Thursday, 24 July 2014

Serious Sam 2 (PC)


Sam he is.


In this day and age of tactical shooters, games where you're running as part of a team that does all the hard work while you're standing around and occasionally allowed to do something when the game decides "ok, let's have you do this and see ALL THE HEAVENLY GLORY" (thank you Bruce Lee), it's nice to sometimes kick back, switch off the brain and let the reflexes take over as you, the one-man(or woman, let's not discriminate) army, takes the enemy down to ownage town and go overkill on anything that moves.

From standard, to fantasy, to shrunk/giant levels and beyond.

Doom 2 did it well, Duke Nukem too, though one game really brought it back to its roots of the one-man army shooter, was Serious Sam. While I'm reviewing that one today, I am however looking at the more overlooked sequel (one of many I should add, given the various versions on the Xbox original, GameCube and PS2), Serious Sam 2. Let's be clear here, this is not Serious Sam The Second Encounter. That's Serious Sam 1 part 2. This is the fully realised Serious Sam game and it's quite a bit different though not always in an better way.

That's right, the boss IS the building.

First of all, the game does not take itself seriously, at all. Within the first few moments you're talking to comically bad aliens about trying to find the various artefacts that will take down the evil overlord of the series, Mental. After a quick transition of things, Sam agrees to undertake a mission while taking a dig at the "Blondie Guy" that's taking "Forever" before the computer inside of the Sam's head begins speaking for the first time, to which this is lampooned immediately and explained by there being something called "A bigger budget", setting the tone of humour for the rest of the game.

Canyons and lava, there's a huge variation between each of the worlds, setting clear and distinct themes.

If this game was a household wares seller, it'd stock nothing but lampshades as it hangs them over almost everything within the game and First Person Shooters as a whole. Questions raised regarding who leaves the weapons around for people to find, weapons being bigger than in previous games, physics puzzles used once and ONCE only (Valve... Take note...), comical weapons ranging from parrots carrying bombs to large bombs with smiles on their faces that wipe out EVERYTHING (except bosses). The comedy in the game is paramount from start to finish though the jokes get a little thin towards the end when the levels get larger and longer. However bonus points given to the pre-fight conversation with a pink dragon that realised it doesn't want to have stolen a princess, that Sam doesn't want to rescue.

It might come as a bit of a shock, but games USED to be this colourful.

Your weapons range from the circular saw, to pistols, rotary barrel shotguns, sub machineguns, rocket launchers, cannons, laser blasters and beyond, while have grenades as an alternative fire that explode on impact with enemies, giving you a change to attack between rounds of the heavier fire powered weapons. As a result, you soon become a literal arsenal on legs, running and gunning everything from troops to tanks to monsters, giants and bigger. Taking on creatures of such enormity that almost defy the idea of what an engine for gaming can do. It's always an eye-opener when you're fighting human-ish sized enemies then something the size of Godzilla turns the corner and you're staring it right in the toenail, then blasting the monster repeatedly with a cannon while it hits back with lasers the size of buildings.

Arachnaphobics need not apply, they get bigger than this.

But that's this game in a nutshell, go bigger, go faster, go harder, go bigger again and then fight a skyscraper. Having said that, it takes a long time for the game to build up to the fun and chaos of the original games. The whole streams and swarms of armies aren't exactly in this game even though there's the potential as they show up in the final levels, but by then it serves to just pad out long levels and you really begin to feel the tactic dragging on, killing the enthusiasm you might have for the levels you would normally have had.

Sadly the action rarely lets up enough for you to fully enjoy the scenary.

Oddly, the bright colourisation and lively design of the game's levels come across as overly cartoony. However that's not because they're intentionally meant to be that buy rather the industry of gaming at this point doesn't use such a selection of colours within their design spectrums, opting for dulled colours and gritty, grainy browns. Seeing lush green grass and yellow dirt tracks, is such a shock on the senses that one can't help but feel the game is out of place, but it's not. Not when you realise that it simply NOT following the over-done realism bullshit of other mainstream games.

He LOOKS big, but he's the baby of the tank family. No I'm not joking.

The levels are rather linear, lamp-shaded again by the game itself with the amusing exchange "Let's take the main road there!" "Like there's any other roads to take" while amusing, doesn't deny the fact that the game will railroad you through many levels and the levels built around villages/towns can be a little jarring as it requires some actual exploration rather than trekking your way across a landscape and blowing up anything that shows an ugly face (or neck in some headless cases). Fans of the original games will be happy to see a return of old enemies (The Kleer... which I'm NOT happy to see given how infamous they are in the original. Love/Hate relationships...) while there's a lot of new enemies that don't seem to fit in with the original game but do fit in with the new art style and direction, it's a little jarring at first but you get used to it.

Run the gauntlet, before the clock zeroes out and so does your health.

Musically there's a lot of ambient tracks with some of the boss fights and levels more along the lines of hard rocking, fast tempo, pulse-increasing beats and power chords which add to the excitement, especially in the "game show levels" (Sam got captured by a banana under a box before having to run gauntlets on a game show while the resistance tries to rescue him) where you're not only fighting wave after wave of enemies, but also against a fairly lapse time limit of instant death. It's a welcome change to the mix though happens so late in the game that it feels thrown in and could have been used a little more often for it.

Tree huggers welcome too!

It's a fun, mad silly mess of a chaotic game, marred by a few broken scripts if you're kill TOO well but then upgrade the difficulty to counteract that, blowing up everything with impunity while running the gauntlet with whoever that wants to be filled with lead. If you want something other than the usual tactical, cover-fire, chest high wall syndrome games, try this one.