Today we are going to take a look at Serious Sam 4. This new installment of a classic shooter franchise promises high-power action with tons of inside jokes and cool catchphrases. Whether it can deliver on its promise is the question we will try to answer today. Serious Sam 4 is available on Steam for 39 Euro and 99 cents or your regional equivalent.
With this review you have a choice of either reading it here in text form or listening to the video review. They both contain the same content.
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Sam “Serious” Stone never was as big of a star as Duke Nukem or the Doomguy. But he always had a special spot in my heart because of his honesty. He never pretended to care about the story all he did was massacre strange alien beings while spewing out cool catchphrases. At least until Serious Sam 3, where things changed. And sadly, in Serious Sam 4 it seems the unfortunate approach continues.
So, now, maybe I’m getting a lot of confused and perhaps even angry looks from you guys. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Serious Sam 3 was not a good game. Croteam just took the assets they made for Doom 4 – which they wanted to develop – and added some generic brown levels. It took until the middle of Serious Sam 3 for the original arena-like gameplay finally returned but it still felt just wrong.
But that was back in 2011. Croteam started working on Serious Sam 4 shortly after and all finally looked good again. But then Sam was sacrificed and the maps originally created just for him were transformed by adding puzzle and a storyline as the Talos Principle was born. And Talos Principle was a great game. But it just feels like even Croteam was surprised how big of a hit it was and it influenced them even in the creation of Serious Sam 4.
The one thing that makes Serious Sam 4 not an easy thing to recommend are the performance issues. Though a lot of them have been patched out and the game is now mostly playable, those who bought the game early got really screwed. It felt more like playing a beta version. Constant frame-drops. Missing textures. Getting randomly stuck. And this is not the end of the things I encountered. And while I have seen a ton of bugs I haven’t really seen that much improvement on the graphical side of things since the 9-year-old Serious Sam 3.
And this is only the start of my complaints. If you played the Talos Principle you might have a bit of a déjà vu. But there is no flaw in the matrix as truthfully, a ton of the textures and models were re-used from the Talos Principle. If this was a hidden easter-egg in one of the levels it would be amazing, but this is not the case. Since it feels like things have been reused more than not I can’t feel in any other way than as if the developers were too lazy to create new assets.
Croatian Eurotrip Remake
Rome, Pompeii, Vatican… These sound like great places to visit in a game – on paper. But when you play the game you will see that it’s just the same re-skinned blocks of houses or green without any creativity. But Serious Sam was never about complex expensive maps. But what it used to do well was style. And even the style is lacking in Serious Sam 4.
The story is added, but honestly, if you play Serious Sam for the story, there is something wrong with you. The only thing I think is worth mentioning is that this is not a prequel. It is a pre-prequel. And yes, I know that is not a word but Serious Sam 4 forces me to invent it. The only thing “story-wise” you should care about are the cool catchphrases and if you like cheesy ones then Sam has plenty of them for you.
”Serious” Dance School
But here’s the twist. While, yeah… there is a lot wrong with Serious Sam 4 I actually enjoyed playing it. If you got the game above 60 FPS if you waited for the patches and skip over anything that resembles a story you will finally get something good. The gameplay. The weapons. Hordes of enemies to slaughter. Constant movement. All the good stuff that made arena-like shooters so great and still makes them great.
There are new types of enemies added some quite interesting and fun to fight. The humanoid Processed are still just flies you swat but the zealots with giant hammers, snipers, or vampires that shoot ghosts (who makes this stuff up has to take a lot of drugs, seriously) can certainly make the game interesting for you especially when you add in the well-known kamikazes and sprinting skeletons. Luckily, Sam is not defenseless and after a bit of time, you will learn to know what enemies are coming based purely on their spawning sound. And that makes you realize it's time to switch tempo – or weapons in this particular case.
When it comes to the weapons, the classics return. Shotgun, rocket-launcher, cannon, machine gun. But a few new things want to see whether you will enjoy them. First, you need to make some bag-space for gadgets. These one-time-use thingies are mostly gotten through side-quests and hidden-rooms and include things like health-pickups, Sam’s hologram that lures enemies away from you to a time-slowing grenade or a pocket black hole.
Then there’s the obviously needed in the current state of the gaming world leveling system for your weapons. These are also available through side-quests. But these are much less exciting than the gadgets but you really don’t need your grenade-launcher addon for the shotgun to shoot nukes to find its use. The same goes for all the other upgrades. They are there just because gamers nowadays expect them to be there. Yet, while somewhat boring, you will learn to use them quite quickly.
The Hidden Mysteries
So you heard me talking about side-quests but don’t expect them to be like the super-expensive-hours-of-gameplay quests in RPGs. Remember, this is an arena-like shooter game. So, sometimes a blue marker will jump at you telling you to take this extremely obvious branch in the road because something cool might be hiding there. So, obviously, you will go there, kill more bad guys and get your reward.
What I did love were the hidden rooms. These felt more like the side-quests than the side-quests themselves and easily made me look through every corner of every room so I wouldn’t miss an optional boss or some great easter-egg. Be sure to look for them because they are the real fun.
So… in conclusion: I waited for Serious Sam for 9 long years. It’s been a long time and my hopes might have been a bit too high, especially with how Wolfenstein and Doom managed to return. So, no matter how good Serious Sam 4 is, I would still find flaws in it.
But still, I am disappointed. Croteam failed on one of the two most important things that needed to be perfect when creating a game. The performance. The bugs were just too much when I got the game. And it’s great that I found a fun core-gameplay loop underneath it all but it should just not have been the cause that I had to suffer through the bugs.
So… should you get Serious Sam 4? At this point, yeah. It’s a great fun shooter if you know you are just looking for the shooting. Most of the bugs have been patched out and the game is now playable. But if this happens again I will not be recommending Serious Sam 5, because games need to work well on launch!
So, that’s it for today guys. I hope you liked the review and if you did, please up-vote the review, follow my blog, and be sure to share it with your friends. And comment, if you have anything you would like to add. See you guys later with more gaming content.