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8  |  Mental is up to no good again...and this time, it's Serious...
Dezoris , 8/23/2008 11:13:03 AM

Lets get one thing straight. This review is for Serious Sam 2, not Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, which most people get immediately mixed up. Serious Sam 2 is the sequel to the sequel first person shooter in which you, as the great Sam himself, must battle through hordes of unwieldy characters to stop the evil Mental. The plot isn’t exactly inspired, but oh man, will you have fun along the way.

Gameplay: /10
This is the fps game for everyone. The amount of skill required to play is about as much as you being able to click the Start button on your desktop. Since you’re reading this review, and I’ll trust you had no assistance navigating to this page, guess what…Serious Sam 2 is right up your alley. The folks at Croteam have created quite a name for themselves by ensuring their fans that Serious Sam will always be up to his muscular nipples in bad guys. Thankfully, he’s also up to his five-o-clock shadow in ammo. And the rest is really left up to you. As you traverse each levelyou’ll be swarmed by some of the strangest enemies (God put me on this Earth to murder unicycle-riding suicide clowns) to ever see the light of day. They’re bigger, badder, and better than previous installments in the series, so be prepared for the wacky and wonderful as you murder your way through the single player campaign.
Part of the entertainment in the Serious Sam series is that it takes you through a variety of exotic environments as you exchange your bullets for body parts. Ranging from the prehistoric era to the very, very, perhaps even slightly more very, distant future. You’ll climb Mayan temples and attack medieval dragons, all with the same serious attitude. As you reach new locations you’ll often times discover items and weapons to help you along your quest. You can bet you’ll need them as the enemies continue to grow stronger and more frequent.
In case your feet get tired with all that running and gunning, Croteam also decided to up the anti in Serious Sam 2 with some much needed all-terrain vehicles. Inspired, I can only assume, by other successful FPS titles like Halo and Unreal Tournament, Sam thought, why don’t I get a sweet ride? And boom, the gamer gods answered. Whether obviously placed or carefully locked away in secret rooms, you’ll discover vehicles that are just waiting for you to drive. Anything from a fully-armed UFO to a fire-breathing dinosaur are at your disposal so you’ll have plenty of fun times running through your enemies in style. Just try not to scratch the paint job too much or else you’ll explode and be back on your sore puppies.
Standard items return in Serious Sam 2, including health packs, armor upgrades, and the trademarked Serious Damage and Serious Speed. God forbid if you ever acquire these two items simultaneously, as you’ll become an unreckonable force to, um…reckon with. A new member of this item family making its debut in Serious Sam 2 is the Serious Jump. When equipped you’ll have a limited amount of time in which you can space jump nearly ten times higher than normal, which will give you a kick-ass view of your house. In addition, it’s also a lot of fun to bounce on your enemies as you reign down grenades.
The weapons loadout in Serious Sam 2 provides a lot of good muscle as in the previous games, but with one terrible omission…the unforgivable absence of the Serious Flamethrower (yes, I’m being serious). Why in heaven’s name Croteam would decide to omit such a truly beautiful implement of destruction is simply beyond me. And had I been in a worse mood, it would have cost this review a full eight million points. Thankfully, I’m in a good mood, so it will cost slightly less. Besides, the remaining weapons still pack an excellent punch. Returning favorites like the Grenade Launcher, Chaingun, and shotgun are complimented by some new faces including dual Uzis and a parrot with a bomb tied gently around his neck (again, serious). The humor of hearing Polly explode on impact is always spiritually healing. You also get the familiar rocket launcher, but in my opinion it pales in comparison to other games and other available weapons at Sam’s disposal.  Perhaps the most important addition to the arsenal is your trusty grenade. That’s right, now you can toss a few active artichokes into your enemies at any time by using your right mouse button. This can occur regardless of what weapon you have equipped and really helps thin out the ranks if you’re playing the single player game solo. The only other downside to the weapons comes in the single player mode, where ammo is rather scarce, and tends to force you to rely on the same few weapons, rather than wildly alternate between your favorites. Thankfully, the option for unlimited ammo and/or lives is available to you if you host a game with your friends. I definitely recommend this. Not because I think you should play that game on “easy”, but because it really is the most fun you can have with any Serious Sam title. In fact, I think you’ll see just how difficult the game is even when you don’t have to worry about reloading.
Controls: 9/10
Plain and simple vanilla does the job here. There are a nice series of options for your to personalize your control scheme, but the standard walk and shoot defaults will almost completely get you through the game. Even vehicle controls are pretty clean and responsive, so you won’t have to worry about getting stuck in a corner or flying over the edge of a canyon due to lag or poor response times. A nice plus for the control scheme is that you can opt to play the entire game in third person view, which actually works quite nicely since you’ll usually have enemies coming from all sides. My only critique is the slight camera tilts applied to when you strafe left or right. Since this doesn’t occur in most games, it feels a bit nauseating if you aren’t used to the concept. Would have been nice to toggle, like weapons-view-shake in UT2004.

Replay Value: 8/10
Replaying Serious Sam 2 is really a face value endeavor. Chances are you won’t uncover any new secret rooms or paths (even though there are a good number of them throughout the game) because you spent so much time being meticulous your first time around. That said, I’ll often times find myself wanting to return to the land of Samelot and destroy my share of life. In fact, one of the most fun portions of Serious Sam 2 is the ability to play the decently-sized single player campaign cooperatively with friends or strangers online. Honestly, I haven’t even bothered with the Deathmatch mode because I’m immediately drawn to jumping into a coop game and waging war against Mental’s minions with a few allies.

Graphics: 10/10
Serious Sam 2 is quite a breathtaking game…almost too breathtaking in my opinion. I feel that some of the levels shrunk in size to accommodate their visual complexity. This might not be a terrible thing, but it did take a bit away from the nostalgia of preceding Sam titles. Then again, I don’t miss horizon after horizon of empty terrain that I had to walk through. Nevertheless, the visual styles and environments in Serious Sam 2 are really in a league of their own. It’s hard to describe the amount of detail and care that went into each level, especially because when you play the game you focus so intently on NOT DYING that you miss a few chances to stop and smell the roses. But take my word for it, the artwork in Serious Sam 2 is really award winning. Everything from the level design to the endless variety of crazy enemies will make you step back in awe. In addition to the superb visual design, I also must applaud the development team for such excellent optimization. I was able to run Serious Sam 2 amazingly well before I even upgraded my video card. There are two full screens of standard and advanced Video configuration options, so I doubt you’ll have trouble getting Sam to play nicely on your box. I knew those Croatians were too damn clever for their own good.
Music: 7/10
There are a few fun pulse-pounding tracks as you cut down your foes in Serious Sam 2, but a lot of the other music feels too mass produced for my taste. Of course, I didn’t purchase the game for it’s soundtrack, so I can’t complain much. Thankfully, the music isn’t bad enough to be annoying or deter from the gameplay, so just enjoy the fact that you don’t have to kill things in absolute silence.

Sound: 9/10
The sound effects are actually several steps up from the music and add a great element of fun to the game’s progressive storyline. The enemy voiceovers are particularly well done and stupid for the sake of being stupid. I’m glad the game doesn’t take itself too seriously (pun intended! PUN INTENDED!) because otherwise I’d probably grin in agony rather than amusement. The weapons effects are also satisfying, so you’ll actually feel rewarded when emptying your minigun rounds into the crowd.

Conclusion: 8/10
Serious Sam 2 is a genuinely fun and insane first person shooter. It capitalizes on it’s massively scaled enemy assaults, beautiful scenery, and trademark star who will stop at nothing to put an end to Mental’s hijinks. Sam might not be as disciplined as the marine from Doom and he might not have as many lines as Duke, but dammit, he’s got a really big gun and he knows how to use it! So please, find your friends online and enjoy several hours of mindless murder so we can all try to foster a more peaceful world.

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