Serious Sam 3: BFE hands-on preview

At times, it feels as though Serious Sam 3: BFE was developed in an alternate universe—one where video games’ mechanics remained stagnant as visual presentation improved. It looks as good as any other modern shooter, but there’s no cover, there’s no regenerating health, and you’ll occasionally see 50 screaming, shirtless, headless men running at you with bombs for hands. That’s just a thing that will happen from time to time.

It’s a brand of old-school arcade shooting fun that we rarely get to experience any more, and it’s great to see a game wear its retro badge of honor so proudly on its incredibly well-rendered sleeve. We’ve quantum-leapt through a few levels of a preview build, playing through some of the early and late sections of the Egyptian-themed areas, and despite being unfinished and spotty in parts, our only regret was not being able to immediately jump into 16-player cooperative online play, because that sounds to die for.

Serious Sam 3: BFE is just plain fun. The first level started off slow and remarkably tame for Serious Sam, equipping us with only a sledgehammer. We thought it was strange at first, considering Sam’s penchant for towing an armory of powerful weapons at all times, but after turning baddies to pulp with the massive hammer (and learning that we could spin around in circles with it) we stopped caring. Heck, by the time we found a pistol we’d fallen so in love with the hammer that we looked for excuses to use it. Luckily, we found them in spades, as there was never a shortage of heads that needed bashing in.

The other levels were much more traditional in their scale. We fought off dozens of enemies at a time that were charging at us from every direction. The aforementioned suicide bombers would come in waves, followed by elephant-sized bull creatures and large mechs. Sometimes there would be aliens that shot slow-moving ammunition, and other times similar-looking foes would carry traditional machine guns. After taking down one group of enemies another would spawn. We’d blast some away with a shotgun, switch to a rocket launcher to blow up the larger foes, and then swap to melee for select enemies we didn’t feel like wasting ammo on.

Cover? We didn’t need it. Regenerating health? An amenity we didn’t miss. Subtlety? We traded it in for a rocket launcher and more shotguns than we knew what to do with. We ran through the desert and blasted apart bad guys, squealing with joy when a new type would charge us. We didn’t stop to wonder why, or what the political structure of the aliens might be. This isn’t Halo. It’s Serious Sam. There are skeleton monsters and armored scorpions because of course there are.

Above: Before

Above: After

It’s bloody, brutal, anarchistic mayhem, weaved together with incredibly tight shooting and plentiful enemy variety. Plot details were scarce in the preview build, but we really didn’t care. The cinematics weren’t in place, but we were missing the 16-player co-op more. It’s not gunning to replace any of the Battlefields or Modern Warfares this holiday season, and we’re totally okay with that. We’re still really excited, and really hope that everything else in Serious Sam 3 is as awesome as the three levels we played.

Aug 18, 2011

Hollander Cooper

Hollander Cooper was the Lead Features Editor of GamesRadar+ between 2011 and 2014. After that lengthy stint managing GR's editorial calendar he moved behind the curtain and into the video game industry itself, working as social media manager for EA and as a communications lead at Riot Games. Hollander is currently stationed at Apple as an organic social lead for the App Store and Apple Arcade.