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In Other News – 23 April 2014

Serious Sam 3: Before First Encounter review – No Cover. All Man.

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Sometime in the 22nd century, invading aliens have attacked Earth and reduced it to ruins. The few surviving humans believe their only hope is an ancient artefact built by another alien race and buried under the sands of Egypt. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to work it or even what exactly it does, and the place is swarming with enemy forces. There’s only one man for the job: Sam “Serious” Stone.

To answer the most obvious questions about this game: yes, it’s a few months old, having being released late in 2011. And no, it wasn’t really released here in South Africa. It is, however, available from Steam and I’ve seen it on sale at least twice since release. At those prices, it’s a steal.

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Serious Sam 3: Before First Encounter takes place, as the name suggests, before the First Encounter (the very first game). It serves to fill in the details of what happened leading up to the events of the original game. Like the other Serious Sam games, the story is not too complicated. It generally just gives you a direction to shoot in. It does, however, keep the characteristic tongue-in-cheek humour of the Serious Sam games.

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Your adventures will range from shooting enemies in the ruins around Egypt, to shooting enemies underneath these ruins, in buried temples and pyramids. And there will be LOTS of enemies. If you’ve played Serious Sam games before, you’ll be more than familiar with the concept. If not, Serious Sam tends to focus on QUANTITY of enemies more than anything else. That’s not to say they’re not quality enemies too, but it’s the sheer numbers that will threaten to overwhelm you. They are attempting to invade the Earth, after all!

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You’ll also have to collect small artifacts and keys and so on, which is nothing new either. The exciting pickups are the bigger and better weapons you’ll find as the game progresses. And you’ll need them to defeat the hordes of alien monsters that will be hurling themselves at you. All the old favourites are there, from the double barrelled shotgun to the awesome minigun to the cannon ball gun. Or, if you’re tired of shooting, Sam can rip smaller enemies apart with his bare hands.

In terms of enemies, you’ll be fighting literally dozens at a time, as they teleport out of nowhere. There’s a lot of familiar faces (or lack thereof) like the skeletal Kleers and giant werebulls and the headless but still somehow screaming kamikaze bomber men. There are also a few new monsters and bosses added into the mix. You’ll probably start hearing headless bombers screaming while you sleep!

Scoring:

Design and Presentation: 8/10

The game is presented in glorious HD, while still keeping the gritty desert feel of the First and Second Encounters. The new graphics allow your bullets to kick up big dust clouds, making it a bit harder for you to keep shooting. The sounds are also great, with the music letting you know if you’re still in danger or not, and each type of monster has a characteristic sound as it approaches. With no map to speak of, you’ll need to keep your eyes and ears peeled to find approaching enemies. A few graphical glitches do occur from time to time, but there’s nothing gamebreaking.

Gameplay: 7/10

What I’ve always liked about the Serious Sam games is the simplicity. Your mission is to shoot every monster that comes your way, and the game delivers heaps of this. If you want some mindless fun, this is for you. Even better, the game has a variety of difficulty levels, meaning even players like me for whom aiming is a challenge can still enjoy the game without fear of constant death.

Value: 8/10

There are quite a few levels here to keep you busy, and over a hundred secrets to discover across the game. Each level does give you a score if you feel the need to improve on your previous performance. There’s also quite a few multiplayer options (including local splitscreen) if that’s your thing.

Overall: 7.5/10

All the enemies can become a bit much, especially towards the later levels, so this game is probably best enjoyed in small chunks. It’s definitely better than Serious Sam II, delivering what was great about the First and Second Encounters: plenty of guns, and plenty of monsters to shoot! A must-have if you’re a Serious fan, or just enjoy blowing stuff up!

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