Review: Serious Sam HD – The First Encounter

There are first person shooters, which require you to use your aim to take out the head of an enemy. There are some games, where you carefully need to stay alive in order to maintain a high kill/death ratio. There are some games, where you have to take out your enemies as silently as possible without alerting others. And then there’s Serious Sam HD.

The First Encounter has been given a HD reboot on the Xbox Live Arcade to keep the franchise healthy and alive. Before I go into specifics, Serious Sam HD is no ordinary shooter. It’s not like Modern Warfare 2, where you have realistic environments and enemies, and you have to take them out by killing them, and you get extra damage if you take the time to aim for the head. It’s not like Halo 3, where the best camp spot is vital to your success. No, Serious Sam HD is a case of shoot anything that moves, and don’t stop shooting it until it explodes, falls on the floor or runs into you with bombs in both hands and hurts/kills you.

Serious Sam has been known for being an ‘over the top’ shooter, and this title continues with that name in mind. When you start the campaign, which can be played by you or cooperatively with up to four players over Xbox Live, the enemies start off in low quantities then go to being massive battles that can take a long time to complete before you can advance into the next area. It’s not a long campaign, but customizable difficulties and bigger weapons and enemies make you want to strive on through to the end.

Serious Sam HD has a wide variety of enemies that will attack you in many different ways; from simply shooting you with machine guns to lobbing bombs and fireballs at you to running at you in a kamikaze fashion with explosives, similar to how Halo 3’s Kamikaze grunts would scream in high pitched voices and walk towards you with plasmas. Just as you think the bosses couldn’t be any bigger, they get even bigger. And to add to that, with bigger weapons such as the Minigun and Laser, they increase in quantities – yes, there are some points in the game where it will feel like you have 100+ enemies on you at once. It can be quite overwhelming, but like I said, you have some big weapons under your belt in this one.

You have a big arsenal of weapons in Serious Sam HD, starting with a knife and revolver, and later on going to some big guns such as the cannon and the almighty Minigun, which can tear through hordes of enemies in seconds. The ammo pickup system works well, although I didn’t find health pick ups very satisfying, especially armour. In some areas, pickups would add about an extra +1 health to your amour, which unless in bizarre circumstances, wouldn’t be beneficial in any way. I personally think this game could take a few hints from Call of Duty, armour can stay, but health should recharge to a set limit overtime. It would certainly add a degree of difficulty to the game.

Useful features of this game are the ability to quick save with just a press of the Y button, it is surprisingly fast and doesn’t disturb your gameplay, and when you die it resumes exactly from where you quick saved, not like other games where it would take you back to the beginning of an area. The problem is this game rarely ever saves by itself, only at the start of each level, which they aren’t very long levels, but if you are overwhelmed by enemies and are killed, you’ll find yourself back miles away from where you died, which is a real bummer sometimes, which is why you have to be tapping the Y button after most fights.

The graphics of this game are OK; nothing revolutionary here. You’ll get better graphics from games such as Battlefield 1943 and Shadow Complex; both of which are the same price as Serious Sam HD, but they are good for an Xbox Live Arcade title. The controls are pretty simple and you’ll pick them up in minutes, but I think moving the jump button to the Left Trigger is a bit dodgy, it would have been more convenient on the A Button instead like most titles. Overall though, they work pretty well and aren’t much of a problem there.

The biggest low of SSHD is that it just isn’t worth 1200 Microsoft Points. After you complete the game, the only thing you can do is either do it over in co-op and/or on a harder difficulty. But that’s it; there are no bonus levels, no extra modes such as a Survival mode which would have been worth implementing into this console revival. The PC Deathmatch mode has been removed from XBLA version of the game, which is very disappointing as this would have extended the life of the game overall and may have made it worth spending your money on. There are a few little things that could have been added to the game that would have made it a hit.

Luckily though, there are loads of secret weapons and easter eggs in the campaign, it’s just the case knowing where to look. The same as Borderlands; this game is much more fun in cooperative. It will take you years to complete some of the horde section where enemies keep coming and coming and it feels like they never stop. Co-op makes the experience more enjoyable and less painful.

Serious Sam HD; if you play FPS’s such as MW2 you probably won’t like this, but if you’re a fan of the L4D series, or just like shooting anything that moves, this may be worth having a look into. Serious Sam HD is let down by its lack of replay value although the campaign is satisfying but short. One thing you won’t be doing however, is taking this game seriously.

Score Overall: 6.5

Reviewer: Xenoliath

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About subjectxen

Tweeter, Xbox 360 Gamer, Gaming News Writer and Reviewer.
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