As a long standing PC gamer, the words "DOOM Clone" echo from the 90's in my head. With the likes of Heretic, Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem 3D, and others - the end of our last century was filled with fast chaotic gameplay in a pseudo-3d world riding the coat tales of the genre DOOM made famous. Then sometime around 2001 a little known developer named Croteam unleashed Serious Sam: The First Encounter onto the unsuspecting PC masses. Sam had the style and swagger of Duke Nukem with the monster closets and tension of Doom. It also look incredibly gorgeous, and instantly created a cult following.
Now over 8 years later, the first Serious Sam game has gotten a facelift being ported into Croteam's new Serious Engine 3.0. Sure the new engine has real time water surface interaction, surface illumination, GPU radiosity, environment effects, subsurface scattering, dynamic lights, and realtime soft shadows - but at it's core, Serious Sam HD is still that first game we all loved. You've got guys with buzz saws for heads, bony galloping horses, giant charging bulls, huge scorpions with machine guns, and of course those brain like bionic walkers with lasers. The whole cast has returned, and the moment you hear the suicide bombers scream, you'll instantly be transported back to 2001.
This is pretty much the norm....
The gameplay is simple, shoot something before it shoots you or blows you up. Enemies will spawn out of thin air and instantly make a direct line for your sorry ass. It's an always mad scramble to find the next biggest gun, the next crate of ammo, or a little vial of precious life. You never quite find out what Sam did to piss these guys off, but apparently they don't want you in Egypt.
Graphically the Serious Engine 3.0 shines with amazing water effects and reflections, draw distances as far as the eye can see, and bright contrast filled textures that pop off your screen. I was actually a bit surprised by the lack of options to scale how the game looks, something the game either does on it's own, or doesn't need to do. Everything ran silky smooth and I rarely hit a hiccup despite the dozens and dozens of on screen enemies.
The highlight of Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter is no doubt the 16 player online co-op mode. Devolver Digital, the game's developer, has done an amazing job of creating a quick and seamless way to jump into a match, or if you prefer, you can use a traditional server browser. Once in a game the chaos ensues, and while I never quite found a match with 16 players, I did jump in one with 10 and had an absolute blast. At one point it looked like a scene from Gladiator as all of our backs were against each other covering every direction possible from on rushing suicide bombers. The game's built in voice chat worked well, and it was easy to determine who was talking thanks to visual notifications. There's quite a few different player models available as well, so there's not 16 Sams running around.