Review: “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” (Computer Game)

2016 Artwork Serious Sam Second Encounter Review Sketch

Well, since I’m making my way through the final level of this game at the time of writing, I thought that I’d take a look at “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” today. Quite honestly, I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to review this game – given that I reviewed the previous game in the series last year.

I bought a digital download of this game from GOG when it was on sale, back in December. I should also point out that I’ll be reviewing the classic 2002 version of this game, rather than the modern HD re-release (which probably wouldn’t run on my computer).

Although the game is listed as “DRM-Free” on GOG, it might occasionally ask you to put a disc (it doesn’t matter which disc it is) into your DVD drive before it lets you play. Fortunately, this didn’t happen anywhere near as often as it did with the previous game and, most of the time, I was able to play “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” with an empty DVD drive.

I’ve also had to crop a couple of the screenshots in this review, since taking screenshots of this game sometimes results in graphical glitches in the screenshots themselves (but not in-game). I should probably also warn you that this review may contain some GRUESOME IMAGES.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter”:

Serious Sam 2nd encounter -  Title

“Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” is a FPS game from 2002. It is a sequel to “Serious Sam: The First Encounter” in the same way that “Doom II” is a sequel to “Doom”.

In other words, it’s basically the same game – but with a lot of new monsters, weapons and levels. This game is also slightly more challenging than the first “Serious Sam” game was. In other words, it’s probably “fiendishly difficult” by modern standards.

If you’ve never played a “Serious Sam” game before, I should probably explain what made this series so unique (and why it spawned several imitators, like the “Painkiller” games and a whole sub-genre of “Doom” WADs).

Unlike many other FPS games at the time, the gameplay in the old “Serious Sam” games revolves almost entirely around constant intense combat with large hordes of monsters. You don’t search for keys and you don’t solve that many puzzles. You just fight monsters. Lots of monsters.

Like this.

Like this.

As a result, the levels are considerably more linear that you would expect from an “old school” FPS game and – most of the time – you are channelled into various arena-like areas, with ammo and health pickups in between.

This linearity is more than made up for by both the sheer length of each level, the wide variety of imaginative monsters, numerous secret areas (anyone remember those?), lots of Easter eggs and a wide variety of different settings.

One of the major improvements in “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” is that there are a lot of different settings on offer, which help to prevent the game from becoming visually monotonous. The first five levels are Aztec-themed levels, the next four levels are set in ancient Persepolis/ Babylon and the final three levels are set in medieval Europe:

And, like all great FPS games, you actually get to see a map of where you've been too.

And, like all great FPS games, you actually get to see a map of where you’ve been too.

Needless to say, I was listening to the title track from Iron Maiden's "The Book Of Souls" album when playing this level.

Needless to say, I was listening to the title track from Iron Maiden’s “The Book Of Souls” album when playing this level.

This probably looks more impressive in-game than it does in this screenshot. But, for a game from 2002, this landscape is astonishing!

This probably looks more impressive in-game than it does in this screenshot. But, for a game from 2002, this landscape is astonishing!

In addition to this, Sam now has a few extra weapons too – many of which really come in handy. In true “Doom II” style, Sam can now wield a chainsaw – although given that you also have infinite ammo pistols too, this weapon really isn’t that useful.

However, the other weapons are useful. Not only do you get a flamethrower (which makes dealing with large groups of skeletons SO much easier!), but you also get a sniper rifle too. The sniper rifle is kind of an interesting weapon because it is about twice as powerful when you actually use the scope (it can fell several types of monster in just one shot). You’ll be using both of these new weapons surprisingly often.

And, lest I forget, you also get a weapon called the “Serious Bomb”. These are extremely rare (and you can only carry three at a time) but, when used, they will obliterate literally every monster on the screen. However, you should probably save these for when you really need to use them.

Seriously, don't understimate the humble sniper rifle. You'll be using it a lot.

Seriously, don’t understimate the humble sniper rifle. You’ll be using it a lot.

The flamethrower is suitably epic (and surprisingly useful) too.

The flamethrower is suitably epic (and surprisingly useful) too.

In terms of the new monsters, there aren’t really too many radical changes here.

These new monsters include pumpkin creatures with chainsaws that run at you ridiculously quickly, boar-like creatures which wield rocket pistols and alien soldiers with laser guns etc…. These new monsters really help to add some variety and additional challenge to the combat.

I'd thought that the pumpkin creatures were based on Helloween's mascot. But, according to the in-game guide, they were inspired by Smashing Pumpkins instead.

I’d thought that the pumpkin creatures were based on Helloween’s mascot. But, according to the in-game guide, they were inspired by Smashing Pumpkins instead.

Talking of challenge, this game ramps up the difficulty slightly when compared to the first “Serious Sam” game. Not only do you face the usual hordes of low-level monsters, but this game also makes very heavy use of monsters with long-range attacks too.

In other words, you’ll often be faced with the choice of whether to fight the hordes of weaker monsters that are running towards you or whether to fight the much more powerful monsters in the distance who are throwing large fireballs at you.

Usually, these guys are perched on ledges in the distance.

Usually, these guys are perched on ledges in the distance.

It’s things like this that help to keep the combat in “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” from getting stale or monotonous. You have to think on your feet and use lots of trial and error if you want to stand even half a chance against the game’s thousands of monsters. You’ll have to use tactics, strategy, clever weapon choices and a knowledge of when to hide, run or fight if you want to actually beat any of the game’s levels.

But, like all great classic FPS games, “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” has a sense of humour about itself. Not only will Sam occasionally make amusing comments (in a “Duke Nukem” style way), but the game is absolutely crammed with in-jokes and easily-accessible easter eggs.

Seriously, I really love how FPS games never used to take themselves too seriously and it’s great to see all of the humour on offer here.

Yes, sometimes, the plants will actually come to life and start attacking you.

Yes, sometimes, the plants will actually come to life and start attacking you.

And a Merry Christmas to you too!

And a Merry Christmas to you too!

Graphically, this game is absolutely stunning for something made in the early 2000s and it still looks fairly decent even by modern standards. Even on an classic mid-2000s computer like mine, this game still runs extremely smoothly. However, unlike really old games like “Doom II”, the loading times when you re-load a saved game are very slightly longer than I would have liked (eg: they’re about 3-10 seconds long, rather than almost instantaneous).

In terms of music, most of the music in the game is just generic Aztec/ Middle Eastern/ Medieval ambient background music. However, during some dramatic scenes in the game, the music will change to something a bit more heavy metal-based. Sometimes, like in the first boss battle, this is done for dramatic effect. But in some parts of the game, it’s just done for laughs – for example, when you are fighting your way through a snowy valley in the final level, a heavy metal-style rendition of “Jingle Bells” will play in the background.

All in all, like with “Doom II”, “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” takes a classic game and just makes it better, but without changing anything that made it good in the first place. This is how you make a sequel to a great FPS game!

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a solid five.

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