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Reviewed: Serious Sam
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: February 12th, 2002
Page: 2

The point of Serious Sam is really the single player; while multiplayer has been in almost all FPS games since Doom, it's either an afterthought (and suffers thereby) or it's the point of the game, and the single player experience suffers. Very few games manage to make both work flawlessly, and they can be counted on the fingers of one hand, starting with the top three: Doom, Duke, and Halo.

Serious Sam, I'm sorry to say, doesn't have the same level of multiplayer fun that these games do, at least in its Xbox incarnation. The problem is twofold.

Graphically, Serious Sam suffers being split into four quadrants of a screen. The same rich environmental art that makes it fun to play, single-player, shrinks down to a busy screen that makes it hard to maneuver and spot enemies.

Control-wise, Serious Sam moves too darn fast for a control pad. Where on the PC gamers have a mouse (capable from moving point-to-point swiftly), joysticks work best with slightly more gradual changes. Running around at Doom-like running speeds, players can actually back up faster than the missile trying to reach them; point damage weapons like the shotgun are more effective, but the result is a multiplayer experience without good balance in the weapons, forcing twitch-style deathmatch. Not fun. But that's not the point of Serious Sam. 

The single-player setup of Serious Sam is where its strength lies, and it's the reason that this Xbox port can still garner four stars. The character portrayals of Sam are all there, starting with the opening scene; Sam faces down enemies, Sam chases enemies off with big guns, Sam runs away from an even bigger enemy yelling "Oh <bleep> Oh <bleep> Oh <Bleep>"... right past a garage door on which is printed "Duke is NOT dead" and into something resembling a Stargate. (It's actually a time portal). From that point on, kick butt and take names, while watching as Sam makes fun of pop culture.

The graphics of Serious Sam take a nice polishing on the Xbox, and the environments benefit greatly from the larger screen capability a TV has to offer most gamers, as well as the Xbox's surround sound capabilities. Weapons are reproduced faithfully, as are enemies. The HUD has taken a drastic redesign, of course, but it works extremely well, with comical menus that manage not to be obtrusive. 

For weaponry, Sam's arsenal is standard Doom-clone fare, complete with two different shotguns (single and double barrel), rocket launcher, and replacing the BFG, a cannon. Somewhat ludicrous given their size compared to Sam, but all in keeping with the fun spirit of the game. 

If you can manage to find a copy of both of the original PC titles, making the choice between those and the Xbox port is going to be slightly difficult, so try one general rule. If you want Sam's multiplayer acumen, go for the PC. If you intend to sit down with a bowl of popcorn and destroy aliens in your living room, grab the Xbox title and you won't be disappointed. 

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Added:  Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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