About a year ago, I posted a review for a rather quirky FPS game called Serious Sam: The First Encounter. As someone who has played a number of classic FPS titles, I found myself both entertained but also largely puzzled with the game. Well, the time has finally come for me to check out the next chapter in the Serious Sam franchise – the aptly named Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.
Before I get too far into my review of this game, I do want to take to a moment to suggest that you first check out my review of the original title: Serious Sam – The First Encounter. A large portion of this review will reference details from that game, so it might be beneficial to familiarize yourself with it before continuing.
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter is the 2002 sequel to the original Serious Sam. In fact, it’s actually more of a continuation than a full-on sequel. I say that because all of the single player content from the first game is replicated and included in this title. This confused me at first because after firing this game up for the first time, I noticed that I had to option to select the Egyptian themed levels from from the original game or I could go straight into the new content. I’ve never seen a standalone sequel take this sort of approach and took me a moment of poking around and experimentation to make sure that was actually what was going on.
As was the case with First Encounter, an HD remake of this game was also released in 2009. This update adds HD visuals and better compatibility with moderns OS’s, but keeps the core gameplay unchanged from the 2002 version. For this review, I played the HD remake instead of the original release.
The storyline picks up right where the first game leaves off. Sam has just lifted off in his shiny new rocketship and is headed towards the alien homeworld when he collides with a foreign object. The collision forces his rocket to crash down into ancient Mexico. But all is not lost! There is a second rocket that can still get Sam to his destination. However, getting to it will require some serious maneuvers. First, Sam will need to jump through several Sirian spacetime portals in order to get to the proper location and time so that he can obtain the rocket. The game begins with Sam storming the Mayan city of Teotihuacan in pursuit of the first Sirian portal.
From a gameplay standpoint, there’s virtually no difference between this game and the original Serious Sam. As I said above, this game feels very much like a new map pack or an additional chapter to the original game. In fact, the only real differences between this game and the original seem to be the new playable levels, additional weapons, and a handful of temporary powerups (quad-damage, sprint speed, invulnerability, and invisibility).
I found the new levels to have a really nice aesthetic and to be very well designed. But they also seem just a little too large for a single player game. Playing co-operative with another player does tend to ease this a bit. But I can’t seem to shake the feeling that these maps better serve as multiplayer arenas than they do for the single-player story mode.
With the above statement in mind, it’s really a shame that the multiplayer community for this game seems all but dead. There’s a handful of active multiplayer servers, but all of them were virtually vacant on the occasions I tried to play. In fact, in order to experience any of the multiplayer content at all, I had to recruit the help of one of my friends. Thankfully, this was made easy due to the fact that the game supports Remote Play via Steam. Unless you have a group of faithful friends who are willing to participate in the various multiplayer modes that this game has to offer, you’re likely going to find yourself restricted to the single player experience. Thankfully, the single player mission offered by this game is entertaining even though it does get a little repetitive at times.
When attempting to score this game, I have to remind myself that Serious Sam: The Second Encounter should really be treated more like an expansion than a standalone game. After all, both games are now bundled together in a package no matter what system you choose to play them on and they are sold at an affordable price on top of that. Purchasing these games on Steam also grants you access to a number of re-makes and various beta compilations, so you’re defiantly getting your money’s worth. Still, there’s no denying that even in its heyday Serious Sam: The Second Encounter was far from perfect. The game was created by an indie team and it shows. But this “indie” feel is also the game’s greatest strength. The developers for this game were willing to try new things and take risks that more traditional developers were afraid of. The end result is an FPS experience unlike any other.
Version Reviewed: PC
Difficulty: Variable – Serious Sam offers six levels of difficulty to choose from: Tourist, Easy, Normal, Hard, Serious, and Mental. For first-time players, I recommend starting with Easy. Normal starts off at a fairly leisurely pace but ramps up in difficulty rather quickly. Anything above Normal is going to be quite a challenge. The Mental option is locked by default and is only available after completing them game. Mental actually provides the same experience as Hard, with an added twist – the enemies phase in and out of view! As always, online matches will vary in difficulty depending on the skill of other players.
Multiplayer: Online co-op and VS.
Story: Very much a continuation of the original game. The majority of the story was presented in the game manual but enough details are doled out via the opening cutscene and through the in-game AI computer.
Originality: Not much new is brought to the table with this entry. It’s fairly standard FPS fare by this point. Although, it is important to keep in mind that the concept behind this title isn’t really to innovate, but rather to add on to what was found in the original game.
Soundtrack: The music in the game is very well done, but not particularly memorable. Heavy metal grooves and thumping basslines. Still, it’s fitting and I have no real complaints.
Fun: As it was with the first game, the fun is found through the insanely difficult encounters. With that in mind, this game is actually much more entertaining when played at higher difficulty levels. That being said, cranking up the difficulty is almost sure to spell disaster for any but the most hardcore players. But it’s still fun to experience the thrill of being pounced on by droves of monsters that seem to come from nowhere.
Graphics: The original release of the game features from pretty impressive level design and background graphics. The enemy sprites were lacking a bit. Thankfully, the HD release is an across-the-board improvement. Both the enemies and backgrounds in Serious Sam HD look fantastic, even today.
Playcontrol: Being a PC-based FPS, the controls default to mouse and keyboard. The game supports the standard WSAD model and works very well this way. There’s also controller support. I tried it with an Xbox One controller and found it to be pretty tight and responsive. But, personally the game just didn’t feel as natural when played with a controller.
Downloadable Content: Muliplayer skins and additional levels.
Mature Content: Violence, gore
Value: The best way to obtain this game (and the original) is via the Serious Sam HD Gold Collection. On it’s own, the HD version typically sells for around $19. The Gold Collection costs about $40.00 and includes the first two games, DLC and a handful of spin-off titles.
Overall score (1-100): 70 – Not much has changed between the this and the original game. Considering that they are really two parts of the same release, I’m giving them the same rating.. If you’re a fan of fast-action FPS games, this is probably something you will enjoy. However, if online play is your cup of tea, you should be aware that the multiplayer for this title is pretty much nonexistent.
Original System: PC
Available today on: PC, Xbox One/X/S, PS4/PS5, Switch –(Updated as of Spring 2023)
Best Experience: PC – (Updated as of Spring 2023)
Other Reviews In This Series:
Serious Sam Double D XXL