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Serious Sam 3 is one of those games I jumped on as soon as it came out. I love the First and Second Encounters and more importantly, I love shooting shit and that’s exactly what this series is all about. Shooting shit. I even thought Serious Sam 2 was great despite it going in a slightly different direction. The core gameplay was basically the same but it put a bigger emphasis on story and over-the-top humor. Developed by Croteam and published by Devolver Digital, Serious Sam 3 was released for PC in November, 2011, Xbox 360 in October, 2012, and PlayStation 3 in May, 2014. For this review, I played the PC version and this review will also cover The Jewel of the Nile DLC. I actually played through the campaigns from Serious Sam Fusion which is a central hub for existing and future games in the series. There are some minor differences in the Fusion version but if you haven’t played the original for a while, you probably won’t even notice. I didn’t.
Serious Sam 3 is a prequel to the First Encounter and takes place in the twenty second century. The antagonist, Mental, sends his forces to Earth and the humans are no match against his alien armies. The protagonist, Sam Stone, is dispatched to Egypt with some soldiers to extract Bravo Team who are protecting a scientist who has the instructions for powering up the Time-Lock. Long story short, shit goes wrong and it’s up to Sam to locate and power up the Time-Lock, himself. The Jewel of the Nile DLC extends the story by adding three additional levels. I kind of wish Fusion provided a way to play through a combined version of the campaigns. Jewel of the Nile is extremely short and can be beaten in a few hours and is basically just more of the same. But I guess the new content added in would mean they would have to rework the base campaign. The plot is typical Serious Sam. The whole tone of the game feels similar to that of the First and Second Encounters. However, I don’t think it has the same charm. Serious Sam 3 feels a bit grittier. The voice acting is decent and Sam will spout some humorous lines here and there. Overall, the plot and dialogue have that good mixture of “seriousness” and humor, previously exhibited in the First and Second Encounters. Serious Sam 3 doesn’t go out of its way to be wacky and over-the-top like Serious Sam 2.
Serious Sam 3 has a simple concept; kill everything. The campaigns can be played solo or cooperatively with others. As expected, you’ll get to engage waves upon waves of enemies. Sam can run, jump, crouch, aim down sights with certain weapons, and perform melee attacks. In fact, he can execute certain enemies which is pretty cool. You can sprint now which is a great addition because it makes it easier to retreat if you get overwhelmed. There’s only one what I’ll call power-up in both campaigns and that is the jetpack which is a lot of fun to use but you don’t get to use it often. Health, armor, weapon, and ammo pickups are scattered throughout the levels and there is no regenerating health. There is a scoring system in place and numerous difficulty modes and the hardest one, Mental, needs to be unlocked. The higher the difficulty, the higher the score multiplier. Furthermore, you can play on a Custom Difficulty where you choose the base difficulty and can enable or disable things like infinite ammo, health and armor items, you can set extra enemy strength, and configure some other options to tweak the experience to your liking. NETRICSA makes a return and provides you information on objectives, weapons, and enemies. You can bring her up at the press of a button and she’s quite informative.
Sam will get to use a good variety of weapons on his journey and many of the weapons from the First and Second Encounters make a return. Instead of revolvers, you’ll get to fire a pistol resembling a Desert Eagle and you can decimate foes with a sledgehammer. You can’t dual wield any weapons which kind of sucks but, overall, I like the arsenal. You’ll get to blow enemies away with a pump-action shotgun, a double barrel coach gun, assault rifle, and classic weapons like the rocket launcher, minigun, and cannon are present. You can blow up hordes of enemies using C4 and my favorite new weapon is the Devastator. It’s a powerful automatic shotgun that fires explosive rounds. It’s extremely useful at long range. One of the more interesting weapons is the Sirian Mutilator. It’s like a bracelet or gauntlet which can fire a beam that will lasso onto enemies, depending on their size. It doesn’t consume ammo which makes it a decent fallback weapon if you’re up against lower-tier foes but it does have a cool-down period. The Jewel of the Nile DLC adds in the Axe which is just a reskin of the sledgehammer. All of the weapons feel satisfying to use and no weapon ever felt useless. The game will encourage you to switch between weapons frequently, especially during the more hectic battles. Certain weapons are better against certain threats so relying on just one or two all the time is not ideal and can result in frustration.
Most of the enemies from the First and Second Encounters are present. Gnaar’s will rush you. You’ll need to watch out and listen for the screaming Beheaded Kamikazes. When you hear a rumbling sound, you know a Sirian Werebull or multiple are coming for you. When you hear the click-clack sound of Kleer Skeletons, you need to be ready to dodge their leaps and chain-balls. Bio-mechanoids will stomp around and fire lasers and Arachnoids can drain your health easily from long-range. Beheaded Rocketeer’s and Witch-Harpies also make an appearance. In fact, Witch-Harpies are more prevalent in the Jewel of the Nile campaign. New to the roster are Spiders, Cloned Soldiers, Witch-Brides, Cave Demons, Scrapjack Rocketeers, Technopolips, and Khnums. Spiders will spit acid but are extremely easy to kill and Cloned Soldiers will shoot at you with either a shotgun or assault rifle. Witch-Brides utilize a telekinetic grab that will restrict Sam’s aim and speed and they can teleport around. I believe Cave Demons were designed to annoy me, specifically. These fast little fuckers are will jump all over the place, making them difficult to shoot. It’s hard for me not to look at Scrapjack Rocketeers and not think of Mancubus from Doom II. Just like Mancubus, Scrapjack’s lumber around the environments equipped with two rocket launchers. The Technopolip is basically an attack helicopter hijacked by some alien creature. Khnums remind me of Hell Knights and Barons from Doom, except they’re huge and hurl fireballs. I guess you could say the Sandwhale is a new enemy but it’s main purpose is to prevent you from wandering too far. It can kill you instantly. The Jewel of the Nile DLC brings back the Reptiloid and it’s unfortunate the DLC didn’t add in any more new or previous foes seen in past games. There are multiple what I’ll call boss battles in the Serious Sam 3 campaign and only one in Jewel of the Nile. The final boss of Serious Sam 3 is easily the most challenging.
Serious Sam 3 feels more like the First and Second Encounters than Serious Sam 2. However, the encounters here don’t really ramp up until late in the game. At least in my opinion. A good chunk of the campaign has you navigating through small areas, streets, and alleyways. It’s not until much later that you’ll be running around massive wide open spaces, dodging enemy attacks, and circle strafing to stay alive. Objects and structures are everywhere and taking cover plays a big part in Serious Sam 3 and its DLC. Utilizing cover makes avoiding taking damage from the hitscan types like the Arachnoids easier. Until you get to the later levels, most of the encounters feel smaller in scale than those seen in the First and Second Encounters, which makes Serious Sam 3 feel a bit easier. Although, the challenge will depend on the difficulty mode. But the gameplay is very action-packed and fast-paced and doesn’t consist of simply mindless shooting. Knowing what weapons to use and when can be the difference between life and death. The encounters in Jewel of the Nile start out big and challenging and remain so for the remainder of the campaign. It’s just a shame it’s not longer. I do like the environmental destruction which can change you approach things. You’ll enter an area with plenty of structures to use as cover but after a while, they’ll break apart from explosions and then you’re completely exposed. You should always keep moving. Standing around in one spot for too long will only get you killed.
If you’re coming off Serious Sam 2, the environmental diversity in 3 and the DLC will appear almost non-existent. The game is set in Egypt so you’re going to see a lot of sand. You’ll navigate through urban environments, canyons, towns, temples, pyramids, and large open areas. Many of the areas look the same but it’s not that big of deal since you’ll be focusing more on not dying than the look and layout of the environments. It’s the indoor environments like the inside of Temples and Pyramids where the repetitive look and feel becomes noticeable because there’s usually not that many threats to worry about in these locations. At least compared to the outdoor areas. You’ll have to watch out for some environmental hazards like explosive barrels, sentry guns, and the Sandwhale if you go where you’re not supposed to. You will have to complete objectives to progress like finding items, filling up a car with gas, planting explosives, and Jewel of the Nile includes some basic environmental puzzles to solve. There are plenty of secrets scattered throughout the environments which usually house goodies and you’ll come across tablets and things that you can read. It would be hard to get lost in the levels and, even though the areas within a level can feel small compared to past games, most of the levels, themselves, are huge.
In addition to the campaigns is the Survival mode. Survival is all about staying alive as long as you can for a chance to win a bronze, silver, or gold medal. There are several maps to choose from and in most of them, you’re provided with firearms and ammo from the get-go and if playing solo, staying alive for longer than a few minutes can be very challenging. Enemies are constantly thrown at you, you’re always going to be outnumbered, and you’re basically guaranteed to die at some point. I didn’t get to play through any multiplayer portion of the game but I feel like Survival is a lot more enjoyable if you have people to play with.
Visually, Serious Sam 3 looks excellent. Although, I think with the default visual settings, it appears somewhat washed out so I raised the saturation. The Fusion hub gives you a lot of control over how you want the games to look and sound. It’s impressive. You can customize the color scheme, choose from multiple graphics and sound API’s, and configure numerous other options. With everything maxed out, I did notice frequent pop-in but, otherwise, everything looked great. Textures are crisp, character and weapon models look good, and the visual effects are really nice. Muzzle flashes look cool, dust and sand will fill the air during firefights which can actually obscure your view but makes the firefights feel somewhat intense, and blood will splatter everywhere. You can rip out a Gnaar’s eye and Beheaded Rocketeer’s heart, and rip off a Kleer Skeleton’s head. Explosions will send blood flying through the air and enemies will show visible blood on their bodies as they take damage. The soundtrack is okay. The intense tunes kick in when enemies are around and I found myself drowning out most of the songs. But there is an awesome metal tune that plays every now and then. The sound effects are pretty good. Weapons fire sounds satisfying and in Fusion, the pistol and assault rifle have new sound effects which I think sound excellent. Enemies will groan, hiss, and grumble during combat, and there’s a very satisfying squishy-like splat sound when you blow up or annihilate multiple enemies in one blast. On the technical side, I saw some objects floating in mid-air from time to time but witnessed no major issues. In fact, the game ran extremely smooth.
I love Serious Sam 3, although not quite as much as the First and Second Encounters. It feels more “modern” if you will but that is the point, I guess. In some ways, it feels like the first two games with a modern facelift. However, the gameplay never reaches the same highs as the gameplay in those did, at least in my opinion. But compared to other shooters out there, especially when this released, I remember this feeling like a nice change of pace. It was refreshing. The replay value comes from multiple things. The difficulty modes, scoring system, multiplayer, survival mode, and best of all, mods. Serious Sam 3 is moddable and there’s plenty of mods out there to enjoy. The core gameplay is classic Serious Sam. It’s a fast-paced and action packed romp where the goal is to obliterate everything in sight. Projectiles will fly past your head, things around you will explode, enemies will come from every direction, and you should never stop moving and always keep your finger on the fire button. Jewel of the Nile is just more of the same and is enjoyable. It’s just disappointing that it didn’t contain more new content.
Ultimately, I would recommend Serious Sam 3 to fans of the series and shooters in general. My gripes with the game are minor and just like all the previous games, the gameplay won’t be for everyone and can become repetitive. You need to like the idea of fending off waves upon waves of enemies. Serious Sam 3 feels like the developers took the gameplay from the First and Second Encounters and just put it in a modern setting. There’s really no reason not to check this out if you’re a fan of the first two games. It’s fun from beginning to end and has plenty of replay value.