Welcome back Sam Stone, this time I see you brought friends and are looking for the Holy Grail. Yup, that makes sense. Serious Sam 4 opens to a massive battle with Sam charging forward into the oncoming hordes of aliens. It immediately brings forth those old feelings from the previous games. If you are familiar at all with the various enemies Sam has encountered before, they are all there on the battlefield ready to overwhelm you. As I sprayed weapons fire out against unwinnable odds, even though it has been almost ten years since the last game released, this just felt right. This is our Serious Sam 4 review.
I can’t overstate how that old feeling hit home with me playing Serious Sam 4. While there are new elements to the game Croteam has managed to keep the good feels of what came before intact. The banter between Sam and his friends is priceless at times, and you really grow to like Kenny as the game progresses. There were many times I found myself laughing at one particular quip or a one-liner. While a few did fall flat, the developers have done a good job of calling attention to the rotten jokes by having characters verbalize that it was a horrible attempt… usually then following up with a decent one.
The Humor in the game is great overall. Most of the jokes land well even if a bit cheezy at times, but hey, it wouldn’t be Serious Sam otherwise. As I mentioned before, the banter between all the characters is great. Each one has some funny come back lines and one-liners. This helps illustrate how tight-nit this group of friends/compatriots are and you get to know each of the various characters a bit more. Sam is well, Sam. He always has something to say and is ready to back it up with gunfire.
Gunplay is what you expect for a Serious Sam game. Fast-paced, hectic, and your favorite weapon is always almost out of ammo. I liked how each of the weapons may not have an alternate fire mode when you pick it up for the first time, but as you progress through the game, certain weapons unlock new modes when you find attachments. The two I have enjoyed the most so far are the grenade launcher attachment for the single barrel shotgun and the rocket launcher with the option to fire multiple rockets at the same time.
All your favorite enemies are back and in greater numbers. The fights are also still as crazy as in the previous games. Danger can spawn behind you, around corners, and in the sky. Thankfully Sam has gotten used to this by now and gives out some helpful warnings early on for anyone not familiar with his style of games. On the plus side, your arsenal includes the rocket-powered guided chainsaw, so eventually mowing through the hordes is at least a bit easier… until you inevitably run out of ammo. I will say that the boss fights have been fun so far and over the top, between a gigantic metal flying snake and a giant walking crab creature there have been very few dull moments. Do make sure to keep an eye out for hidden secrets though, they are easy to miss and even spawn at least one unique bull boss in the first level.
The core mechanics of Serious Sam 4 has not changed when compared to the other games in the series. Walk into area X or touch/pick up X, enemies will spawn, strafe/backpedal/jump while constantly firing in the hopes that you survive. If you are playing with friends, listen to yourself and them yell/scream/shout over voice chat as you are overwhelmed by enemies, and watch gleefully as one or more players get gibbed when they are caught in a corner… because it is going to happen at some point.
That is not to say there have not been improvements/additions. Sam now has traits he can pick up by inhaling dust from the Sirian Artefacts of Might. You can choose which branch to follow for upgrades, one will allow you to quickly pick up small amounts of resources occasionally dropped from enemies, improve your weapon handling, and allow you too dual wield. The other route improves your melee attacks, letting you ride certain larger enemies when they are stunned, and killing some of the more annoying enemies in one shot, vampire… I hate those vampires so much. A great thing about the system is that you can simply hold down the mouse button over a purchased trait to remove it and then spend the point again right away. Meaning no locked in builds, very nicely done Croteam.
Gadgets are also another item you can grab along the way. They include everything from mobile decoys to life injectors. I will be honest, I didn’t have much time to play with all of them yet. I have been to busy just holding down the fire button in most fights to swap over to a given gadget without dying. Though, the mini-nuke has come in very handy on a few occasions.
One of the other highlights for me so far has also been the vehicles. Mech combat, while limited, is smooth and fun. You really feel powerful while stomping around firing rockets and spraying cannon fire constantly. But you have not experienced true joy until you get to ride large farm equipment into multiple oncoming waves of alien invaders.
Co-op play is one area where the Serious Sam games shine, and it is no different in the Serious Sam 4. Each player can pick up the same gear. It doesn’t despawn if your buddy picks up armor or health on normal difficulty, and coordinating to flank enemies or quickly changing tactics because your friend has gotten themselves into a bind is a blast, even if you are a bit to slow to save them and have to watch the spray of gore from their death. Thankfully, you and your friends can respawn. So many memories of late nights with friends playing the earlier games, this brought them all back. One of our other writers, Chris, had a chance to jump into co-op with me as a brand new player to Serious Sam 4.
Chris Bowman’s Thoughts
Serious Sam is a game series that I have never tried before, but when we were offered two codes to test out the co-op mode, how could I turn down this chance with Serious Sam 4. From the first seconds of cut scenes to the minute I was killed by a giant flying snake in the sky, I was hooked. The music and mayhem mesh very well together and make it feel like a title that I wanted to play. I do have to say as a man who loves a good one-liner Serious Sam is full of them, and I was rolling the entire time I was playing. I see this as a title that I will finish all the way through and have a lot of fun with it.
I realize that it may sound like I am looking at the game with rose-colored glasses, and I will admit that it is partly true, not everything with Serious Sam 4 is a great experience. I am not certain if some of the following issues were left in by design because I can remember a few of them being present in previous games as well. While it did bring back a few fond memories, they still can be a bit glaring to come across in the middle of a firefight.
Enemies can bug once in a while and get caught on parts of the terrain, most commonly the bulls can get stuck on trees, or smaller enemies get stuck at corners. The human character models don’t look quite right in comparison to some of the enemy models, though they are still very appropriate for the Serious Sam universe. The levels tend to be quite linear with the occasional side missions for a new gadget, but these side quests are pretty short. Ammo can feel lacking in the early levels for everything but the shotgun. It was disappointing being relegated to using it most of the time after you get access to other weapons like the assault rifle. I also ran into a bug when trying to reload saves in Chapter 12 – In Carcassonne, where the game could not open a file called Dictaphone.ep, it affected all my saves in that chapter. Thankfully restarting the chapter seems to have fixed the issue.
Serious Sam 4 is an amazing game and a great return of a classic series after almost 10 years, especially if you love the previous entries. It stays true to its roots while still adding in some additional mechanics on top to mix things up and keep it interesting. If you like taking the fight to the alien invaders, then go out and grab this game. While it is a lot of fun solo, make sure to play it with a few friends if you get the chance. The game doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, but it does put a focus on just having fun. There are a few bugs you will notice that can take you out of the moment, but they will not ruin your overall enjoyment. Also, if you are the type of player who wants to find all the secrets, play all the difficulty levels, or try to beat your best time on a map, then there is a lot of replay value. Now, if you will excuse me, it is time to go hand out some more bullets.
COMPARE TO: Doom Eternal, Hellbound
A PC game key was provided for the purpose of review.