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Serious Sam 3: BFE review

Decent
AT A GLANCE
  • Properly old-school shooterizing
  • Some amazing enemy swarms
  • A seriously epic final boss
  • Brown, tan, brown... brown
  • Where are the truly crazy enemies?
  • Needs tighter pacing

The big joke about Serious Sam is that he’s not serious at all. Well, he’s serious about kicking ass, because he (meaning you) can literally take on a thousand enemies single-handed and come out with only a few scratches. He’s not serious because he’s been fighting the forces of an alien overlord named Mental (yep) and he’s been doing it while wearing cheesy orange sunglasses and making ridiculous quips, some of which are actually funny (in one of our favorites, after destroying a giant alien warship and roughly 300 of its minions, Sam says “Yeah mother***er! How you like my planet taste?”). Aside from Sam’s wannabe Duke Nukem attitude, the Serious series is known for balls-out crazily designed enemies and its penchant for throwing absurd numbers of them at you.

BFE achieves the latter with not much of the former. Whereas previous Serious games gave you things like (allow us to quote our review of Serious Sam 2): “clockwork rhinos, mutant footballers, three-headed flaming hounds… witches on broomsticks, Orc-carrying gyrocopters… zombie stockbrokers…” BFE sports a few strange leftovers from previous Serious games, like the iconic headless kamikazes, who run at you screaming while carrying a bomb in each hand, but other than that the enemies have become extremely generic Doom knockoffs: fat ogre-dudes with rocket-launcher arms, cyber-demon mechs with, uh, rocket-launcher arms, scorpion dudes with Gatling-gun arms… man what’s with all the weapon arms? The enemy design, for the most part, is totally uninspired, which is bizarre considering inspired enemies are one of the series’ hallmarks.

Similarly, while Serious 2 took us to all kinds of lush and colorful environments, BFE returns to Egypt and just lingers there like an unwanted party crasher. The ENTIRE game is a series of brown textures – sand, brick buildings, and so many brown Egyptian ruins that playing this game may make you forget there are any other colors in the rainbow (hey, brown’s in the rainbow, right?). Again, this is such a weird stylistic choice because Serious Sam is supposed to be the respite from “modern” shooters. It’s supposed to be an old-school throwback to when FPS games were about nonstop killing and endless circle-strafing or running-backward-and-strafing.

The good news is that gameplay-wise, BFE does in fact fulfill those aforementioned promises. The shooting mechanics feel smooth, solid, and full of enough impact to rattle your jawbones. Plowing through enemies with shotguns, miniguns, rocket launchers, and of course the cannon (like, an actual cannon from a ship) is addictive, triggering primitive crags within the brain where your simian self says “Huh, huh, that there done blowed up real good.” As Sam always does, he also encounters hordes the likes of which you’ve never seen. Put it this way: on one level our bodycount tallied at over 1,100 kills. One level.

The actual effect on your fun varies with these enemy swarms. Sometimes these encounters can be a total rush: a virtual army breaches the hill before you, you mutter “Oh, shit!” and begin running backward, firing wildly into the waves of monsters. To survive these encounters, we had to sometimes run backward through nearly the entire level, barely holding back the mounting onslaught. They also require weapon juggling – a nice aspect of the design, because the game will get you to use your entire arsenal as you’ll be running out of ammo from one weapon after another, although the game also never gets stingy about resupplying you. There are a couple problems with the pacing of the swarms, though: later in the game they just drag on, and they force backtracking due to all the running backwards.

Look, we understand this game is about throwing insane amounts of enemies at you, but the pacing is all out of whack in a number of places. It’s often lacking in proper lulls and crescendos: you’ll encounter a huge swarm, it’s super intense, and then you clear it out. Great! But then a few random stragglers follow up. Then a few more stragglers. A few more. More. Holy crap, when does this pointless, challenge-free trickle end? Sometimes it might be as many as ten to fifteen “waves” of tiny handfuls of enemies that serve no purpose other than to keep you from progressing to the next part of the level. This structure pads out the game way beyond the length it should be – it can take nearly two hours to get through a level that has a layout of space that would take twenty minutes in any other shooter.

If, for some reason, the single-player campaign isn’t enough for you, BFE features some surprisingly beefy multiplayer offerings, with multiple co-op modes and an impressive array of competitive modes. It is, though, more of the same and Serious Sam has never been about depth – it’s about slaughtering a million ridiculous enemies, so taking that same template and applying it to small multiplayer scenarios is less than inspiring. Gameplay-wise the competitive component offers nothing you couldn’t get out of Quake III, and that game has much more interesting weapons and map designs. Co-op is more worthwhile, since you’re applying the already decently-fun single-player structure to messing around with friends.

BFE has some fantastic moments despite its very low-budget feel and it can be uniquely entertaining in its absurdity and intensity, but we advise players to take it in sips: playing for even a few hours at a time becomes exhausting and tedious. It’s an interesting case study on the whole saying “less is more.” The dev team clearly believes “more is more” and the funny thing is that sometimes they’re right – other times, a bit of editing on the enemy numbers would have really tightened the experience up. Instead of more enemies, there should have been more colors in the palette and more variety in the level design.

More Info

Release date: Nov 22 2011 - PC
Oct 17 2012 - Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Shooter
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

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20 comments

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  • RedOutlive10 - December 9, 2011 6:19 p.m.

    It's weird to have a review without a single gameplay screenshot.
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  • Travia220 - December 2, 2011 10:02 p.m.

    So it's a con when Serious Sam uses a similar colour palette. But be damned, when it's a Modern Warfare game, we can't possibly make that a con. As much as I love this website the more I read reviews the more I noticed it's full of a bunch of idiots who can't give a proper review. While SS3:BFE has problems, it's definitely not as bad as the reviewer makes it out to be. I agree the enemy selection is a little small. I wish it were bigger but that's where I stop agreeing with the reviewer. All the Serious Sam games have looked differently. Also using SS2 in your "Argument" is ridiculous, considering it's the least liked out of the series. Also the one that wen't from Crazy to Redonkulus with it's over stylized visuals. Even Sam was drastically changed in the second game. Now with that said, seriously. Wake up and Learn 2 Review. I understand you are aiming your reviews at the main stream idiot who dribbles all over Modern Warfare, but your reviewers are continuously contradicting. One game you love the visuals and levels, even though they are the same old crap for over three freaking years. The next you are slamming another game for having similar levels. This is the kind of contradicting idiocy that makes this website a joke. Hell if I wanted bad reviews like this I'd be over at IGN or GameSpot. Serious Sam 3 could use a 7/10.. I think that's fair. (Although I'd be surprised if you guys at gamesradar understood what a 7/10 means) It has problems, such as pacing, performance issues and not enough variety, but whatevers.
  • fault3 - December 9, 2011 4:20 p.m.

    that comment rocked so much <3
  • DaCunt - December 2, 2011 2:34 p.m.

    I think i'll stick to the hd remakes
  • doomkmpa - December 2, 2011 1:33 a.m.

    I'm afraid i would agree with the score of this review. I'm a big fan of this series and was looking forward to this but the game just does not feel right. The first levels running thru tight village street whilst shotgun guys hide round the corners - I might as well play MW3 or Battlefield. The aim mechanics are also 'not right', the older games you aimed, fired off a rocket and moved on and it felt fluid and quick. Now it feels slower and off. I can't quantify it but you all know the feeling when a game machanic is not quite there. Still going to play to the end but yeah a little bit of a let down.
  • Net_Bastard - December 1, 2011 8:33 p.m.

    Wow this reviewer sucks. And I didn't even play the game so I can't be a fan of it. But looking at the gameplay videos and knowing the story of the series, I can definitely tell you that the reviewer is a dumbass. First of all, the game is a PREQUEL. Of course it's not going to be as colorful as Serious Sam 2. Sam hasn't gotten out of Egypt yet! Second of all, your complaint about the color scheme. Lemme see here: Catacombs: grey and black, with some mossy green. Wolfenstein: Grey and blue, with some reds. Doom: Grey and brown until the later levels, where it's mostly brown. Quake: Brown. Brown EVERYWHERE. Oh, and with a bit of lava, which is red. Duke Nukem 3D: Grey, brown, and red. And those don't bother me. Why? Because the setting of the game calls for those color schemes. Serious Sam 3? It's set in Egypt. Now what color is Egypt? It's certainly not all colors of the fucking rainbow that's for sure. I can respect opinions. But I can tell that this isn't a respectful opinion. It's a guy who didn't play every game in the series (From the sound of it you only played Serious Sam 2 WHICH FANS OF THE SERIES SAY IS THE WORST OUT OF THE OFFICIAL TRILOGY.) and didn't research this one.
  • MidianGTX - December 1, 2011 8:55 p.m.

    That's great, but it doesn't stop this game from looking boring as hell. The first two had such enjoyable environments and this... this is nothing.
  • Unoriginal - December 2, 2011 midnight

    Keast isn't reviewing Wolfenstein, Doom or Quake, he is reviewing this game and looking at the screenshots it looks bland as hell.
  • k1ng94 - December 2, 2011 3:27 a.m.

    Serious sam is meant to be crazy and ridiculous they don't have to stick to the typical desert scene. Just because they choose to set the game in the desert does not mean they get a free pass from not making interesting and colourful looking levels. Since when did a reviewer have to play every game in a series to review it? Especially when the game is a prequel and therefore the reviewer would not have miss out on any story. Sorry but the review was well written and enjoyable to read, from the way you act it seems like you only respect opinions if you share the same. Reviews are a single persons view on a game and therefore cannot be wrong unless they lie which I doubt many do.
  • Net_Bastard - December 11, 2011 12:19 p.m.

    This opinion was founded on a lack of research. Other opinions, even if I don't agree with them, are fine as long as they sound like reasearch was put into them. This review is the former. And no I don't think that a reviewer has to play every game in the series. But I do think that he should have played a different game than the one that fans of the series hated. And Unoriginal, he was comparing it to old school shooters, so yes it's completely justified to compare the color of SS3 to those games. Also, if he were to mess around with color options then he would have gotten his eyes assaulted with color. Shouldn't PC gamers root around in the settings anyway?
  • Iobham - December 1, 2011 7:57 p.m.

    " The ENTIRE game is a series of brown textures – sand, brick buildings, and so many brown Egyptian ruins that playing this game may make you forget there are any other colors in the rainbow (hey, brown’s in the rainbow, right?). Again, this is such a weird stylistic choice because Serious Sam is supposed to be the respite from “modern” shooters. It’s supposed to be an old-school throwback to when FPS games were about nonstop killing and endless circle-strafing or running-backward-and-strafing." You seem to think that the older shooters were rainbows too. Quake? Brown. Doom? Grimy in early levels then dirty (as in lots of dirt) when you get to hell. What does the graphical style have to do with the gameplay anyway? If a game had too many colours then it'd be too busy so you wouldn't be able to discern enemies from the environment.
  • shawksta - December 1, 2011 6:32 p.m.

    This is what happens when they take away special things that makes a game unique just to make it "Modern", GODDAMN IT, eh, atleast its got an "Epic final boss" and Multiplayer, but i would rather settle for a LARGER single player heavy game that you say got better. I might consider this.
  • LordAngus1992 - December 1, 2011 7:24 p.m.

    Except this isn't a modern game at all and has everything that makes a SS game an SS game.
  • McSpermie - December 1, 2011 6:23 p.m.

    A 6? I mean the game isn't worth $40 but it's a perfected version of Serious Sam.
  • shawksta - December 1, 2011 6:33 p.m.

    "Perfected" is a HUG Stretch, its got to have what made Serious Sam, Serious Sam, and by those standards, it took them away.
  • lazer59882 - December 1, 2011 7:50 p.m.

    you look like an idiot when the one word you capitalize and want people to focus on is spelled so horribly wrong. you mean "huge". HUG
  • thecakeisalie96 - December 1, 2011 9:15 p.m.

    you teh pwned him
  • shawksta - December 2, 2011 1:12 p.m.

    Dude, its a ONE letter mistake, get over it.

Showing 1-20 of 20 comments

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