Croteam charges out of the gate once again with Serious Sam 2, the newest iteration of it’s popular franchise. Fans looking for a deep shooter that balances stealth and gunplay with intelligent enemies need not apply. Instead SS2 takes us back to the days of Doom (the first one) and offers up a whole lot of run, gun and Gibs. Is it full of strategy? No. A cat and mouse war of attrition with enemies that could pass for MENSA members? Absolutely not. But is it a whole lot of fun? Oh yeah…..for a little while at least.
The story behind Serious Sam 2 is basically unimportant to the flow of the game, but a story exists nonetheless. Sam’s arch nemesis Mental is up to it again. Sam must collect 5 pieces of the “Medallion of Power”. Sound like the worlds most generic premise? (God, I’ve gotta quit asking you guys these questions…) It probably would be if it weren’t for two things:
1) Serious Sam is pretty much a parody of all things FPS, so an original story would feel out of place. Besides….
2) If you’re playing it for the story…..um….Go home. Gamers who choose to take this series for a ride come for the senseless murder of wave after wave of enormous groups of enemies, and they stay for the…..senseless murder of wave after wave of enormous groups of enemies.
Speaking of those waves of enemies, gamers familiar with the series already will feel right at home in SS2. Fundamentally the game is the same. Run, Gun and kill anything that moves. Control feels crisp and precise. The weapon selection contains many genre staples (Chaingun, Rocket Launcher, Shotgun) and several other, more inventive weapons (the Cannon comes to mind), however you will probably find yourself just sticking to a couple that work and not exploring many of the others. The enemies Sam dispatches are as unique and varied as any in the genre, from giant Orc football players to Mechanical
Graphically, SS2 is pretty good. It’s not genre defining by any stretch, and there are some clipping and environmental issues, but certainly nothing that distracts from the gameplay as a whole. Once again, you won’t be concerned with the graphics when you start getting rushed by ten or fifteen Orc football players. The levels are well designed, albeit linear, and vary quite a bit (all while sticking to gaming clichés like Snow levels and Forest levels). There are quite a few as well, over 40, but many gamers not weaned on the Doom formula will grow bored after less than half of that. In fact, its length may be one of it’s shortcomings, as it just isn’t consistently engaging enough to keep most gamer’s minds occupied long enough to complete it.
The sound in SS2 has it’s positives and negatives. Some of the lines sound forced and cheesy (well, more so than they are supposed to). The sound effects are generally good, and some are definitely unique to this series (Exxxttttrrraa Liiieeeevvvaaahhh comes to mind, as do a few others). The music is overly generic, but not offensive by any means. You’ll probably tune it out somewhere around the thirteen or fourteen thousand kill mark.
Online multiplayer is pretty much a must in first person shooters on the X-box, and SS2 makes it’s contribution to X-box live. However the only online multiplayer mode available is co-op, where 2-4 players can join forces to take on the story mode. While the co-op mode is fun, it is the same campaign as the single player, and the lack of any competitive online multiplayer modes is disappointing. A great Deathmatch or Capture the Flag mode would have helped to extend the replay value of the title beyond the appeal of the single player campaign.
Serious Sam 2 is certainly a niche title. Many FPS fans will be put off by the lack of strategy, A.I., and story involved. Length may be one of it’s shortcomings, as it just isn’t consistently engaging enough to keep most gamer’s minds occupied like a good story or A.I. can. Many gamers may find themselves getting bored around the 15-20 level mark. Gamers that go in expecting a Halo like experience will leave disappointed no doubt. However, gamers who enter Serious Sam 2 with the proper expectations will find a satisfying, if repetitive experience that is great for short spurts when you just feel like you need to kill as many things at once as you can. I recommend at least a rental for gamers that like their shooters on the “Run and Gun” side of things.
And then I killed the dragon…7.0