Serious Sam II review

Wham, bang, thank you Sam - Xbox World 360 gets in on the action

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All these so-called 'authentic' war-themed shooters are fine and all that.

But when a member of your family has been dodging real bullets and real grenades on the streets of Basra and has seen men in their troop stretchered into the medical tent with limbs missing and faces burnt beyond all recognition, your appetite for shooting virtual Arabs/Vietnamese/Germans/Japanese does tend to disappear a bit.

Not that the likes of Brothers in Arms and the Conflict series aren't decent videogames, but in the circumstances family Nellis finds itself in, it seems a trifle, well, tasteless to be really enjoying them.

So, step forward breezeblock-jawed hero Sam for a second Xbox outing.

With a stash of noisy whack-ass weapons and vehicles, a ridiculous plot that's so thin you could stick a frock on it and call it Kate Moss, and little more to do than frag your way through a near endless succession of ludicrously designed but grin-worthy enemies, Sam is the perfect antidote to the mass slaughter of your virtual fellow men and won't give you morality-induced headaches.

What Sam will give you is hours of top arcade blasting fun. In spades (Sam Spades, then. Ho!).

In a similar fashion to the Naked Gun movies, the game seeks to parody the oh-so-sombre business of the first-person shooter. For example there's a well-spoken blue lady who pops up on your HUD and acts as a guide of sorts.

It's Cortana in all but name, and Sam's plasma pistol unashamedly apes the Needler. The game is littered with FPS in-jokes and occasionally tittersome banter and one-liners.

Likewise, the themes of the vast environments where all the action takes place incorporate every single videogame cliche there ever was - but as they're so pleasingly detailed and proficiently rendered, you can forgive them nearly anything.

The formula here is as simple as you like. If it moves, shoot it. Unless it's one of the small friendly creatures that you're charged with helping out during your quest to find the six pieces of the magical medallion that... Hell, you really don't need to know about the story. No, it's all about the shooting.

On the face of it this is a ready-aim-fire no-brainer but there is actually a fair degree of tactical thinking required, particularly as you get deeper into the game and things get progressively tougher (ie, there's a shedload more enemies to face).

Tactical thinking? Yes, thanks to the sheer variety and number of enemies on the battlefield at any time you'll need to make quick-fire decisions as to what you waste your ammo on.

During any one scrap you're likely to face a horde of 'charging' enemies (clockwork rhinos, Bloodbowl-style American Footballers, three-headed flaming hounds and so on).

And they are all supported by a squadron of flying enemies (choppers, witches on broomsticks, Orc-carrying gyrocopters... the usual) and they're backed up by some heavy ordnance and weaker ground troops, such as the brilliant Zombie Stockbrokers.

Then of course you'll face an end of chapter boss...

It's relentless stuff. You quickly realise that as soon as you pick up a large chunk of health, ammo or armour or hit an objective point it's all going to kick off big time.

Sure, it's the same deal throughout the game - unless you scout around for the secrets and bonuses ("Sweet joy, here's the Secret Ninja Chicken hiding behind some crates").

But with even the weedier guns feeling good in your paws and a diverse array of terrain to smash through (nearly everything can be blown up, from trees to pagodas), you're never going to get bored. Unless you don't like shooters. Which is wrong.

High scores for each and every level can be uploaded to Live rankings tables, so once you've caned the game you can go back to any of the 42 levels and try and improve your points haul.

Plus, there's full online and system link co-op play for up to four players - but as yet no Deathmatch or CTF modes, although there may be a patch forthcoming.

While it doesn't ever reach the graphical excellence of Halo or Doom 3, this is arcade gaming at its very, very purest.

Serious Sam II is out for Xbox and PC now

More info

DescriptionSerious Sam is a .50 caliber barrel full of laughs. Jam packed with ludicrous weapons and relentless hell-beasts, this FPS blast is anything but serious.
US censor rating"Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"",""
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)