Serious Sam HD

Global swarming.

Let's not waste time preaching to the choir. Serious Sam HD is Serious Sam: The First Encounter wearing a shiny new HD hat. It's exactly the same game, but prettier. If you loved the insanity of Croteam's wildly unapologetic crowd-management blaster the first time around, you'll love this.

There are no new guns and no new monsters. Levels remain unadulterated. Given that 2005's sequel disappointed some fans of the original by gilding the lily with unnecessary adornments, this is probably a sensible choice.

Serious Sam was never supposed to be about complex narratives or character development. Its raison d'etre was the shameless abandonment of realism; here is a game which wears its batshit crazy colours on its pumped and veiny biceps with pride. It's also a game which rarely asks you to reload, let alone consider the moral implications each time you pull the trigger.

If haven't played the first game, gird your loins for something of a individual take on the genre. There is a plot, but it's so sub-Bollian in its simplicity that it's nigh on invisible. The action unfolds in a series of similar but colourful environments, consisting mostly of large, arena set-pieces linked by short, simple puzzle chains and smaller encounters.

Sure, as you navigate the tombs and plains of ancient Egypt you'll be pushing the odd button and finding occasional secret stashes. But mostly, by which I mean almost constantly, you'll be pumping rounds from a healthy array of satisfying weapons into the faces of lunatic monsters.

Third-person mode looks nice, but is pretty impractical.

Usually this will involve circle-strafing around large open areas as dozens of screaming, headless suicide bombers, skeletal horses, mutated golden bulls and what are essentially Monster Munch creatures swarm towards you maniacally. No cover, not much exploration and no tactics to speak of, just a cross-hair, a few tonnes of charging flesh and a pocket full of hurt. It's the simplicity, countered by the incredibly intense pace, which holds the interest here - pure gaming escapism.

You might think it'd get repetitive, and for anyone expecting a strategic crawl through enemy lines it probably will, but there's really very little time to get bored. Pauses are few and far between, sometimes gearing down just before the appearance of one of the insanely titanic boss fights. Generally however, as long as you're moving forward there'll be stuff to kill and plenty of it. Blazing your way through a throng of monsters strays just on the right side of the entertainingly hectic/impossibly infuriating divide, even under the harshest assaults you'll generally find your rictus is carved into a grin rather than a grimace.

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Dan Pearson

Dan Pearson

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