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Serious Sam II

For the latest footage of Sam's adventures, download the movies at the bottom of this page.

Sometimes pictures don't just paint a thousand words, they ram them down your throat and slam your jaws shut.

Even before you started reading this, the sumptuous screenshot feast no doubt convinced you that Serious Sam II is a FPS you want to play. But avert your eyes from the glory of that new graphics engine just for a while; there's so much more to tell.

First of all, rest assured that this full sequel (developers Croteam consider Second Encounter as Serious Sam 1.5) is the same intellectually challenged massacre it always was. And, yes, that's a good thing.

Once again its just Sam against the world, a world made up of wave upon wave of gun-wielding orcs, huge mechanised spiders, headless screaming kamikazes and towering bosses.

More reassurance: as Croteam fired up an early level for us, a kind of Warcraft-style fantasy setting, it took about six seconds before a swarm of laser-packing robots fell out of a dropship and attacked.

Where were we? What were these sci-fi extras doing in a fantasy locale? There was no time to ponder such trivialities. In true Serious Sam style, the sequel is all about shoot first, shoot some more later.

Yet Croteam want to shake off the brainless blasting tag. They're even weaving-in a semblance of a plot this time around.

As Sam Stone, the testosterone-charged killing machine, it's your job to save the world. Original, no?

This is done by fighting through 24 levels each broken into seven distinct chapters. All are linked by a series of cutscenes where you are briefed by three rather charismatic wizards - Sam's new puppeteers.

Along with our hero's wiseguy quips, and the over-the-top plagues of enemies, it's the cutscenes that add grinning to the killing. Croteam hinted at a strong Monty Python influence and they weren't kidding.

As we watched Sam's briefing, complete with the death of a rather camp dragon pencil-sketched on the screen, we could have been watching Cleese and co at work. We chuckled accordingly and got ready to shoot more stuff.

Such scene setting might be lighthearted, but it's crucial when you consider that Serious Sam II will take us into the unknown. Unlike the Egypt and Aztec settings of the first game, the sequel will throw you into a completely fresh fantastical world in each episode.

We saw a tribal village, a military base, a giant sci-fi city and even a land-of-the-giants level where Sam is a midget among garden undergrowth.

Crucially, the gun-and-run theme is varied by primary and secondary objectives on every level. Tasks like 'protect the VIP' never get in the way of the violence - there's just an aim to your maiming this time.

While Sam's on a mission, the hordes that litter his path have wised up. The waves of fodder are still out there but we quickly learned that the masses are far less keen to get in front of our cannon.

There is strategy at work here as enemies hang back to pick us off at range; close in to maul us melee style, and even circle around us to a flanking position.

So imagine our relief when the headless suicide bombers pegged straight at us, bombs now placed firmly on their shoulders. Imagine the warm feeling of nostalgia as their familiar, fast-approaching screams strummed our nerve endings like a crazed jazz guitarist.

With more flying foes than ever, we'll have to watch the skies as well as the horizon, particularly when dropships and attack helicopters are commonplace.

There will be 10 vehicles in all, including a motorbike, a rolling wrecking ball and even a surfboard. Sam can use most of the transport too, as well as having it used against him.

The same is true of the turrets sprinkled about the killing fields. The twirling guns come in automated or manually controlled flavours, and Sam can either destroy this new artillery or turn it on his enemies.

Even without heavy weaponry, Sam has the hardware to wreak havoc amid the new beasts. Croteam hint at 14 new weapons including a railgun, a plasma rifle and Uzis, most of which can be combined for dual wielding.

Other weapons are just thrown in for kicks. The Klodrik Bird bomb being a prime example - a giant parrot-like bird that can be released to drop a bomb on enemies before fluttering back to its perch.

Then there are the entertaining new power-ups. Our favourite so far switches nearby enemies into disco mode: triggering a Travolta-style spasm, the baddies' dancing feet just begging for a well-aimed rocket.

At first, such an arsenal made us feel confident that we could cope with all that SS2 threw our way. And then Croteam started spilling the beans on the bosses.

Five end-of-level titans are planned, with talk of Qwongo, a 200-metre King Kong wanabee, and Prince Chang, a hulking opera-singing Sumo wrestler who will literally throw monsters your way. Croteam are billing them as their biggest, meanest creations yet, but they're keeping them shackled in the vaults for now.

Imagine such gargantuan encounters, wrapped in the bump-mapped sheen of the new Serious engine, complete with realtime physics that could have Valve wincing. Then scan the screenshots that lavish this page and realise that it's coming your way. Sit down and take a deep breath, the bodycount begins soon.

Serious Sam II will be released for PC and Xbox in the autumn

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