Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

6:00 PM on 11.29.2009 // Jim Sterling

Screw Duke Nukem. Sam "Serious" Stone is the real king of first-person-shooter meatheads and if anybody deserved to make a triumphant comeback, it was him. Sure, Sam may not be quite as high profile, and his games may not be quite as refined, but at least Sam's adventures are released on time, and who needs refinement when you've got headless men running toward you with bombs in their hands?

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter takes us back to Sam's very first adventure, giving the near-ten-year-old shooter a fresh coat of paint, a new Serious Engine, and 16-player co-op. All worthy additions, but is this a case of mutton dressed as lamb, or does Sam still have the stones? Read on as we review Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter.

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (XBLA, PC [reviewed])
Developer: Croteam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Released: November 24, 2009
MSRP: 1200 MS Points (XBLA), $19.99 (PC)

Nobody will ever accuse Serious Sam of being a complicated game. In fact, as first-person-shooters grow more and more complex, The First Encounter feels like a simplistic island of calm in an ocean of convoluted gameplay gimmickry. The concept behind Serious Sam -- a concept that it sticks with religiously from beginning to end -- is incredibly easy to grasp: There are big guns. There are big monsters. The big monsters need to be shot with the big guns.

The First Encounter is as close to purity as one can expect. While modern shooters experiment with perks and parkour, Serious Sam refuses to surrender the principles of the early nineties. Health packs are liberally strewn around in a mockery of regenerative health mechanics. Shields are offered like they didn't go out of fashion five years ago. The most complicated this game gets is giving you the occasional button to press in order to open a door. It's not rocket science, although rockets are generally involved.

The only thing the player has to be concerned with is endlessly firing shotguns, lasers, miniguns, cannons and grenade launchers at waves upon waves of demented enemies. Be they galloping skeletons, charging bulls, or giant brains on metal legs, the twisted bestiary hurls itself at you at every turn. All you need to worry about is keeping the trigger held and making sure to avoid the endless stream of projectiles and claws that fly your way.

Just because Serious Sam is simple, however, that doesn't mean it's easy. In fact, if you've never played a game in the series before, be warned now -- this thing is insanely tough. Not only are the enemies numerous, they are also formidable, with just one monster fully capable of reducing your health by tens, let alone the hundreds of enemies that will constantly bumrush you, fire homing projectiles at you, or tear you apart with chaingun fire. At times the game can feel overwhelming, even impossible, and I must confess that I eventually left solo shooting behind when I faced what must have been a thousand charging skeletons.

Fortunately, the single-player is not the main event in The First Encounter. If the campaign is too overwhelming in single-player, you can always call for help and tackle the forces of evil with up to sixteen other players. Not only does this make the game more manageable, it's also ludicrous amounts of fun, turning the game into something more akin to a giant war than a traditional shooter.

Armed with multiple allies (not the mention the ability to respawn), Serious Sam becomes less about worrying over health levels and ammo conservation, and more about simply blasting everything in the way, which is what Serious Sam should always be about. Thanks to the general chaos of the game, having so many people play co-operatively never feels confusing. What's to be confused about? You just shoot stuff. All the time.

One major gripe, however, is how stingy the game can sometimes be with ammo, especially for the guns that are actually useful. In a game like this, where constant, intense shooting is the only objective, not providing enough ammo for the decent weapons doesn't feel right. There are loads of pickups around, certainly, but never quite enough to deal with the masses that charge your way. Unless you're using the shotgun, which seems to constantly have ammo available for it, but feels less and less useful as the game goes on.

The game can feel repetitive of course, since you're doing the same thing over and over again, and impatient gamers will get tired of the game before its relatively short campaign is through. However, it's the perfect stress toy, the kind of game you can dip in and out of when you just need something to kill. It's unrefined and it's uncultured, but it's very good at what it does -- giving you the perfect venue to let off some steam and just murder everything you see.

As far as the HD improvements goes, the difference is very obvious. Even compared to later Serious Sam games, The First Encounter looks really impressive. Sure, it's not Killzone 2 or Modern Warfare 2 in the visuals department, but as far as remakes goes, this is definitely one of the better HD paintjobs I've seen. It's bright, colorful and clear, and the monsters especially look great in their shiny new togs. The sixteen player co-op mode works out great too, with games considerably quick and easy to get into. My first few experiences were met with some pretty bad lag, but the general experience has been smooth and sleek. Some form of versus play would have been welcome, but the co-op is more than enough fun.

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter is a great purchase for both fans of the series and newcomers. Those who have grown up on modern shooters may find the primitive design and simplistic objectives a bit jarring, but the purity of the gameplay simply has to be respected. It looks really good for what it is, and the hardcore, old school shooting action is just as robust as ever. Whether you have a gaming PC or Xbox Live, it's highly recommended that you pick this one up. There are fewer examples of solid, instantly gratifying gameplay that you can buy for the money.

Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Zer0t0nin avatarZer0t0nin
Damn, I think I'm Bruce Willis from Unbreakable. Just fell of a 12-foot ladder and all I got was a little scratch on my finger.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
After I finish Fallout 4 I'm thinking of 100%ing Skyrim and then installing a TON of dinosaur mods on it.
voex avatarvoex
4 hours into Hotline Miami 2 and I'm finding it just as fun as the original. So far it's a good balance between frustration and satisfaction. Still have no idea what the story is about.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
1. Start playing Ocarina of Time again. 2. Start having fun. 3. Discover fishing area. 4. Stop having fun.
AvtrSpirit avatarAvtrSpirit
A 2-d hovercraft platforming exploration game just came out today. Have fun collecting the coins! My record so far is 140.
Occams avatarOccams
Holy shit the new David Bowie video/song is just lovely.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
So many people angry at Play-Asia right now. Totally not exactly the kind of backlash Tecmo were trying to avoid by not releasing the game here in the first place.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
If you're a UK kid there's a Wii U 32 GB Wind Waker Premium Pack on Amazon for £240. It says sale... I dunno how much of a saving that is. You tell me.
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Not strictly speaking video game-related, but screw it. Team Captain America or Team Iron Man?
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I want Just Cause 2 and Metal Gear Solid V + Peace Walker to fornicate together so we can have a beautiful big open world to blow up and/or fulton. Then I want to build an infinitely-sized base of soldiers, each with their own personalities and stats.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
When SFV drops next year we gotta get some DTOID noob battles on, practice with online lag with friends, be really bad casuals together. We can call it Kanye Night Fights. #Swerve on FNF (just kidding...maybe).
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
So someone messaged me on a Lightning fast, comment board that bow they're super depressed. And I worry for them now. Because a comment board is not something to get depressed over, just because someone disagrees with you if your an ass, people will be 2.
arkane9 avatararkane9
Guys, a sequel to Retro City Rampage: Shakedown Hawaii! Someone should really write about it. Lots of Dtoid staff were in the RCR after all.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Fuck racism man, shit ain't fair. Can't stand it and I shouldn't have to. Nobody should.
Robo Panda Z avatarRobo Panda Z
Embedded pictures in Quickposts seem to be broken for me right now.
Flegma avatarFlegma
To my surprise, I've more or less figured out Rodea Wii U controls. Still a different game from the Wii version, but not as decidedly inferior in my eyes. Did the legacy medals do anything in Wii version?
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
"Am I a kid, or a squid?" I ponder as I stare off into the horizon. A wise man once told me "Son, you can be whatever you want to be. You are only limited by your lack of ambition " And I want to be a squid. A squid now.
Parismio avatarParismio
Captain America: Civil War trailer dropped!: [youtube][/youtube]
lewness avatarlewness
Gah, wanna go Alexander farming but The Old Hunters ;_;
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
Holy shit, Splatoon is addictive.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -