PC Review: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

Seriously, how good is this?

Amazingly, Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter is my first time playing a game in the series. The First Encounter follows Serious Sam as he goes back in time to alter history and stop an alien race from almost wiping out humanity. As epic as the story sounds…it really isn’t at all important to the game and serves as more of an excuse to blast aliens into dust. Sam isn’t as serious as his name suggests and the game feels more of a comedy at times with his one-liners.
The game is nothing more than a HD remake of the original, visuals are improved and it does look pretty…apart from a few areas where you can see enemies spawning awkwardly and death animations tend to repeat a lot. If you have played the original, you’ll know what to expect…hidden areas, tons of enemies and weapons and so on. It can be completed in a few hours, but you can play co-op with other players…which makes the game MUCH easier, but also shorter as a result.

There’s a nice variety of locations and weapons to find, I personally prefer the minigun…but the great thing is that there’s enough weapons to please almost everyone. The remake also includes achievements, which is confusing to me since the game doesn’t support Games for Windows Live, so there’s no way to link the achievements to your gamercard. It seems pointless, really.

The First Encounter feels like an old style arcade FPS like Doom but with a comedy twist. It’s silly and the story is unimportant, but that’s part of the appeal. The problem is that after a while the game becomes a tad repetitive, you’ll see the same enemies and know what to expect…essentially the game shoves waves of enemies at you before you can continue through the level. Seeing the amount of them on-screen is impressive and the framerate never suffers.
I guess when I completed the game I was a bit relieved…it may have seemed short, but I think a few more levels would have hurt the overall experience. It would have been nice to have some multiplayer component, but apparently that will be included in the HD remake of The Second Encounter which has just been announced.

Co-op play works like a dream, players can drop in and out of games with ease. I wonder if the XBLA version will work as seamlessly. I can’t wait to see if the console version can match the PC remake and I’m sure you can’t either. If there’s one major problem, it’s that the gameplay is dated when compared to today’s shooters and with the amount of great FPS’ this year, can you imagine anyone choosing Serious Sam HD over the likes of MW2 and Borderlands?

Visually, the remake is solid. Textures are improved, enemies look better…but the animations let the performance down. The game can look a bit odd when playing co-op and looking at your team-mates move around. Voice-acting from Serious Sam is a mixed bag, but funny nonetheless. It is impressive that the game can run smoothly with loads of enemies charging at you and the locations look good…although after a while, it all begins to look familiar.

The Verdict

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter was my own first encounter with the series and I was impressed. It’s got that classic FPS feel to it that’s lacking from today’s more realistic shooters and it has a funny side to it that makes it stand out, perhaps not so much that it’ll stop you playing the better FPS’ of 2009, but this HD remake is at least worth a look…