The Serious Sam franchise is anything but the stoic experience its title would have you believe. The twisted humor and ridiculous focus on sexual innuendo and violence are the main courses in every entry. Up until now, the games have basically been the same FPS outing with some minor changes, but developer Mommy’s Best Games has taken our beloved Sam and tossed him into a new dimension; the second dimension to be exact. Serious Sam Double D XXL is a side-scrolling shooter with dual stick controls and the addition of local co-op. While that genre is certainly well represented on XBLA, none of them come close to matching the insanity of XXL.
I never try to make too much of the narrative in Serious Sam games, and for good reason. XXL is certainly akin to its brethren in this aspect. Sam still spouts overly confident, overly sexualized lines, while the main bad guy constantly attempts to find new, and better ways to kill him. The actual dialogue is crude, albeit humorous on occasion, with voice acting that is familiar, but no less grating. I have never been a fan of Sam’s voice actor. He sounds like a budget-priced Duke Nukem, which I suppose is relevant, as that is indicative of the series as a whole.
The game just feels like it is throwing crude one-liners at the wall to see what sticks. For the bulk of the game, I was left wondering what was supposed to be funny, and what wasn’t, while most of it simply comes across like that guy at a party trying too hard to make people laugh. It just falls flat. However, there are occasions where the game managed to make me crack a smile, and most of the time it was because of the paper-thin plot devices.
Of course, Serious Sam is as about as focused on plot as the average adult film. The real draw to the titles has been the non-stop actiongasm, and the outlandish enemies, both of which XXL is in no short supply. The controls took a while for me to get used to. Horizontal movement is handled with the left stick, while aiming the onscreen cursor is on the right. It has a nice soft-lock mechanic, and enemies tend to drive right into your bullets. It isn’t necessarily as much about strategy as it is maneuverability. Being able to walk backwards while firing is imperative to survival, and ammo is always in a healthy supply.
Perspective isn’t the only change that XXL brings to the table. Probably the most touted feature here is gun stacking. At first, I had no idea what to think of gun stacking. I mean how ridiculous is a feature in which you are constantly stacking guns on top of each other? After some time with it though, I became comfortable. The sheer insanity of combinations fits the game so well, I can’t imagine a future incarnation without it. You collect hinges that let you combine guns on top of each other, up to eight high. So imagine if you will two machine guns, a shotgun, plasma rifle, pistol, rocket launcher chainsaw, with a grenade launcher for good measure. Now fire it at a swarm of incoming foes. This is a bloody good time, and collecting the weapons and hinges ramps up so fast, it was great to get creatively lost in the chaos.
The core game ran me about five to six hours, and rarely did anything to overly excite me outside of the new enemies. The addition of female suicide bombers with bombs covering their you know whats and flying cats in green-goo-filled mason jars are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to flying solo, you can bring along a co-op partner to tackle the action. Unlike previous games, this is not a different-colored Sam, but an entirely new (and immensely annoying) character named Huff. While it is cool to have a new partner, his idiotic lines and extreme personality made me want to grab the remote and hit mute.
In addition to the co-op and campaign, you also have a challenge mode and a head-to-head option in which players can face off against each other. The head-to-head is definitely a throwaway feature, but the challenges are a nice diversion. Each one forces you to use a specific gun stack combination, and of course tosses your scores up on the leaderboards, plus it is a nice diversion from simply moving left-to-right mowing down freaky creatures.
Visually, I have always been a fan of the Serious Sam games. I like the broad use of color, and the enemy designs are simply ridiculous, and I love it. XXL continues that trend with even more ridiculous enemy designs including giant birds and dinosaurs, and the levels are all bright and colorful unlike other shooters. Where my problems arise are the technical portions. You can tell this is a bad port of an older PC game. Loading times are sloppy and not optimized, and the frame rate takes a hit more often than I care for. The game just feels rough around the edges in these aspects, showing it was clearly not built with console architecture in mind.
I loved my time with Serious Sam Double D XXL, but it certainly isn’t going to set the world on fire. From someone who has serious fatigue for the series, XXL was a fresh twist on a familiar idea. Anyone who enjoys the series should check it out. Just don’t go into it expecting revolution and you will be fine. Serious Sam has a specific audience and XXL caters to that. Now just get rid of Huff and bring on the sequel.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.