Hands-onSerious Sam

We check out the latest build of the Xbox version of Croteam's first-person shooter.

When it was originally released on the PC, Serious Sam received high praise--including GameSpot's PC game of the year award for 2001--because it was one of the first full 3D first-person shooters to mimic the essence of Doom, giving you the feeling that you were truly a one-man wrecking crew taking on wave after wave of aliens. Its sequel, Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, built upon what made the first game so popular but also showcased Croteam's level-designing capabilities with environments and situations that you would normally see in a 2D console platformer. Just about every aspect of these two games remains completely intact in the Xbox version of Serious Sam, which actually includes both games, but naturally, Croteam has made some changes to take advantage of the Xbox's technical capabilities and to make its shooter a little more console friendly.

A variety of changes have been made to the visual aspects of Serious Sam, the most noticeable of which is Sam's character model. Instead of the relatively scrawny character featured in the PC version of the game, Sam looks more like Duke Nukem. In addition, many of the weapon models have been completely reworked and appear a little more detailed than their PC counterparts. The Xbox version of Serious Sam also retains the high texture detail and incredible draw distance of the PC version, allowing you to see objects and enemies far off into the distance, but more importantly, dozens of enemies are still thrown at you in a single moment, and there seems to be little to no effect on the frame rate.

While you'll be busy fighting off these hordes of enemies for a majority of the game, Serious Sam also encourages you to explore its enormous environments by rewarding you with hidden ammunition and weapons that you'll almost always need or a little taste of Croteam's humor. For example, in the first set of missions, you can discover a pyramid of crates--the mainstay of any first-person shooter--or a small disco room devoted to development team members. In any case, you'll find yourself straying off the main path quite often, though enemies will still chase after you.

Enemy character design is another aspect of Serious Sam that makes it stand out from other first-person shooters. One of the more relentless enemies in Serious Sam is the headless bomber who runs at you full speed while yelling and who won't give up until his bombs have detonated. Most of the enemies in Serious Sam (such as the pumpkin-head chain-saw-wielding enemies, the gold-colored bulls, or the skeleton horselike creatures) will constantly chase after you, forcing you to move into a routine of sidestepping and shooting. Imagine seeing wave after wave of these enemies running down a steep slope directly toward you, like a scene out of The Lion King--needless to say, it gets your adrenaline pumping. Of course, there are other enemies that aren't quite as agile as those enemies but pack even more firepower, like the bi-pedal biomechanical robots or the machine gun-equipped half-human scorpions.

You'll have plenty of different weapons to take on all these enemies. The knife and the chain saw (which is now available in the original Serious Sam missions and not just The Second Encounter missions) are useful against the weaker enemies, such as basic soldiers and the poison frogs, which always attack in enormous groups. You'll probably use the pistol against the suicide bombers, since the pistols are generally faster and more accurate than most of the other weapons. Both the pump-action and double-barrel shotguns will become your primary weapons over the course of the game since they're strong enough to take out most enemies in a few shots, and they have enough accuracy to hit an enemy at a reasonable distance. The Tommy gun, chaingun, and the rapid-fire laser gun are all useful when you're being overwhelmed, but since they have such a high rate of fire, you'll run out of ammunition rather quickly. There are a few high-powered weapons in the game as well, including a rocket launcher, a grenade launcher, and a cannon, which can turn Serious Sam into a minigame of bowling since the cannonballs will roll right through some of the weaker enemies in the game and won't detonate until a few seconds later. Lastly, there is the sniper rifle and the flamethrower, two weapons that are only available in the Second Encounter missions.

The Xbox version of Serious Sam won't have support for Xbox Live, because the team didn't feel it had enough time to incorporate it into the game, but Serious Sam for the Xbox will have cooperative and deathmatch multiplayer modes via split screen or system link. In addition, these modes (as well as the single-player mode) will feature three new characters to choose from, including Serious Sammy, Serious Sam's female counterpart. Otherwise, it looks like Croteam has successfully ported all of what makes Serious Sam so enjoyable on the PC to the Xbox. We'll have more on the game as it approaches its November release.

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Serious Sam

Serious Sam