Back we go to the noughties, and perhaps the source of my fondest gaming memories. I was in my mid teens, and had (seemingly) all the time in the world to play video games amid the backdrop of building excitement for the next generation of consoles. My first, er hem, encounter with Serious Sam was on the Gamecube with the stupidly entertaining Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.
Not long after, Serious Sam II was released for PC and Xbox, and despite the name was actually the fourth title in the series. This is due to the aforementioned game, and a port of the first which was released on Xbox. It’s worth pointing out that this was (party poppers at the ready) an Xbox exclusive, as far as console releases went.
For the uninitiated, Serious Sam is a series of games where it’s all about running and gunning. You’ll find yourself besieged by all sorts of wacky alien enemies, but as you play you’ll amass a small arsenal of weapons to fight your way through the hordes. Those extraterrestrial baddies are led by “Mental”, who is hell-bent on eradicating humanity. That alone should set the tone for you.
The weapons available to you ranged from a humble military knife, to a rapid firing minigun and devastating rocket launcher. However, the series’ signature weapon is the “Serious Bomb”. This is a rare, handheld explosive device that will pretty much wipe out all on screen enemies at once, apart from boss characters. It’s extremely satisfying to use.
You’ll need it too. There will be points where you’ll struggle to keep the alien hordes at bay, and the Serious Bomb will provide that brief breather needed before you go again. The sheer amount of enemies make the game a grind – it’s unavoidable. However, it’s bloody good fun and the different types of enemies and weapons keep the action varied enough to enjoy hour after hour (for the most part).
What also helped were the eye-popping, colourful visuals. They complemented the over the top, madcap vibe of the game and were pretty nice to look at. That said, you’d only get a few precious seconds to survey your surroundings before you were knee deep in aliens trying to put you down.
Closely tied to this, you had the larger than life sound effects making things feel like an absolute warzone. Whether this was the voice of your enemies or sound of military grade weaponry, the action was always loud and frantic. The soundtrack itself was functional if not pretty generic, but on the plus side it didn’t distract from all the other stuff going on, which felt right.
However, despite all this it would be remiss of me not to mention the man himself, who is of course the star of his own show. In a similar way to Duke Nukem, Sam is a wisecracking, one-line producing, fearless hero who ties all the ridiculousness together whilst barely breaking a sweat. Ironically, Sam is anything but serious, instead underpinning what the game is all about – having a blast.
Unfortunately, none of the Serious Sam titles are currently available on the Microsoft Store, Serious Sam II included, so you’ll need to go hunting down the hard copies if you want to get your hands on the game. However, fear not fellow Xboxers, as Serious Sam 4 is coming to consoles, although not until 2021. The PC version hasn’t had the best response from critics, however it is available now if you want to get ahead of the console release.
For me, if you want to unwind after a particularly stressful day, or just fancy shooting a load of stuff, Serious Sam is the perfect way to scratch that itch. Serious Sam II was a solid entry in the series, however it suffered from a lack of newness compared to the first two outings. It seems that the first game is yet to be topped but, alas, there is no easy way to play it on current generation Xbox consoles. If you’re up to the challenge, the original Xbox release is out there to be found, as well as the Xbox 360 collection somewhere. In fact, Amazon is probably your best bet.