Double D's "Gun Stack" system. Rather than wield each gun individually, Sam has the option of collecting "Connectors" throughout the game and using them to stick his weapons on top of each other. Up to six guns can be stacked, in any combination -- provided you've got the right weapons and enough connectors. Do you want a rocket launcher on top of a chainsaw? How about two machine guns, a shotgun, a grenade launcher and a laser rifle? Hell, stick a flamethrower on top of it for all Double D cares.  As ridiculous as it is, the Gun Stack system is great fun. It's not exactly deep, and the weapon variety isn't extensive, but it's undeniably quite fun to put together your preferred weapon of absolute death and watch it mow down the enemy with mindless abandon. It also allows you to tailor different combinations for different occasions, since multiple stack slots are available. I got through the game with one rapid-fire stack designed for ground troops and a combination of rocket and grenade launchers for bosses, but you can have whatever Frankenstein's Monster you like. As well as the gun stack, Sam Stone also has access to the Porta Pad. Throwing this down causes it to stick where it lands, and Sam will bounce from it upon contact. This allows him to make high jumps, or even perform a bizarre "wall jump" move by repeatedly throwing and bouncing from the pad to climb a chasm and reach secret areas. Another intriguing way to gain altitude is to use the corpses of enemies. Monsters don't disappear when they die, instead laying where they fall and becoming part of the level in their own right, which players can exploit. One particularly cool level has Sam shooting infinitely respawning Gnarls so that their bodies pile up high enough to get him out of a hole. These little additions are about as "deep" as Double D gets. The rest of it is unfettered violence, explosions, and shouting as Sam carves his way through anything that moves. It's certainly no cakewalk, either -- Stone's enemies hit hard and descend upon him in droves. It can sometimes get completely insane, with the screen literally full of bullets and monsters, but that's pretty much the point. You're supposed to switch your brain off and just keep shooting. It's a Serious Sam game, after all.  The game won't take much more than an hour to beat, and it's definitely a repetitive affair, but there's quite a lot of cathartic fun to be had with such a reckless onslaught of bullet-flavored justice, and there's also a range of unlockable challenges in which one must kill a certain amount of enemies with pre-set gun combinations. For eight bucks, there's certainly enough content for Serious Sam fans to get stuck into, though those who aren't quite so keen on the series probably won't get the same amount of enjoyment.  Serious Sam: Double D isn't the most tightly produced of shooters, but it's a laugh. With genuinely amusing, self-deprecating humor peppered throughout, and increasingly ridiculous opponents to tackle, Mommy's Best Games has produced something that is sure to entertain, even if it doesn't inspire. The combat makes for some excellent stress relief (while inducing a little stress itself!) and the clever gun-stacking mechanic lends the perfect level of freshness to a familiar formula. While those looking for a little more depth might want to look elsewhere, fans of simple and honest shooting action without complications will enjoy an afternoon's flirtation with this particular offering.

Although Serious Sam 3: BFE is the big release for Croteam this year, that's not the only adventure we get to embark upon with Sam "Serious" Stone. To promote the release of the upcoming shooter -- and get some attention for ...


The Serious Sam 3: BFE helpline for f*cking pussies!

Sep 02
// Jim Sterling
Croteam cares about you, and wants everybody to have fun with Serious Sam 3: BFE. In the spirit of open-mindedness, it has employed Rich Knuckles as a caring helpline operative, aiding the new generation of FPS gamers as the...

Choke on these Serious Sam 3: BFE screens

Aug 12
// Jim Sterling
Here are some screenshots for Serious Sam 3: BFE, which I am playing a preview build of right now and can confirm is pretty damn badass. Serious Sam fans are in for a treat, because it provides everything you expect of the ga...

Serious Sam 3: BFE has 'crazy ass split screen'

Aug 09
// Jordan Devore
The hot news to come out of Croatia today is that Serious Sam 3: BFE will feature "crazy ass split screen." Translated, that roughly means the PC version does up to four-person split screen in the cooperative campaign and mul...

Serious Sam publisher mocks Origin, allies with Steam

Jul 29
// Jim Sterling
Serious Sam 3: BFE publisher Devolver Digital has mocked Electronic Arts over its proprietary Origin service, sending out a press release to say that its own service, Krundle, was cancelled and that BFE will proudly come to S...

Serious Sam games 66% off on Steam today! (Update)

Jul 04
// Nick Chester
[Update: It looks like Second Encounter is 80 percent off, which is not what we were originally told, but... cool! You can grab it for $3.99. Thanks to BrandonUndead for the heads up.] Croatia-based Croteam isn't celebrating ...

E3: Serious Sam 3: BFE is exactly what fans want

Jun 11 // Jim Sterling
It's odd to see Serious Sam looking so good, which is weird to say because by modern standards, it doesn't look great. By Serious Sam standards, however, this is a significant step up, especially when you remember that developer Croteam is only a very small studio of fourteen people.  Everything you expect from a Serious Sam game is present in BFE. You know what you're in for when the guy presenting the game calls cover systems "Bullshit" and applies a similar description to the idea of limiting players to only two weapons at a time. Indeed, in Serious Sam's world, it would be bullshit, because you don't want to be denied an arsenal that includes shotguns, chainguns, rocket launchers and portable cannons.  New weapons include shotguns that fire explosives and an assault rifle with a scope. The rifle was a controversial decision, seen by some as a concession to the Call of Duty crowd. I am pleased to report that it doesn't change a thing. In fact, Croteam replaced the original Sniper Rifle with it, and with no cover, all you're doing is running-and-gunning with the added ability to get a closer shot. It's pretty useful for picking off individual suicide bombers in the distance. Outside of that, rest assured that you wouldn't be crouching behind walls or regenerating your health.  Melee attacks are a new enhancement to the experience, but they fall in line with what you'd expect from Serious Sam. Sam gets a sledgehammer now, with which he can easily cave an individual enemy's head in, or swing with a 360 degree arc to take out crowds. Every enemy can also be executed with a button press. Animations are yet to be decided for all of them, but the one I got to see -- Sam ripping the eye out of a cycloptic Gnaar -- was astounding. Not so much for the pedestrian eye-ripping, but more for the fact that the victim then proceeded to scream in horror and stagger from left to right, spraying illogical amounts of blood all over the floor and walls. It was deliciously morbid.  The game begins with a short tutorial, one that may lead you to believe that Sam's gotten boring. Aliens appear one at a time, and you've only a sledgehammer with which to pound them. Of course, this is a mere feint, as the moment you get a gun, you round a corner to find a small army of headless warriors and other assorted baddies. From then on, it's the same kind of Serious Sam experience you've come to expect -- huge killing fields, inviting power-ups that spawn new opponents, and waves of increasingly difficult monstrosities.  Despite the flashier graphics, Serious Sam 3 willfully sticks to its roots, and is all the better for it. The elegant simplicity of the series' formula is what keeps fans coming back, and they'll be pleased to know that they're getting the same experience -- except a little prettier and much bigger, with explosive shotguns.  Destructible environments are one new feature and they help add to the chaos. It's much more satisfying to mow down legions of Mental's troops when walls are coming down around you. Your Cannon is the best for this, although enemies themselves can often blast or simply run through solid brick walls. You can't just camp behind a building if a Werebull is on the rampage now -- it'll smash through that building just to get to you. This game is committed to robbing players of cover, because that's not how a MAN fights aliens, damn it! Serious Sam: BFE is not going to be the most refined experience you'll ever play, but we all knew that would be the case. However, it's shaping up to be a huge fat load of good, honest fun. Free of that overbearing pressure to rival the likes of Call of Duty or Halo, Serious Sam is able to concentrate on simply providing the maximum amount of carnage for the smallest entry fee. It's looking set to succeed.

When I play a Serious Sam game, here is what I want: Waves of ridiculous enemies. Loads of silly guns. Nothing getting in the way of the previous two things. When I played Serious Sam 3: BFE, I got exactly what I wanted. If you're a fan of the series, you'll get it too.


Serious Sam 3: BFE gets eye-popping debut trailer

Jun 02
// Jim Sterling
The "eye-popping" part of the headline was a most hilarious joke, since that's actually what happens in the video. Oh, how we laughed. In an age of cover-systems, health regen and endless gimmickry, it's always refreshing to...

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