When it comes to Serious Sam, you never play the game for the story. It's all about mindless shooting and plenty of explosions mixed with pretty graphics and the occasional one liners. Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is just that. But like an infomercial, there's a "but wait there's more..." So while Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter does indeed continue the story of Sam's adventures through time, and is a remade version of the original title in the Serious Engine 3, the developers at Devlolver Digital have gone and added a handful of new co-op modes as well as online versus modes making this quite an attractive value at $19.99.
If you never played the original Serious Sam The Second Encounter you'll be treated with a mixed variety of locales, something that's quite different from the first game which mostly took place in an Egyptian setting. And while there's a few levels that'll remind you of the first game's bright and colorful desert, time traveling Sam visits the Medieval era, The Amazon jungle, and lava filled caverns. It's refreshing to say the least, and the new Serious Engine 3 makes all of the spots look really great.
I'll just stick up here in the grass, you guys deal with the horde of mechs.
Of course with each new location is new enemy types to face - whether it's overall wearing pumpkin heads with chainsaws or laser shooting lava lizards - there's plenty of new baddies that you'll be wearing your keyboard's S key down to. To dispatch these twenty seven different foes into a cloud of red blood and dust you'll have the arsenal from the first game, with a few new additions. The sniper rifle with scope is my personal favorite, with the Flame thrower running a close second; the fire effect as you burn down everything around you is quite satisfying. The rocket launcher was tweaked, and you'll also have a powerful chainsaw at your disposal. All in all, not too shabby of a weapons closet for Sam to use.
The single player is just as difficult as it always was, with plenty of deaths and frequent use of your F6 key to quick save. Thankfully it can be played with up to 16 players in co-op which eases the difficulty, mostly because you can respawn without losing progress. Like the previous Serious Sam HD, 16 players is total chaos, or at least, I imagine it to be. I've gotten into a game with nine players and the screen was filled with carnage, adding an additional 7 would make it ridiculous.
In addition to the campaign co-op, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter adds two new co-op modes called Survival Co-Op and Coin-Op Co-Op. Survival mode is just as you'd expect, you and your team against endless waves of enemies. It feels quite a bit like Left 4 Dead's survival mode minus the zombies, and plus 50 foot tall monsters. While most of the levels are straight up arena style with little to no place to hide, there's a few levels that offer triggers that will give you defensive objects like cannons and missile launching turrets to take down the hordes of baddies and buy you time. Each level has a bronze, silver and gold rating for survival adding some replayability to the mix. From what I could tell these survival missions were capped at 8 players.
I think I smell bacon.
The other co-op mode is called Coin-Op Co-Op which adds a unique twist and difficulty to the game's single player. Your team of X players has only a pool of 3 lives to use, and once those are up, it's game over. So if you have 8 players in co-op, only 3 can die and respawn before you start losing your teammate support. Thankfully along the way you'll be able to earn extra lives to keep the action going. In a way this is an interesting solution the default co-op mode, which almost makes the game "easy."
All in all Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is quite the package and a pleasant surprise. Instead of just porting the original game into Serious Engine 3, Devolver Digital went the extra step and actually added new gameplay modes and tweaks. There's even dedicated servers for co-op, something that wasn't there for the first game. Beyond the co-op is your standard versus multiplayer modes as well including CTF, Team DM, and Last Man Standing. Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is a shooter fan's dream game - it's solid fun, looks good, and offers plenty of modes - all for under $20.