Serious Sam: The First Encounter (PC)
Release Date: March 21st, 2001
Genre: First Person Shooter - Sci-Fi
Posted: February 22nd, 2008
Last Updated: February 24th, 2008
Latest Release: 1.05
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Serious Sam: The First Encounter is a "highly traditional" first person shooter that takes place in Ancient Egypt where your job is to kill the alien infestation. I know, it doesn't really make sense, but I don't think it matters. Serious Sam is all about killing enemies, lots of enemies, lots and lots of enemies. When this game came out it set a benchmark level of how many enemies it could have on the screen at any given time; without too much performance lag. So in a sense, this game is a throwback to some of the earlier first person shooters like Doom because of the weird undeveloped story, and the amount of enemies you have to fight. There is a couple puzzles in the game, but they compare more to the Duke Nukem 3D puzzles like pushing some buttons, or finding some items to advance you in the levels.
I'd like to say that the game is fairly action packed because of all these enemies coming at you, but it can get a bit repetitive at times. I think they introduced all the monsters a little too soon because the last three or four levels do not have any new monsters (besides the boss) to lower the monotony level. This statement also doubles for the weaponry. Although the weaponry is fairly diverse, they introduced them too quickly. I think the thing that gets repetitive about the game is that you get to know a strategy for beating a certain monster, and then you just keep using it without little damage to your health. But the bad part about it is, it takes a really long time, especially when they keep throwing more and more of the same monster type at you in certain instances. The monsters themselves are pretty lack-luster, the animations are sometimes laughable and definitely clunky. There is a few exceptions; however, including the Sirian Werebull. This monster is quite nicely developed and the animations are really good, which makes me wonder why wasn't lots of other things? Including the model for Serious Sam himself, he seriously walks like a robot in the cut scenes and in online play. And what's with the gibs in this game? They are way too huge! The point of gibs are to make them indistinguishable as to what part of the body they are from, but when you put gibs in that are the entire size of your body, they just look weird.
The multiplayer in this game was set up with Gamespy allowing for a public server listing of all the servers. As of the posting date of this review (February 24th, 2008) there still exists a couple public servers that show low to moderate traffic. Online play is fairly bland and now is very dated in terms of netcode and internet play quality; however, Cooperative play can be very fun at times if you have the right group and everybody has decent internet. Considering the models in this game were not animated very good to begin with, they only look worse during online play. After the release of Serious Sam: The Second Encounter I am surprised that there is still servers for this game.
The Serious Engine is quite powerful at rendering very huge landscapes and distances. It's also quite good at maintaining projectiles at long distances. In many games a bullet/laser/rocket will just dissipate after awhile; however, in Serious Sam these things seem like they could travel forever into the sky or off into the horizon. There was only one point (during the first boss encounter) that I traveled to a distance that my bullets would no longer hit him. There was a few rendering issues shown here and here to do with the lighting system, but it's too be expected since this game is fairly old now and i'm running a modern video card.
Even though this is a more traditionalized first person shooter, they added something, that to me was very strange. NETRICSA (NEuro-TRonically Implanted Combat Situation Analyser) is a system that is "implanted in Sam's head". It's basically a menu that collects information about the level you are on, new enemies, new weapons, and hints about certain puzzles/situations. To me, it's a bit of a waste to have these huge write-ups and back story for all these monsters and levels since everything is so clearly laid out in the game. It may be also because I don't really care where the monsters are from and what they did because it's not realistic anyway to have a million of them i'm trying to kill in the game. This menu system is a little self-indulgent I think because it was like the developers were trying to add something to nothing to make it look like there was more thought put into it; basically it looks like an afterthought. I know i'm bringing up lots of negative stuff here, but in the end this game is pretty sweet and very fun and challenging at times. Overall it's a good first person shooter and a great testament to the oldskool shooters.
Maybe it's just me or did anybody see the resemblance of the Kleer Skeletons in this game and fast zombies in Half-Life 2? They are both fast, run and jump at you, and are the most annoying monster in both games!