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PS2 Review - 'Serious Sam: Next Encounter'

by Agustin on May 5, 2004 @ 1:38 a.m. PDT

Serious Sam: Next Encounter finds Sam gearing up once again to defend the Earth from Mental and his limitless extra-terrestrial hordes. Sam is launched back in time to rid the alien scum from more than 40 levels spread throughout three beautifully rendered, massive new time periods – Ancient Rome, Feudal China and legendary Atlantis.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Global Star Software
Developer: Climax
Release Date: April 12, 2004

Buy 'SERIOUS SAM: Next Encounter': PlayStation 2

Croteam’s Serious Sam series has seen a few releases on both the PC and Xbox platforms over the past few years, each a charming, simplistic take on the first person shooter formula. While not as technically complex as most other first person shooters available, the Serious Sam games’ focus on simply running and gunning down massive hordes of ridiculous enemies was a refreshing nod to the FPS games of old. Sometimes it’s a good thing to sit back and wipe out hordes of baddies. The release of Next Encounter marks the first time the Serious Sam series has seen a release on the Playstation 2 and Gamecube. Before you get excited, you must realize that this game was not developed by Croteam, which leaves it without much of the charm and polish that the previous games in the series always maintained. It looks kind of like Serious Sam. It feels kind of like Serious Sam. But it definitely is not.

Serious Sam games aren’t known for their storytelling value. An abandoned mother ship is sending strange signals from the past, and only Serious Sam can travel to the past to investigate, and battle the forces of… right, right, you kill masses of things and that’s about all you need to know. The important information is: you’ll be traveling though a series of levels with two basic design ideas put to use – corridors and large open spaces. Each level has a different theme, whether it is Atlantis, Rome, etc. The action is fast and frantic, very arcade-inspired. Next Encounter expands on the standard action fare by adding a combo system. If you kill a large amount of enemies in a short amount of time, Sam will become supercharged and start moving and shooting at an accelerated speed for about 10 seconds.

There are a few instances where the game will throw a vehicular-inclined or puzzle-filled stage at you, but these are few and far in between; mostly, Next Encounter will throw monsters at you. Hundreds of thousands of monsters. Usually, it works like this: you walk into a huge, open area. All exits close themselves up, enemies begin spawning all over the place, and Sam won’t be able to set foot outside of this area until all of the enemies have been eliminated. On average, these occasions will last for upwards of 10 minutes. The levels aren’t as well-designed as those in the previous Serious Sam games - blame it on the absence of Croteam - but they do serve their purpose well enough. They just lack the aforementioned charm and polish of Croteam’s work. What’s missing in Next Encounter is the extreme challenge presented by the other Serious Sam games. The past games have been all about putting the player through a series of near misses – just barely dodging enemies that would have killed you instantly, firing blindly and managing to take out an enemy you didn’t know was even there, making it out of a firefight with almost no ammo and a miniscule increment of health left – this is all missing in Next Encounter, for the most part. The enemies don’t move as quickly and the health and ammo are much more available than ever before. The difficulty settings don’t make the game harder through any means besides making enemies take longer to kill and Sam take less time to get killed. This takes away from what the Serious Sam games are all about, making it very clear that this is a spin-off, of sorts, and not a real part of the series. The game has a much more reserved pace than its “cousins”. A shame for gamers who don’t play their games on PC or Xbox.

The multiplayer functions are the standard fare, but that’s enough for this type of game. Classic co-op is available (a feature left out of too many FPS games these days!), and standard deathmatch has been added. Deathmatch is playable online for up to eight players. It’s not anything special, but it’s nice to have. If you like deathmatch and you enjoy the weapons in this game (which are all pretty fun to use), you will likely have a lot of fun with the deathmatch mode. It doesn’t have a load of replay value, but it’s wonderful for some mindless online action.

Serious Sam’s graphics and sound are easily the worst portions of the game. The visuals are somewhat blurry and jagged – below average even on the Playstation 2 – and the sounds are simplistic and muffled. Musically, things are not much better, with tunes that are anything but memorable droning away in the background.

PC and Xbox gamers have been enjoying the first two (true) Serious Sam games for quite some time now; why those weren’t ported over to the Playstation 2 and Gamecube is anybody’s guess. Next Encounter lurks somewhere in the shadows cast by these two games. It looks and feels somewhat like a game in the series, but in the end is miles away from touching the real Serious Sam games.

Score: 6.0/10

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