Although it may seem a rather trivial characterization given that the narrative of video games has evolved a lot over the years, it is undeniable that some of these protagonists have remained etched in the minds of millions of players. It should therefore come as no surprise that the holders of the rights to such important names cyclically try to bring back the favorites by packaging remakes, sequels, remastered and so on to leverage the nostalgia factor of the old players and try to capture the attention of the new.
After witnessing the return of the Duke in the infamous and ominous Duke Nukem: Forever or the much more successful Slayer in Doom and Doom: Eternal, it’s time to welcome back another first person shooter icon of the early years 2000, or Serious Sam, the charismatic and trivial action-man of the most famous Croteam saga who is about to make his glorious return on PC and Stadia with a new and explosive chapter of the main series.
Serious Sam 4 arrives after almost ten years from the third episode and promises fidelity to the same canons that have made the series famous among fans of the FPS at the gun, without giving up some variations on the theme. Will it be enough to carve out a slice of the public in a saturated and hyper-competitive market like that of first-person shooters?
Let’s start by talking about the plot, which has never been a focal point of Croteam’s production: it has always limited itself to giving the player a simple pretext to step into the shoes of Sam Stone and launch into the furious pitched fights proposed by the game. For those interested, however, let’s say it right away: not even this time you will be able to get your hands on the evil Mental. Serious Sam 4, in fact, is a prequel to Serious Sam 3: BFE, which in turn preceded the two original chapters in terms of narrative. Sam, this time, is leading an elite array of soldiers prepared to contain extraterrestrial activity on Earth, just as the terrifying planetary conqueror Mental is about to launch the first, ferocious attack.
In fact, we will soon find ourselves fighting aliens in the streets of Rome in a desperate attempt to prevent the conquest of the planet by the enemy invasion forces. To do so, ‘Serious’ Sam Stone will have to join forces with some bizarre supporting actors who will help him in his search for the Holy Grail, the only artifact capable of annihilating the powerful oppressors. The path of Sam and his companions, however, will be long, tortuous and full of clashes with endless hordes of opponents that will put your reflexes and your skills to the test.
The cast of characters that you will meet on your way, as per tradition, is made up of light-hearted companions, violent enemies and a few extras who will not fail to make you smile. The spirit of the series is alive and vibrant and effectively reflects the vision of the development team as well as, more generally, of all Devolver Digital productions. Sam Stone is a shrewd and edgy protagonist, a hotheaded joke always ready, and has the typical charisma that has characterized all previous adventures. From this point of view, Croteam confirms its mastery.
What, however, just did not convince us is the script. As we said at the beginning, we know that the series dedicated to the Serious protector of the Earth did not become famous thanks to the brilliance of its plot, nevertheless, after almost ten years of waiting, we would have liked to see some progress in humanity’s struggle against Mental as well as facing his hordes of bloodthirsty aliens for the umpteenth time. It is a mole that does not affect the enjoyment of the title, mind you, but it seems fair to inform you that if you are expecting some significant implications in terms of lore you could be disappointed.
The real highlight of the Serious Sam epic, of course, is its classic old school FPS gameplay that will put you in front of a real army of enemies that won’t give you a moment’s respite. If in the past you have enjoyed the furious clashes with the troops of Mental, Serious Sam 4 will take everything to the next level through the use of the so-called Legion System.
The latter is a system designed by Croteam to manage the large number of opponents on the screen, guaranteeing each of them a unique behavior and a different offensive pattern. It will often happen, during the fights, to be overwhelmed by an impressive amount of aliens coming from every direction and, to bring home the skin, your only chance will be to predict the direction of the attacks and respond with the weapon right at the right time, depending on the situation.
On the other hand, gunfights in Sam Stone games have always translated into a kind of deadly dance in which dodging shots are as essential as having good aim and highly developed reflexes. Serious Sam 4 is no exception and will put your nerves to the test in heated shoot-outs, intense combat and gigantic boss fights in sections of rare epic.
It is a tested and functional formula but, after 20 years which is repeated almost slavishly, it begins to suffer from the weight of time. The fourth incarnation of Sam’s adventures, in fact, brings some innovations as a dowry but none of them is capable of giving a breath of fresh air to an ancient and slightly stale game structure that struggles to compete with the other giants that have followed one another on the market in recent times (Doom: Eternal above all).
The first and perhaps most important of the novelties that Serious Sam 4 puts on the plate is the breadth of the scenarios that we will find ourselves exploring. The level design of the previous chapters, in fact, was often made up of limited environments in which to fight with the invading extraterrestrials while this new iteration of the brand will take you for a walk among some of the most boundless panoramas we have seen in a recent shooter. The setting of the countryside of Rome, the Vatican and the French coast in which you will move hosts very generous maps that you can navigate on foot or aboard one of the vehicles that the game puts at your disposal.
Traveling the length and breadth of the various levels that make up the approximately 15 hours necessary to complete the campaign, you will come across secret objects, optional clashes and side missions that, in addition to overflowing with quotes and references to pop culture, will reward you with extra ammunition and tools. Do not expect who knows what depth in the structure of the quests, however: the ancillary activities will almost always resolve in the umpteenth shoot-and-shoot against the usual infinite battalion of monsters. Fortunately, however, the feeling of the weapons and gadgets on which our hero can rely is always great and, although the game delays almost exclusively in the frenzied repetition of shootings and hyperkinetic clashes, you will never get bored, not even for a second.
‘Serious’ Sam Stone can count on the usual, immense arsenal of weapons with devastating power starting from the classic Desert Eagle .50 up to the famous Devastator passing through a selection of Shotguns, Rocket Launchers, Laser Rifles, Miniguns and so on. has more metta. Unlike what has been seen in previous editions, moreover, Serious Sam 4 will allow you to modify the guns available to the protagonist by hunting for upgrades on the battlefield that will give you access to alternative attacks that add further variety to the conflict. .
There are, however, no real news among the tools that we will be able to use on the field: almost all the weapons in the game had already appeared in Serious Sam 3: BFE. This figure tells us about a limited effort by the development team who preferred to play it safe rather than go out of their way to design new tools of death. Such a pity.
There is also a basic character update system based on the collection of Skill Points hidden in the game environments which, through a skimpy skill tree, will allow you to use particular active skills. This is a timid attempt to give your alter ego a semblance of customization in order to match the game to other recent productions but it is a rather bland experiment that adds nothing concrete to the gameplay formula.
Of course, through the skill tree you can unlock totally new maneuvers for the series such as the ability to equip two different weapons at the same time or ride some of the most imposing monsters to sow panic on the battlefield, but you could have opted for a more natural of these mechanics gradually over the course of the campaign rather than implementing such a fake skill system.
The boss fights, one of the major strengths of Croteam’s new effort, remain to be examined. These are the moments in which the title reaches the most incredible heights of epicity, leading the player to clash with enemies of titanic proportions and devastating attacks. It will take careful management of the resources at your disposal to overcome these opponents, especially at the higher difficulty levels. Trust us, you won’t forget the fight to the death inside the Colosseum.
Finally, as regards multiplayer, Croteam has decided to totally eliminate the competitive (historically highly appreciated by fans) in favor of a cooperative mode for four players who can face the campaign together with friends. The problem arises when we realize that the game does not regulate the difficulty based on the number of players present in the game and, consequently, the co-op completely annihilates the level of challenge offered by the title which, otherwise, appears well calibrated.
From a technical point of view, Serious Sam 4 brings in some lights but as many shadows. The new version of the Serious Engine had the arduous task of supporting on its shoulders what, in all respects, is the most demanding title of the entire series due to a large amount of opponents that constantly populate the scenes, a considerable deployment of visual effects and a frenzied pace of action.
Unfortunately, however, in the most agitated situations the engine struggles to keep up and gets lost in slight drops in frame-rate and sporadic stuttering phenomena even on a rather powerful hardware configuration. Probably some additional optimization work would have helped to achieve better results in this respect.
The character and opponent models, for their part, are quite detailed but suffer from incredibly woody animations for a product of this caliber coming out in 2020, especially in third person mode. Furthermore, the facial expressions and the dubbing appear so approximate that they end up resulting in absolutely hilarious results even in situations that should be dramatic, breaking the immersion within the game world. On the other hand, the soundtrack composed of metal and orchestral pieces of rare beauty that goes to emphasize the epicity of the clashes that you will face with excellent effectiveness.
Ultimately, Serious Sam 4 is a welcome tribute to the times gone by, an adrenaline-pumping and exciting FPS aimed at pleasing long-time fans but that has nothing to convince detractors to change their mind. Basically, it is the same game formula already seen 10 years ago, enriched by some small tricks that add nothing concrete to the experience.
Serious Sam 4 must surrender to the evidence that the FPS market is no longer what it once was and, although its fees are still very enjoyable, it would have needed more care to be attractive even to a new audience, one that has not grown. experiencing the endless battle between Sam Stone and Mental. It is true that legends never die, sometimes they just get old.
Source : Reddit