It’s been 9 years since Croteam released the last title in the Serious Sam series, Serious Sam 3: BFE. Now, the studio is thrusting players headfirst into a new adventure with the no-cover needed action star in Serious Sam 4. But, does this follow up bring the same action and fun of the originals to a new generation, or is it time to let Sam fade into history and be forgotten?
Stuck in the past
One of the most notable things about Serious Sam 4 is the game’s undying loyalty to the original formula that made the Serious Sam series so enjoyable. Pure action and chaos combined with beautiful, wide open scenes full of tons of monsters and beasties to kill. It’s a pure alien murder simulator and for the most part, there’s a lot to enjoy, especially if you like games that don’t require you to think too deeply about their stories or the puzzles within.
Now, for some, seeing a game so stuck in the past might seem like a bad thing. But, for the most part, Serious Sam 4’s undying attachment to the way the games have played in the past is its biggest strength. There are definitely some missteps along the way – like how jarring the cutscenes can be when they take place every other encounter throughout the campaign – but those are easy enough to overlook once you’re back into the meat of the experience, murdering anything in your path.
The writing does leave some to be desired, but I also wasn’t expecting (nor should anyone, really) the same kind of emotion and writing that you’d see from a story driven game like The Last of Us or any other game of that nature. Sure, there’s a narrative, and it does go a bit deeper this time around than previous entries, but it's still b-movie at best. Thankfully, that cheesy movie feel fits well with the overall style of the series.
Don’t look too hard
Serious Sam 4 isn’t a game that requires much thought and as such I’d recommend that anyone going into the game not look too hard for something beneath the surface. There’s no deep secret here waiting to be discovered. The environments aren’t perfect, with some “boss” fights often having enemies blow through buildings just for the building to be standing there completely whole once the smoke clears.
Of course, when you’re busy murdering literal hordes of enemies – ranging anywhere from a couple of stragglers to a field of dozens of different types of enemies – you’re probably not going to pay that much attention to the environment, and that’s perfectly fine. This isn’t the kind of game you expect to drop with mega-level graphics. It’s more of a fun, frantic shooter that captures the spirit of the old school shooters that originally inspired it. That's where Serious Sam really excels. With over 30 different enemies, like the iconic Beheaded Kamikaze and even some enemies from games like Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, including the massive Metal Snake. You also get a slew of different weapons to use, like the Autoshotgun, Combat Knife, SBC Cannon, and more. In total there are 15 different weapons, and each one packs a punch all on its own.
It’s also possible you might run into some issues like I did, where enemies wouldn’t spawn, causing me to be unable to progress past certain points. The only way I found to fix this in my time testing the game was to move around the area a lot, and even reload the latest save. It’s a bit annoying, but it didn’t happen often enough to really ding the game that much.
When you look past the issues that you encounter, Serious Sam 4 is a lot of fun. Sure, it’s a fairly shallow narrative experience, but if you just want to jump in and not really care about the story or world, and just shoot a load of different enemies, then Serious Sam 4 delivers. If you're someone that cares more about the story than anything else, then you're going to find some meat on the bones with Serious Sam 4, just don't go in expecting things to get as deep as other narrative-driven games go. It's also worth noting that one of the best things about previous games was the massive co-op options, including the ability to play 16-player online co-op in Serious Sam 3: BFE. Unfortunately, Serious Sam 4 only includes 4-player online co-op, which remains fun, but never strikes the same note as those chaotic 16-player lobbies from games of the past.
Serious Sam 4 is fun to play – and an even bigger joy if you bring co-op into the mix. If you’re a fan of the series, then you’re going to feel right at home. If you’ve never played a Serious Sam game, then just don’t go into it expecting the same level of narrative as story-driven games, because you aren’t going to find it here.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Serious Sam 4 will be available on September 24 for PC and Stadia.
Serious Sam 4
- Fun, frantic FPS action
- Tons of enemy variation on-screen at any given time
- Massive environments to fight in
- Online co-op
- Some dips in performance with large groups of enemies
- Cutscenes can be jarring between action encounters
- Missing 16-player co-op from past entries
- Some bugs that caused enemy spawns to break