In late 2009, Croteam released a revival of the classic Serious Sam game, The First Encounter, on the PC. It was slated due to some glaring technical bugs and an extremely high price tag for a decade old game. Croteam took these criticisms on board and then went away, busily beavering to create the XBLA revival. The improvements are grand; not only are the bugs gone, it looks a heck of a lot prettier and the price has been dropped to a reasonable 1,200 MS Points (about £10-£11) making it a whole lot better. They had to skimp on a few things but what you get here is a lovely recreation of one of the craziest shooters ever made.
It's not really a remake but more of an improvement on Serious Sam: The First Encounter, which sees our t-shirt and jean clad hero Sam "Serious" Stone finding the biggest weapons possible and literally blowing numerous aliens into numerous pieces. You battle through the desert landscapes of Egypt, ranging from the temples to the Great Pyramid itself each crawling with ridiculous looking creatures and enough ammo to take down Iceland.
Serious Sam is all about shooting stuff. Shooting stuff into as many little, bloody pieces as possible. You run around dodging creatures in hopes of eventually taking them out with standard weapons, such as shotguns, or not so standard weapons, such as a MASSIVE ROCKET LAUNCHER OF DOOM! You run around, strafing to avoid numerous evil creatures such as a skeletal horse, a scorpion/man thing with a machine gun arm and a creature the size of the Great Pyramid itself. Seriously. The size of these creatures can get almost ridiculous at times. It's you versus THAT! Luckily, plenty of ammo will always keep you going when the proverbial poop hits the fan.
Anyone use to the Serious Sam franchise or even Duke Nukem or DOOM will feel right at home here. The gameplay is just as fast-paced as it always has been and everything feels extremely retro. Sure, there are a few changes such as limited rocket jumping but things such as instant save, fast paced gun play and, occasionally, facing off against literally hundreds of enemies make it that much better.
Serious Sam HD sticks to its namesake in that the HD side adds a whole new sheen to everything. The landscapes are postcard-esque, the monsters all nice and slimy and the explosions make a satisfying cloud of smoke, blood and monster limbs. Sure, they're not up to the standards of games like Call of Duty but, after-all, Serious Sam is an arcade shooter so it's impossible to ask for more. It's just enough to make your time in Egypt a lot of fun.
Co-op is a nice addition, letting you play through the campaign with three other friends. It might be better to stick with just you and one other, because things can get quickly hectic, especially when cornered with rocket launchers. Things can get messy quite rapidly.
Serious Sam HD isn't a big leap up from The First Encounter. It's prettier that's for sure but it retains many of the things we know and love about the Serious Sam franchise: big guns and even bigger enemies. The graphical update makes your surroundings look much prettier and the amounts of gore seem more satisfying. It's not the greatest shooter ever made, but who doesn't love being chased by zombies with bombs for hands or a gigantic six armed monster shooting fireballs to then take them down with the biggest rocket launcher you've ever seen. I know I do!