Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Look back - Serious Sam: the Next Encounter (PS2)

A retrospective videogame review

Serious Sam; the Next Encounter was made available for the ps2 and gamecube. It was made by Climax studios, not Croteam, who made the original PC version. The differences are notable. Climax's version seems slightly more cartoony and the comedy isn't quite as good, although Sam "serious" Stone is still quiter the quip master. In addition, the reduced memory and output capacity of the console, means that many of the levels are smaller or more contained. When the levels do become larger, the game becomes prone to freezing or crashing. But despite these differences and flaws, it still maintains the Serious Sam feel.

The Serious Sam games are fairly brilliant. They have a real retro feel to them, with the objective usual "go here, kill everything" with emphasis on everything and being able to carry dozens of over the top, yet effective weaponry. Its like Doom revamped, or a politically correct Duke Nukem.
The game throws you through various well designed and creative levels and areas. The three main regions are Rome, China and Atlantis, with various enemies themed to these areas.

Like all serious sam games, the game excels at set-pieces. Big set ups where hoardes of ridiculous monsters spawn in and the game can be very challenging, but fair and balanced at the same time.

Next Encounter has a few features that seperates it from the other games, but improve the IP as a whole. Levels are accessed through a level screen, meaning you can replay levels you enjoyed and play them at different difficulties. It also means that if you find a section really challenging, you can change to a lower difficulty in order to advance. I liked this, as the game 2nd big boss, a Hydra was insanely hard on Normal, but i could progress by switching to an easy mode. While previous SS games featured a scoring system, its was pretty peripheral and meaningless, except for making you feel bad when you realized you missed a secret. In Next Encounter,the score is tied into the game: the more kills you chain together, the more points you get, and if you reach a chain of twenty, you enter a rampage mode, which has kickass music, as well as vamping up your guns and speed. Also, the game uses a medal system, based on your score, number of kills, secrets and time. Its a challenge to get bronze, let alone gold on some levels. Also, putting in the effort to get medals is rewarding, as by obtaining gold medals, "lost levels" are unlocked.

This "lost levels" are ridiculously fun. They don't tie into the story exactly, but are usually designed around a gimmick or idea that couldn't be used in the main game. For instance, one level features a massive praetorian camp, which you need to break into using a vehicle, then enter close combat in the alleys between tents, before long range fighting with cannon shooting elephants (did i mention this game is really, really weird).

It doesn't feel as fresh, as polished or as challenging as the PC original, and certainly has worse graphics, but its inventive and fun and zany. A big thumbs up

Summary: There's actually too much to say about the game. its great, and its got decent multiplayer


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