Ashamed as I am to admit it, I remember when the first Serious Sam game was released around twenty years ago. Even then, Serious Sam was positioned as the antidote to increasingly complex, objective driven first-person shooters like Ghost Recon or maybe Project IGI (I dunno, it’s a long time ago). In 2022 though, Serious Sam 4 seems to be more of a parody of itself than a hero for the Doom generation.
In short, Serious Sam is a big, dumb and completely unoriginal first-person shooter that puts the focus purely on the shooting. It takes place in some near-future scenario where Sam has become a bit of a celebrity and human beings have accepted the fact that they are fighting a guerilla war against an ever-more-dangerous extra-terrestrial threat.
Our adventure begins in Rome, and there are two noticeable aspects to Serious Sam 4 right off the bat. Firstly, it’s clear that almost everywhere is designed to support massive hordes of enemies, and secondly… Such hordes are a lot less frequent than you would expect. This is an odd juxtaposition — it’s as though the design team built all the levels to a supersize scale, and then someone else came along afterwards and decided where to put the bad guys.
When a horde does appear, Serious Sam 4 delivers most of its high points. The volume and variety of enemies is huge, with most (zombies, grunts, bulls, little one-eyed flesh creatures) just running straight at Sam, but others (like the walkers and giant lizard dudes from previous games) providing fire from all over. Werebulls still charge you, witch-ghost things teleport around you to try and take Sam out and other, new enemies all add their own unique flavour.
In order to tackle these nasties, Sam has a wide arsenal available to him — albeit a fairly traditional one. From shotguns (both pump and double-barrelled) to M16’s, there’s a whole host of classic “human” weapons available, and erm, that’s more or less it. There are much fewer ridiculous weapons (either alien or high tech) than I had expected, especially considering that an early cut-scene shows Sam in an “Alien Artifacts Acquisition” branded van.
Performance is also a little disappointing, even on a Series X. We’re talking about character models that look like they are from maybe the PS3/Xbox 360 era, textures that look OK from a distance and bad up close, and quite a bit of performance fluctuation when those hordes do appear. Sound isn’t great either, with the classic Serious Sam one-liners making an appearance and feeling very tired, trashy rock music as the background, and enemy sound effects which do little to add to the experience.
Somehow Serious Sam 4 manages to take most of the same ingredients as the prior games, mix them together and instead of getting a delicious if slightly overdone cake, it comes up with a sloppy mess. Actually that’s not fair, because Serious Sam 4 isn’t terrible, it’s just so aggressively mediocre that there’s almost no reason to play it these days. At worst, if this is the kind of game you like, just grab the Serious Sam Collection instead.
You can grab Serious Sam 4 on Xbox.