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Serious Sam is great stuff if you like to shoot shit. I love the First and Second Encounters. Massive environments, tons of enemies to blow away, and non-stop action. The Serious Sam games are all about dealing with waves upon waves of armies of enemies. Serious Sam II is the sequel to the Second Encounter. It’s a bit different from the games that preceded it and even Serious Sam 3 for that matter. Developed by Croteam and published by 2K Games, Serious Sam II was released for PC and Xbox in October, 2005. For this review, I played the PC version. For the most part, the gameplay is basically the same as that of its predecessors but there’s a bigger focus on the story and humor. It runs on Serious Engine 2 and it looks like the result of a bigger game budget which is actually referenced in-game.
Serious Sam 2 is a game that is very self-aware and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, I would say it’s less “serious” than the previous entries. After the events of the Second Encounter, the Sirian Great Council sends the protagonist, Sam Stone, on quest to collect five pieces of an ancient medallion with knowledge that the complete medallion will make the antagonist, Mental, vulnerable. Sam travels to different planets in order to obtain the medallion pieces and the plot is conveyed through cut scenes and NETRICSA who is now voiced. Serious Sam 2 is a silly game and tries very hard to be funny. Some of the humor falls flat but I did chuckle here and there. There is plenty of voice acting this time around and much of the dialogue is heard during cut scenes. The performances fit the game’s over-the-top, silly, and ridiculous nature. Combine that with the vivid and colorful presentation and it’s like playing through a very violent cartoon. And I love cartoons.
Serious Sam 2 is all about blowing away hordes of foes. If you’ve played the previous games, you’ll feel right at home when it comes to the gameplay. Sam can run, jump, and crouch, and pick up and throw items. The goal of each – let’s say level – is to basically get to the end. Each planet is broken up into levels separated by loading points and you do have lives which are reset at the start of each level. You can obtain more by acquiring the extra life pickups or by reaching certain scores. You earn points by killing enemies and obtaining pickups. When you die, you’ll lose a life and have to restart from the last checkpoint. However, you can quick save and quick load which sometimes makes the life system feel almost useless. You know what else feels useless? NETRICSA. The Neuro-Tronically Implanted Combat Situation Analyser. In the previous games she would provide information on enemies, weapons, and backstory. You could bring her up at any time during gameplay and she was a great resource for information if you were at all interested in learning about things in the game. In Serious Sam 2, she’ll display your overall objectives and basic stats during gameplay. She will speak every now and again, usually to inform you of important events but, ultimately, she feels very underutilized.
You can hold all of the weapons you acquire and switch between them at will. Unfortunately, you lose all your weapons at the start of each planet or world and will have to recollect them. Many weapons from the previous games return along with some new ones. You’ll always start with a circular saw, zap gun, and dual revolvers. The zap gun and revolvers have infinite ammo which makes them decent fallback weapons. You’ll acquire others as you progress like the auto shotgun, double shotgun, and dual uzis. Weapons like the rocket launcher, grenade launcher, minigun, sniper rifle, cannon, and serious bomb should be familiar if you’re a series veteran and new to the arsenal is the plasma rifle and klodovik which is a parrot equipped with a bomb. It’s essentially a homing projectile and is quite powerful. As you’re obliterating foes with your crazy arsenal of firepower, you can lob hand grenades at the press of a button which is great if you get overwhelmed. Much of the arsenal isn’t new and the returning weapons are basically just reskinned. But they do look cool. In addition to all of these weapons are turrets you can mount, weaponized vehicles you can drive, and a rollerball you can pilot that will decimate any enemy in its path. You can also ride a dinosaur that spits fireballs and fly an attack helicopter at a certain point. The vehicle sequences can actually be quite enjoyable and they all control well. They are great for taking down foes but, just like when on-foot, you should always keep moving and never release the fire button.
One of Serious Sam 2’s greatest strengths is diversity. Each planet is different from the last and each one introduces new enemy types. Most of the enemies are new but some from the previous games do make a return like the Kamikaze and Kleer Skeleton. Some of the new enemies resemble or behave like previous foes. For example, the Rhino Cybertoy is a lot like the Sirian Werebull. The Scorp Soldier is like a replacement for the Arachnoids. The T-Mech is similar to the Major Bio-mechanoid. You’ll get to blow away all kinds of different enemy types including orcs, zombies, harpies, lizards, bull soldiers, spiders, and centaurs among others. You’ll encounter several of the same enemy types in every world but each world will throw something new at you at some point. Every world ends with a boss battle. Each boss has it’s own gimmick and once you figure them out, you can easily take them down without too much trouble. It’s the final boss that can prove to be very challenging.
There are multiple difficulty modes to select from and I did play through the game on Normal. Serious Sam 2 can be a challenging game, however, I feel like it’s easier than the previous entries. But only slightly. The difficulty can spike at certain points. For example, in the swamps of the planet of Magnor. I died more times here than in any other area in the game. And it’s only the second planet. Numerous enemies will be thrown at you constantly, projectiles are flying every which way, and enemies are coming from everywhere – they’re spawning in all over the place, witches are flying around above you, numerous orcs are shooting at you, Cerberus creatures are rushing you – it’s just a noticeable jump in challenge compared to the first planet. As much as I enjoy the large roster of enemies, there are several enemy types I just don’t care for. The Witches and KungFu Masters fly around and cast spells or projectiles and I find them to be a pain in the ass. Rollerballs are one of the least interesting enemies in the game. These are literally just balls that try to roll into you. Finally, the Football Players. I hate these guys. They either rush you or kick footballs at you with crazy accuracy. They’re annoying. Like the previous titles, on the surface, the gameplay appears to be full of just mindless shooting. But there’s more to it. You need to know what weapons to use and when and always be aware of your surroundings. Trying to use one weapon for every encounter will just waste ammo and result in frustration. The encounters encourage you to switch between weapons and try new things. You should always keep moving, circle strafe often, and know which enemies to prioritize.
Like the enemies, the environments are extremely diverse. However, instead of being set in more realistic locations like the tombs and temples from the first two games, Serious Sam 2 takes you to a variety of areas across different planets. You’ll battle enemies at a prison facility, in the land of the giants, through villages and a city, and in the sewers, among other locations. The areas are humongous but also somewhat linear. It would be hard to get lost. There’s usually always plenty of room to maneuver. Health, armor, and ammo can be found scattered around the levels and will often spawn in before and after large-scale battles. Secret areas are are peppered throughout and usually house goodies like treasure, item pickups, and power-ups. The environments are more detailed than those in the previous games and I would sometimes lose track of enemies or projectiles. The First and Second encounters included a lot of areas with massive wide open spaces with what I’ll call simple backgrounds like mountains or ground, water, and/or sky as far as the eye could see. The simple, massive, and open environments made it very easy to see the numerous enemies coming your way. In Serious Sam 2, there’s a lot more going on with the environments and the enemies won’t always stand out. It’s not a problem most of the time but with how many enemies you have to deal with at once and how fast-paced the action can get, I’d rather not have to worry about visibility being an issue. Many levels include plenty of objects, structures, and buildings to be used as cover but you really don’t want to stand around in one place for long. You should always be moving. Breakable objects can be found everywhere and breaking them can reveal items and sometimes enemies. You’ll have to watch out for some hazards like lava, spikes, explosive barrels, and later in the game, you’ll traverse through cold environments where you’ll have to get inside or near fire to warm up every so often or you’ll start taking damage from the cold. It’s actually kind of annoying and can mess with the pacing.
Finding a secret could be as simple as just running way off the beaten path to something you see in the distance. There could be a secret around the corner or in a breakable object. And the goodies you find usually make exploring worthwhile. Sometimes, you’ll get ambushed or stuck in a small room with numerous enemies but no encounter ever felt cheap. Serious Sam 2 does include limited environmental destruction. Parts of the environments can and will be destroyed as you and the enemies battle it out. Every now and then friendly NPC’s will assist you by either fighting alongside you or by giving you items. You can find power-ups which last for a limited time like Serious Damage which allows you to inflict more damage. The Serious Score power-up doubles the amount of points you earn from everything which is great if you need to accumulate lives. And then there’s the Serious Jump power-up which lets you jump extremely high but it’s only available during a specific boss battle. You will have to complete specific objectives from time to time in order to progress. These include things like collecting items and defending areas.
Visually, Serious Sam 2 does look better than its predecessors and still doesn’t look too bad now. This is a very colorful game and the presentation gives off a more cartoon-y vibe than the previous entries. I don’t mind it, personally. The textures look great from a distance, the draw distance is impressive, and reflections look really good. With bloom lighting on, I found some things to be way too bright or just appear to glow which looked terrible so I eventually turned it off. The game includes some neat visual and gore effects which help to enhance the gameplay. Enemies can explode resulting in a shower of blood and gibs. Kleer enemies will explode into bones and dust or smoke. Muzzle flashes and explosions look good and seeing parts of the environments break apart and explode during firefights helps to make battles look and feel flashy and intense. Projectiles will be flying past your head, things are exploding, enemy aircraft will be soaring through the skies, shooting at you, and dropping bombs, enemies will be running around all over the place, and battles often feel like cartoon-y sci-fi war zones. I love it. As mentioned before, I would sometimes lose track of enemies in the detailed environments and I would also lose track of missiles from enemy helicopters. You can shoot the missiles down but they can sometimes be hard to see if you’re not focused on them because of everything else going on around you. The music is okay. There are some whimsical tunes and intense dramatic sounding-stuff and the songs usually kick in when enemies appear. There’s a kick-ass heavy metal tune that plays during a boss battle and it’s a shame there’s not more music like this. But the music that is present does fit in with the whole silly and over-the-top nature of the game. The sound effects compliment the action nicely. Enemies make different noises during combat and most of the weapons sound pretty good. I do wish the uzis had a bit more punch to them and explosions could sound better. From a technical standpoint, I can’t say I encountered any major issues and the game ran great.
I’ve heard mixed things about Serious Sam 2 over the years and I have played this a few times before but never got very far. It seems to be the outcast in the series and I think it’s because of the presentation. The gameplay feels like classic Serious Sam. Sure, there are some differences here and there but I had a great time with this. It’s got diverse enemies and environments, fun and satisfying weapons to play around with, secrets to find, and plenty of shit to shoot. In addition to all of that there is a multiplayer component which I didn’t get the chance to try and there some mods out there. Furthermore, the campaign is quite lengthy for a first-person shooter. It took me eight hours to beat the campaign on Normal. In my opinion, Serious Sam 2 retains what was great about its predecessors. It just looks different. You may not like the story or humor but you can easily ignore these things and still enjoy the gameplay. Do I think it’s better than the First and Second Encounters? No. They felt more like pure shooters and had just the right mixture of humor and let’s say seriousness and none of it ever got in the way of the gameplay. Serious Sam 2 includes a lot of cut scenes, some of which may be seen as unnecessary and that’s because the game tries very hard to be funny and if the humor doesn’t land, you just want to move on. The developers went over-the-top with the craziness. Personally, I like it. It’s silly, wacky, and ridiculous. It doesn’t really get in the way of the gameplay but it is prevalent throughout the entire game.
I would absolutely recommend Serious Sam 2 to fans of the series and first-person shooters. The only major negative I can think of is that it can get repetitive. Every level is filled with waves upon waves of enemies to kill. But that’s the core element of the series. That is what defines Serious Sam. If you don’t like that, you won’t like the series. If you love that, then Serious Sam 2 should be right up your alley. It’s got everything that made the previous games so enjoyable and just adds more variety. Serious Sam 2 is a great sequel because the gameplay is excellent. That is if you like this style of gameplay. If you enjoyed the other games and think this looks like fun, definitely check it out.