My history with the Serious Sam series goes back to when the first game was released on PC in 2001. I’ve been waiting for the Serious Sam Collection to be released on the PS4 for a few years. After digging into the games, does this new release live up to the hype, or is it better for me to have never taken off the rose-tinted glasses?
The Serious Sam Collection is composed of three games and two pieces of DLC. We have Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter, Serious Sam 3: BFE, and The Legend of the Beast and Jewel of the Nile expansions. Like the Ron Jeremy of re-releases, it’s packing a lot.
The main character, Sam “Serious” Stone, is the Doomguy’s redneck cousin who shows up in an old pickup truck full of whiskey and fireworks, promising a fun evening. He drops funny one-liners like an 80s action star and mostly delivers on that promise.
The first two games are very similar. Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter sends Earth’s mightiest alien defender back to ancient Egypt to take out the forces of evil. Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter takes its inspiration from Central America. Both games have minimal story and will have you running through temples and large arenas, but the second game has a lot more greenery with a few upgrades such as additional weapons. It also slows the game down while you switch weapons. I appreciated this, but the switching mechanic should be faster and easier when you have forty enemies coming at you.
The gameplay is where you’ll fall in love or run away screaming. Playing in either first or third-person, this is an arcade shooter that forces you to strafe and shoot a screenful of baddies at a time. The first two games provide you some tight spaces inside, but the outdoor arenas stretch out to give you plenty of maneuvering room. Enemies will teleport into a level in front and behind you, and the only way to stay alive is to keep moving and shooting constantly.
After all these years, it’s still really exciting to play through these levels, even if my skill isn’t what I remember it was. The difficulty settings range from game journalist (I’m only kidding) to Mental, so you can fine-tune your level of challenge.
Serious Sam: BFE is a big departure from the other two, and I’m a little conflicted about it. It has an actual story with mission objectives and other characters, and Sam talks a lot more which I didn’t always like. It adds a reload mechanic that feels very unnecessary after the other games. When playing in third-person, the melee mechanic looks clunky and slow.
On the other hand, it’s also a much better looking and sounding game, and the new structure gives you more purpose. The overall feel of the game is still good after the beginning, and you still have the open arenas with huge fights, explosions of gore, and just general explosions that I love from the first two games and series in general.
All three games look pretty good. I played on the PS5, and these games look better now than they did on my old PC. I wish I ran as well now as these games do too, but there’s no software update for getting older. On the PS4, there is a small dip in visual quality, and the load times are slightly longer. Load times on either console are still very good, and it gets you into the action quickly. If you want to play this, don’t worry about waiting for a PS5.
The sound still feels like the old sounds and not much has been done to change them up. In this case, I’m glad for that. I want the older sound effects. The music still swells for combat and fades into the background between fights with musical influences for the first two games taken from the Egyptian and Central American environments. Heavy rock riffs dominate the third game, and that’s not bad either.
As a package, the Serious Sam Collection is excellent. It keeps the magic of the original games intact while making them run better than ever on consoles. The first two games will always have a special mix of gameplay mayhem that speaks to me, but the third game grows on you and is arguably better. If you’ve never played them, you’re in for a treat, and, if you’re a returning fan, it’s all the fun you remember and more, even if your reaction times aren’t what they used to be.
Serious Sam Collection PS5, PS4 Review
Game title: Serious Sam Collection
Game description: Shooter, action-adventure
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
The Serious Sam Collection is a great chance for fans of the series to relive the explosive and fast-paced gameplay offered by the series. The first and second games are absolute classics, while the changes on the third game may take some adjustment. It runs well, and it manages to prove that great gameplay is still great almost twenty years later.
- The stripped-down shoot-everything-that-moves gameplay is fantastic
- Visuals are improved without changing the feel or sound
- Not having to pull out an old console or go to PC to replay these games is great
- The third game grows on you, but some of the changes don’t make it better.
- Switching weapons can be slow and unwieldy
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Reviewed using PS5.