E3 2011: Serious Sam 3 BFE

By Xav de Matos, Jun 16, 2011 3:00pm PDT

QUICKTAKE: Serious Sam 3: BFE brings the run-and-gun killer back for his first original adventure since 2005. While Sam's original encounters have recently been given the HD treatment, developer Croteam is finally bringing the character back for a new romp through the alien-riddled streets of Egypt. Though Serious Sam 3 is built upon an advanced and impressive new engine, the game retains its classic gameplay core, offering mindless and addictive fun during my hands-on demo.

THE DEMO: My behind-closed-doors demo with Serious Sam 3 offered a look at two levels. The first level, dubbed "Cairo Square," was an opportunity to watch the game being played in order to showcase some of weaponry at Sam's disposal. As expected from a series where a signature enemy is a screaming, headless suicide-bomber, Sam has access to a handful of insane gear (which he can carry all at once). The biggest addition to his arsenal is Sam's latest melee offering: a sledgehammer. Using this powerful weapon, Sam can break through the destructible environment, decimate enemies with a single strike, and execute a 360 degree swing attack for crowd control.

The second part of the demo, a level called "Lost Nubian Temple," was my first opportunity to play the game. The pacing starts off slow, introducing a handful of enemies. Soon, the signature cry of the logic-defying headless suicide-bombers fill the area and an attack comes from all sides. Like a class reunion for a group of psychopaths, the attacking enemies are made up of classic characters, albeit more defined and mature. This is very clearly Serious Sam. One missing piece is the sniper rifle, which has been removed from the game. Instead, Croteam has added an assault rifle with a red-dot scope for ranged attacks. Yeah. There are sights on two of the game's weapons, but Croteam isn't worried about negative reaction to that decision. "People forget that the sniper rifle had a scope," a rep told me during my demo. "We've just replaced that weapon." Classic weapons like the cannonball return, which perfectly bounces around the environment, slicing enemies (like the charging male Gnaar, above) in half as it strikes. The game quickly degenerates into absolute mayhem for survival, which is exactly what the series is known for. Add to this the inclusion of 16-player co-op and Serious Sam 3 is one of the most over-the-top titles I've played in recent memory.

DETAILS: "None of that is a canvas," the rep told me, pointing to the background buildings lining the area of the Lost Nubian Temple. To prove his point, the rep told me to aim and fire a cannon ball as far in the distance as I could. The ball soars through the sky at top-speed and arches down into a building deep into the background. Then suddenly, the ball bounces off the building and starts screaming back in my direction. Buildings are destructible as well, which gives players a good strategy when wanting to box off attack points for enemies. But knocking buildings out in Serious Sam 3 is a risky proposition: items spawning within will be inaccessible if the building is turned into a pile of rubble.

Serious Sam 3 takes place before the events of the original game in the series. The ruins of Egypt are now destroyed and it's up to Sam to clear out the alien infestation, before jumping through time to the events of Serious Sam 1. That's pretty much it on the narrative front for Serious Sam. People don't care about story when it comes to Serious Sam, the rep reminded me. The game is all about constant, aggressive action. What about AI, you ask? That's not really a focus for Serious Sam, either. Enemies are built to rush you. They want to kill you. They don't want to waste any time, I was told.

The short preview of Serious Sam 3 looked great, and was as hectic as it was fun. It doesn't compromise its legacy to compensate for other changes to the genre (you still need to collect health, for example), which is a respectable and wise decision. Whether the game can maintain my interest throughout the entire adventure will be the test of the final game. But, I definitely didn't have a dull moment during my fifteen minute demo. Serious Sam 3 might be the perfect escape if you're anything like me, a gamer that could use a little mindlessness in a genre that sometimes takes itself too seriously.

Serious Sam 3 is expected to launch this summer on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. When asked if the game is going to be made available digitally or at retail for consoles, a rep for the game told me that a distribution decision has yet to be made.

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