“Serious” is merely a suggestion in this collection of purposely over-the-top titles with a mid-90s sense of style and action.
There is something inherently 90’s about the Serious Sam series.
Anybody who recalls the days of downloading the Shareware version of Wolfenstein 3-D or Doom from a local Bulletin Board System using a 9600 or 14.4k baud modem probably knows what I mean. To some, like my kids, a 90’s style FPS is sort a bad thing– How do I look up? Why can’t I jump? Why do the graphics look like butt? What do you mean I have to look for a blue key to open the blue door? For me, this throwback to the 90’s is sort of a nice mix of both good and bad. It’s soothing in that nostalgic sort of way, but at the same time, I don’t want to bathe in it for too long. I’m a progressive old-school gamer. I like to remember the fun games I grew up playing, but I’ll gladly admit that some just don’t hold up to today’s standards, no matter how good they were in their prime.
This is sort of how I feel about the Serious Sam games and The Serious Sam Collection, in general.
The Serious Sam Collection features four titles: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter, Serious Sam 3: BFE (Before the First Encounter), and Serious Sam: Double D XXL.
The Serious Sam franchise has always been on the budget-friendly end of retail when it comes to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, and this collection is no different. A cool $40 will get net you this collection of games.
There isn’t a lot to write home about Serious Sam and the graphics, or even the gameplay. If I can compare the control and speed to a game, I’d compare it to the Quake series — it’s fast and furious. While there is a story in each Serious Sam game, it’s not that important. The action is where the game is. You’ll find lots of open areas, which conveniently will bring forth hordes and waves of baddies. Those who are familiar with the term “monster rooms” from the Doom days, will understand the structure of the Serious Sam levels. It’s not that they levels don’t make sense, but they feel more like arenas rather than “realistic” environments.
Three of the four titles are first-person shooters. Serious Sam: Double D XXL is different and plays like a 2D side-scrolling action platformer like Contra.
Weapons come in all sorts of flavors, most of them are grounded in reality, like the shotgun, pistol, sniper rifle, and chain gun, while others have a bit more flair, like the Serious Bomb, P-Lah Chainsaw, and the suicide bomb-wearing-bird that homes in on enemies when fired.
Enemies are a bit more on the ridiculous side, ranging in bipedal torso-faced monsters, robotic dinosaurs, headless humanoids, helicopters, and mechanized demon things.
While most of these games are at least a decade old, the visuals have been updated for the Xbox 360 — I hate the term HD, but I suppose that’s what you’d technically call the visual uplift. It’s not going to win any awards for graphics, but it’s a step up from the original titles.
And let’s be honest, Serious Sam isn’t all that serious. At times it can be downright silly, but it never felt stupid-silly. In terms of it’s seriousness, I’d put it somewhere between the early Doom/Quake games and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s less serious than the iD Software titles, but doesn’t try too hard to be comedic or overexplain some of the ridiculous enemies and weapons, like our old buddy Duke Nukem does. Serious Sam just sort of… is.
One of the most interesting titles, was the side-scrolling Serious Sam: Double D XXL, which felt like a Contra-style action platformer, which I highly recommend players checking out.
Overall, The Serious Sam Collection is an enjoyable collection of games that feels like a throwback to the games of the mid-90s. The action is fast and furious, the level design is open and arena-like, and the graphics, from 10 years ago, have been given then HD treatment.
I think, however, that this collection is only going to appeal to those who are familiar with the series or are nostalgic to the early first-person shooters, like Doom, Quake, and Duke Nukem 3D. I feel that modern first-person gamers will find Sam to be lacking in more than a lot of ways, and may find the off-the-wall enemies to be a bit too outlandish.
For an old-school gamer like me, I enjoyed it in small bites, like a supplement to my normal gaming, but never found myself playing it for long periods of time. I really enjoyed the Contra-like title Serious Sam: Double D XXL, though.
Each game can be purchased separately for about $10 each, but the collection does include all titles on one disc and it also includes the premium DLC for Serious Sam 3: BFE, which will also run you $10 separately.