Shooting stuff is fun; violence is rad, and sometimes that’s all you need for a game to be enjoyable. Serious Sam 4 takes this notion to its core and then some, delivering a game that fans of the series will enjoy while newcomers like myself will still appreciate for its pure, unadulterated, cartoon-carnage.
Serious Sam 4 is a prequel set prior to the events of the last mainline game. However, the title does little in adhering to its canon, making it accessible to new players, which may upset diehard Serious Sam aficionados but ultimately, I think this approach benefits Croteam as Serious Sam has never been a game about its narrative.
For the uninitiated, Serious Sam is a Doom-derivative at face value but on closer inspection, plays more like a homage or tribute to id software’s legendary series of FPS games with a good splash of Duke Nukem thrown in there for good measure.
Serious Sam 4 features the same approach to gameplay found in previous entries into the series with a few RPG elements and co-op options that help round out the experience and keep it feeling fresh. gameplay consists of large open-ended maps with a primary objective and an optional secondary mission that usually results in unlocking some new gear. The main draw of Serious Sam 4 is its dense enemy populations that litter the game world, making the game at times feel like the FPS equivalent of Koei Techmo’s Dynasty Warriors series of action-games.
The campy nature of Serious Sam 4 also made me think of another guilty pleasure of mine, the Earth Defense Force series, which like Serious Sam doesn’t take itself too seriously while often delivering, overwhelming hordes of enemies.
One aspect of Serious Sam 4 that fans will appreciate is the deluge of options found in the menu, from toggles for the classic crosshair to a third-person camera — players will be able to tailor Serious Sam 4 the way they want to experience it. Graphically, Serious Sam 4 is an odd one, with environments that look photorealistic while enemies and characters look decidedly cartoony. Overall, the graphics quality of Serious Sam 4 may look somewhat dated, but the game makes up for it with the number of enemies on screen which would likely be impossible or too taxing otherwise.
Weapon variety includes everything from dual pistols to a-Doom-like Super Shotgun, machine guns, tracking rocket launchers, throwable C4, and a few other classic guns from past games in the series. Vehicles bulk out the rest of the game, although they seem to be used sparingly and only in certain levels.
Serious Sam 4 can feel repetitive, bordering on obnoxious at times, but its a game best played in short bursts as it genuinely can be a fun experience and finding the best strategies to survive some of the later levels can be exhilarating. A friend is recommended for maximum enjoyment, especially for those new to the game as a friend or two can make the difference between life and death, particularly for some of the more relentless encounters later in the game.
If I had to summarize Serious Sam 4 in a sentence, it could be best described as an arcade shooter that stays true to its root while feeling modern enough where not to turn off newcomers. Serious Sam 4 is a no-brainer for fans of the series and is a game that fans of singleplayer/co-op shooters will likely enjoy too.