Serious Sam 3: Hands-On Preview

Resolutely retro Serious Sam 3: BFE combines destructible environments with chaotic old-school fragging.

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If Duke Nukem Forever didn't scratch your itch for a willfully old-school fragfest, keep an eye on Serious Sam 3: BFE (Before First Encounter), the prequel to the original 2001 Serious Sam game. "Unrealistic combat in realistic environments" is developer Croteam's mantra which, in our hands-on with the game, amounts to hordes of Serious Sam's customary exotic baddies and weapons in destructible environments that aim, with varying degrees of success, at high visual fidelity--and not a cover system in sight.

Blood on the sand.
Blood on the sand.

Though we're told the destructibility will be extensive in the finished game, it's limited when we play to certain structures in some ancient Egyptian ruins and around a desert oasis, set among dunes and sandstorms. Here we bowl over free-standing pillars and sections of wall with charged cannonballs; they crumble into stone chunks with minimal resistance. Besides the cannon, Sam is packing the familiar heavy weapons, such as the minigun, and a whiplike energy leash. The latter resembles Bulletstorm's leash but functions differently: it can be used to harness an enemy (or multiple enemies) and then slice through them like a laser cheese wire.

The enemies are typically plentiful, including familiar faces such as the skeletal horse, the hulking Sirian werebull, and the beheaded kamikaze (the shirtless, headless guy with a cartoon-style bomb in each hand). Comically gruesome one-hit melee kills, featuring eyeball extractions and decapitations, add to the fragging-generated gore. The visuals mix outlandish enemy designs with realistic or semirealistic settings (there's also a ruined modern city in the Gamescom demo). Though Serious Sam 3's looks wouldn't stack up against the gritty high-fidelity of a big-name military shooter, that's hardly the point, and there's the odd nice visual touch too--the oasis's water effects, for instance.

Look out for Serious Sam 3: BFE on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 in October.

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