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Serious Sam Preview

Ben_Silverman By:
GENRE Action 
PUBLISHER Gathering of Developers 
M Contains Animated Blood and Gore, Animated Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Would you like green frags and blam?

As PC gaming technology advances, many game developers attempt to match the increased processing power by making increasingly complex games. Hybrid after hybrid rolls out the door and sadly, only a few manage to deliver on their grandiose promise.

But while some game developers have eyes bigger than their stomachs, an unheralded squad of Croation geeks at the aptly named Croteam knows where to draw the line. In their upcoming fragfest Serious Sam (published by Gathering of Developers), that line is generously smeared with the blood of literally thousands of enemies...and it's a total guilt-ridden blast.

Serious Sam has garnered quite a bit of attention from the gaming press, an odd feat for such a seemingly simple game made by a minor league developer. In all honesty, we weren't sure what to expect when the beta arrived at the GR doorstep. I think it's safe to say we were pleasantly surprised.

In the spirit of classics like Doom and Duke Nukem, Serious Sam is a largely one-dimensional take on the first-person shooter. Err...make that entirely one-dimensional. There's a reason these things are called shooters, folks, and Serious Sam never lets you forget it by letting you shoot more bad guys than every Arnold movie combined.

The story is pointless. Set in the near future, the game puts you in the role of Sam "Serious" Stone, a special forces vet who travels through time to battle an ancient evil that is threatening the human race. In other words, it's a good excuse to roam around ancient Egypt blasting the crap out of everything that moves.

The game uses the proprietary 'Serious Engine.' While at first glance this new engine doesn't have much on Unreal or Quake III, certain details simply blow away the competition. The lens-flare effect is the best I've ever seen, and despite the fairly monotone environments in the single-player game (lots of yellows and browns), the textures are very solid. Light passing over the weapons looks terrific as well. Add to that a slew of other fancy effects and you've got a very capable new engine. Oh heck, if you want the nerdy details, take a peek here.

Engines are fine and dandy, but the meat of any game lies in the gameplay, and it's here where Serious Sam excels. This is the textbook definition of a fragfest, with literally scores of enemies to fry. The sheer number of enemies combined with a wide variety result in a surprisingly exciting, frantic game. You don't really solve any puzzles or platform jump at all. It's just slaughter after slaughter after slaughter.

Serious Sam is chock full of tongue-in-cheek charm. In addition to the swarms of enemies, there are plenty of Doom-esque secret areas, and you actually have a score. I have no idea why, but it lends flavor to the old-school feel.

Like any modern fragger, Serious Sam will come loaded with multiplayer capabilities, including a split-screen option. We're not entitrely sure how that's supposed to work, but it's a nice thought.

The preview build gets quite difficult. I can't stress enough how many enemies you'll have to deal with. I absolutely guarantee that at some point or another your hand will cramp. If that isn't the sign of a tough game, I don't know what is.

Serious Sam sort of has that fart joke appeal - you know you shouldn't laugh but you just can't help it. Likewise, you know you shouldn't have this much fun just fragging away like a madman, but you just can't help it. With an amazingly affordable planned $20 price tag, this might be the gaming steal of the year. We'll know for sure when it ships in mid-March.

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