Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

Serious Sam : Second Encounter

Serious Sam : Second Encounter

Review - Sam is back, and this time he's got a chainsaw - "look ma, I'm a lumberjack!"

Take 2 Developer Croteam System Requirements   Pentium II 300 or equivalent   64Mb RAM   OpenGL compliant graphics card   150Mb hard drive space God, Who Writes This Stuff? It's less than a year since Serious Sam : The First Encounter was unleashed on to an unsuspecting public, and the arrival so soon of a second game in the series may have left you suspicious that this would be a tacky Tomb Raider style cash-in. Fear not though, for the imaginatively titled Second Encounter is bigger, better, harder than ever and utterly, utterly insane. Once again you take on the role of "Serious" Sam Stone, a marine with a bad attitude sent into the distant past to save the world from hostile aliens. Or something. The storyline isn't really important, serving merely to give Sam an excuse to rampage his way through the ancient world slaughtering outlandish monsters, and if you haven't played the first game you won't have missed anything that you can't pick up from the short intro cutscene. But what the game lacks in plot it more than makes up for with character. Sam is more vocal than ever and is always ready with a sarcastic one-liner or an in-joke, from whining about how much he hates crates to complaining about the quality of his script. The whole game is decidely tongue-in-cheek with a refreshingly self-deprecating sense of humour, constantly poking fun at itself and its rivals. Not Again Fans of the original game should feel right at home with the second chapter of Serious Sam, as essentially it's more of the same with added bells and whistles. Not that this is in any way a bad thing, given how entertaining the last installment was. Most of the weapons and monsters from the original game have found their way into the follow-up, from the minigun and rocket launcher to screaming kamikaze bombers and stampeding bull-like animals that can hurl you high into the air with their tusks. Joining the old favourites are a few choice additions. There's a highly effective sniper rifle with a zoom lens that lets you zero in on targets from hundreds of meters away, and a devastating flamethrower (my personal favourite) which fires a stream of napalm that ignites anything it hits, causing further damage for several seconds after the initial impact. Perfect for dealing with hordes of close-packed monsters. There's even a big chugging chainsaw especially for those "close encounters", prompting Sam to start singing Monty Python's lumberjack song. The game also sports a wider range of power-ups. None of them are going to win any prizes for originality, but they can prove incredibly useful in the middle of a chaotic battle. "Serious Speed" makes you run faster than a speeding bull (if not a bullet), "Serious Damage" temporarily increases the effectiveness of your weapons and "Invulnerability" is fairly self-explanatory. Good Morning Babylon! While the game's inhabitants are mostly familiar, one welcome change which Croteam have made is to use a much wider variety of settings. Gone are the bleak sun-drenched deserts and towering pyramids of Egypt, replaced by a trio of mini-episodes set in Mayan America, ancient Babylon and medieval Poland. The game "only" includes a dozen maps in total scattered across these three settings, but they are quite possibly the biggest, most monster-packed maps ever to grace a first person shooter. Most of them take the best part of an hour to complete as you wade through wave after wave of bizarre looking creatures conjured up by the appropriately named evil mastermind Mental. Some of the pitched battles involve literally hundreds of monsters, and a couple perhaps go on a little too long, leaving you wondering whether the flood of monsters spawning around you will ever stop. Overall though Serious Sam is arcade-style action at its best, a mixture of adrenaline-pumping action and nerve-wrecking ambushes with only a few basic puzzle and platform sections to break up the wall-to-wall mayhem. Apart from a little pointless bounce pad navigating these generally aren't too intrusive, and "puzzles" generally involve blowing things up, moving blocks around or finding the appropriate object to open the next door. Nothing too taxing then. What Are You Waiting For, A One Liner? Where Second Encounter really shines is the incredible attention to detail applied throughout. There's always something to keep you busy, and every level is filled to bursting point with secrets to discover, varying from your basic power-up hidden in a dark corner to some truly surreal set-pieces. Pick up a health pill and you never quite know what will happen next. Often these virtually useless power-ups (they only restore 1% of your health) are used to trigger special events, such as the appearance of a giant kamikaze bomber or a horde of tiny exploding frogs. In one level I made the mistake of firing a shot down a mouse-hole to see if anything was back there, only to trigger the arrival of a stampeding herd of midget bulls. The world of Sam Stone is a seriously strange one... Sometimes the strangeness gets a bit out of hand, and at times you can feel like you're in a giant invisible pinball machine. There are gravity-defying rooms that can leave your head spinning from vertigo as you struggle to destroy endless hordes of exploding monsters while everyone bounces around so fast you barely have time to aim your weapon before your target is half way across the hall. The feeling of satisfaction when you finally complete these odd encounters is usually enough to overcome any initial frustration though. Conclusions Croteam are deviously inventive and have a thoroughly warped sense of humour, all of which has been put to good use in Second Encounter. With a good ten to twelve hours of gameplay and an RRP of just £19.99 it offers great value for money, and while it still isn't a particularly deep or intelligent game, for a bit of brainless high octane action it can't be beaten. Here's looking forward to Episode 3... - Serious Sam : First Encounter review Eye Candy             9

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Serious Sam : Second Encounter

Preview - Sam's back for more carnage in this follow-up to the hit first person shooter

It's less than a year since Serious Sam was released, and already Croatian developers Croteam are putting the finishing touches to a follow-up to the first person shooter. But this is no hurriedly thrown together Tomb Raider style cash-in, as we discovered when we took a beta copy of the game for a spin at publisher Take 2 Interactive's offices in Windsor yesterday. Smokin' Like the first game, the imaginatively titled Serious Sam : Second Encounter looks set to provide several hours of wall to wall carnage and tongue-in-cheek humour. This time though the barren deserts of ancient Egypt have been replaced by a range of new settings including snow-covered medieval villages, Persian cities and Aztec temples in lush jungle valleys. The addition of foliage to the game not only makes the scenery look prettier, it also adds tension to the proceedings, as enemies and power-ups alike can be hidden amongst the dense undergrowth. You can also have a lot of fun with the trees, especially once you get hold of some of the new weapons on offer in the sequel. Bathing a tree in napalm from your flamethrower will set fire to it, and you can even cut down trees with your new chainsaw ("look ma, I'm a lumberjack!"), possibly crushing enemies standing on the other side. Both of these new weapons are incredibly entertaining. The chainsaw slices enemies up into little meaty chunks with surprising ease, and is incredibly effective for in-your face action. Meanwhile the flamethrower can be used to barbeque your foes en masse, the fire spreading between them as they run around wrapped in flames, until finally their charred corpses fall to the ground with a satisfying crackling noise. Other additions include a sniper rifle with multiple zoom levels, which can be useful for picking off enemies in the wide open spaces that Serious Sam's engine is capable of rendering. At the moment the AI doesn't always seem to react to your long range pot shots, but hopefully this will be fixed by the time the game ships in January. This Time It's Serious All of this new firepower will be needed as you battle your way through the game, because if anything Second Encounter is even harder than the original Serious Sam. As before hordes of enemies flood out of corridors, charge at you across vast courtyards, and descend from the skies in droves. Several new enemies have been added, fitting in perfectly with the weird and wonderful selection carried over from the first game. There are red demons that hurl fireballs at you, soldiers with laser guns, cannons defending the walls of a medieval fort, and even a pumpkin-headed man with a chainsaw, affectionately dubbed "Mr Eminem" by the developers. The new bosses are every bit as spectacular as those in the original game as well, with one specimen towering well over a hundred feet into the air. Luckily then you have access to a range of power-ups, including Sam's answer to the quad, "Serious Damage". As well as massively increasing the hurt that your weapons cause to enemies, this handy item strikes such fear into their hearts that your foes will turn tail and run away instead of constantly attacking. You can also gain temporary invulnerability and pick up speed boots that cause you to run faster than the proverbial speeding bullet. Special Delivery It's not all about carnage this time though, as a few puzzles have been added into the mix. The example we saw involved shooting buttons on the far wall of a room to move some coloured blocks around and open up a passage, and it felt a little out of place. As Sam himself commented, "I'm not in kindergarten". There are also a few nasty jumping puzzles to complete, including giant bouncing rocks to avoid and a fiendish array of Quake 3 style bounce pads to navigate over a bottomless pit. It might add variety, but we're not sure it's needed. On the bright side there's nothing too irritating for you to hop your way through, and otherwise Second Encounter seems to be very much business as usual. Which means a healthy dose of off-the wall humour is present once again. This is especially true in the snow-covered level towards the end of the game, which comes complete with snowmen, an epic battle fought to the tune of Jingle Bells and a "Secret Santa" power-up, which we won't spoil for you. Let's just say that Christmas comes early when you trigger this one, and the result is downright surreal... Beauty And The Beasts Even though it's only been seven months since the original Serious Sam was released here in Europe, the attention to detail throughout Second Encounter is impressive, and it's obvious that Croteam aren't resting on their laurels and just banging out a quick cash-in sequel. Trees wave gently in the breeze, and leaves will fall from the branches as you exchange shots with your enemies through the vegetation. The textures are, if anything, more vibrant and intricate than the beautiful Egyptian murals of the original game, and the glazed bricks, mosaics and minarets of the Persian inspired areas are particularly impressive. Sam himself is more vocal than ever, whistling tunes and delivering groan-inducing quips as you fight your way through the hordes of enemies and pick up destructive new guns. Combat is as fast and furious as ever, with frequent traps and set-piece scenes locking you in a room or courtyard faced with wave after wave of enemy, forcing you to battle your way through monster-infested lava caves as you scramble over narrow rock bridges, or setting you the task of assaulting a stronghold facing hordes of enemies and battlements lined with powerful cannons. Conclusion As you may have guessed by now, Serious Sam : Second Encounter is shaping up to be a worthy sequel to one of this year's surprise hits. With more detailed and varied scenery backed up by several new monsters, weapons and power-ups, it could be every bit as enjoyable as the original. And the good news is that Take 2 assure us that European gamers will be getting the same great deal as their American counterparts this time, with the game set to retail in the UK at £19.99 when it launches in January. Bring it on! - Serious Sam : Second Encounter screenshots