First On RPS: Serious Sam 3 Hands On

By John Walker on August 11th, 2011 at 12:00 pm.

See. SEE. Shooters are great.

I can still hear the screaming headless kamikaze. That’s not a twee little aphorism. Despite the fact that I’m no longer playing the game, I can still hear the incessant roaring scream of the droves and droves of bomb-wielding suicidal maniacs charging toward me, somewhere inside my brain. I hope it goes away soon, because this would be no way to live.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun is the first place in the world to have been given a few levels of Serious Sam 3: BFE to play with, and I’ve now killed and been killed within them an awful lot. Let me tell you all about it.

There are certain things people want from a Serious Sam game. They want a lot of monsters on the screen at once. They want to be constantly running backward to stand any chance of surviving. And they want it to be really, really hard. If these three levels set in Egypt are anything to go by, those people – the people who understand – are going to be extremely happy.

Good grief, I’d forgotten quite how molly-coddled I’ve been by shooters for the last decade. While so many become difficult due to either poor design or poorly realised boss fights, none is intrinsically a hard game. Because the general consensus amongst FPS developers is that the player should be able to continuously progress. Some do this out of a desire to ensure their narrative spurts out in the order and pace they demand. Others fear that players will become bored if they struggle at any point, and wander off to spend their money at another publisher’s shop. And pretty much all of them have considered that they should never be unfair at any point. This has of course led to the current state of the most successful shooters, where not only are you led by the hand through its loosely connected cutscenes, but now the other characters in your squad play the game for you. Serious Sam 3 is looking like the antithesis to all of this.

It’s interesting how it pretends it’s going to be otherwise at the start. The very beginning of the first level starts you off on a rooftop in a very detailed, crumbling city. Surrounded by buildings, working your way through narrow passages with just a sledgehammer, it certainly doesn’t feel like that ludicrously wide-open opening of the original Serious Sam. The first thing you see, before you even have your hammer, is a female Gnaar – the giant, hulking beasts that lumber on their knuckled forearms – and have nothing to do but opt for E to melee. Which rips her eyeball out, killing her, leaving the eye in your hand as a trophy. This feels intimate, close-quarters.

When you eventually find a pistol the enemies remain here and there, enough to manage with the infinitely reloading pop-gun. A vast alien ship flies overhead, there’s a mighty explosion, and a building falls down. And then things get going.

This false start seems to serve no other purpose than to screw with you. Because now you’ve got dozens of enemies charging at you, and only this rubbish little gun and your fists, and it’s panic time. Non-stop panic until you switch the thing off, exhausted.

It’s still relatively fair in this first level. It took me a while to remember and practise the techniques for taking out the three Kleer Skeletons, but then it’s relatively simple… Three. Three! Ha ha ha. How I laugh at the John who was playing that first level and thought three of them was something worth worrying about. What a pathetic guy that John was. Try twenty of them, accompanied by about fifteen Gnaar, and those are the ones attacking you from behind. In front are the frenzied masses of Beheaded Rocketeers, Cloned Soldiers and stomping Bio-mechanicals, tens of them, and of course all joined by the roaring hordes of Beheaded Kamikazes.

This all comes after I’ve just seen my first Technopolip Helicopter – a grotesque half-helicopter, half-octopus, all writhing tentacles and spinning blades, firing its machine guns at me as I try to evade the sudden arrival of dozens and dozens of fresh enemies. At no point can you stand still, ever. And even then, even when engaged in the world’s most elaborate – it’s not circle-strafe, it’s more – Möbius-strafe, you’re still getting pelted by bullets and desperately worrying about how the only health you can see is on the other side of them all.

Any notion of corridors is completely abandoned after those first moments. By the third level of the three we’ve been sent (they’re not in final order) you’re in agoraphobia-inducing open deserts, the nearest buildings to your current set of ruins acting as landmarks on the horizon, a target to try to reach in the hope for some armour or rockets. And it’s already doing a splendid job of making sure you know you’re being messed with. Gosh, isn’t it quiet here? I do wonder whether picking up that ammo might possibly unleash the hordes of hell upon me. Click. Oh, hello hordes of hell. AAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!

The engine is looking mighty fine. The code we have is not final, and there’s much work yet to be done, but already things are looking good. A game like Serious Sam can absolutely not stand to use the tricks of most, like fogging the distance, or buildings popping up as you get nearer. It all has to be there, all the time, and it seems to be managing this very well. The horizon contains what will be there when you reach it.

Most impressive at this point are the enemies. Where previous Sams have been cartoonish, this time the monsters have a shiny, visceral awfulness that makes exploding them into gibbage that bit more satisfying. So many of the beasts glimmer and gleam in the sunshine in the most slickly icky way, usually horrifying you by being immediately behind you as you try to back off from the crowds in front.

That sense of being something that could be in an arcade cabinet is also present. Completing a level seems hardly the point. Surviving within it for as long as you can feels much more in the spirit of things. Obviously, levels come with high scores at the end, along with kill counts and so forth, and replaying from scratch becomes a worthwhile pursuit.

Clearly with only three levels of the final twelve, and those three currently being a little truncated to hide the unfinished bits, it’s not possible to get a feel for how it will hold together as a full game. But it’s telling that the temptation to return to these three for yet another play through is so strong. Developing your own tricks, like trying to gather crowds of enemies together and leading them out of the main playing field like a well armed Pied Piper, become a reason to go back, to do better, the levels usually laughing at your attempts as you get rushed from all sides for your folly.

Due out later this year, what I’ve seen so far already feels solid. And most importantly, after that peculiar false start, it feels incredibly Serious Sam. Running backwards, cursing at how long your gun takes to reload, darting sideways to dodge the galloping skeletons as you spin around and blast your shotgun at their rears, you know exactly which game you’re playing. Croteam remembers how to do it.

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90 Comments »

  1. The Army of None says:

    Excellent! Any Serious Sam game that leaves you with the lingering screams of the mad foes is a game I’ll be buying.

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

  3. McDan says:

    A return to the good ol’ days of Sam then, mhm good times.

  4. phenom_x8 says:

    Nice! Want to play it!
    BTW, yesterday everyone here seems excited with Serious Sam 3 split screen multiplayer on PC. Actually, if you already had decent CPU (dual or quad) and GPU, every PC game that support LAN play could be played by 2 player (or more) with separate monitor (called it “splitmonitor” ) using 2 usb mouse and 2 usb KB only (saving you from buying another 2nd full rig, because it’s basically just need 2 monitor and 2 usb/KB/controller to boot)!

    Basically, it is possible to do by using multiseat software that emulate your 2nd PC (same like virtual PC, but with the exact same copies of your current pc without any requirement to installing different OS-es). The software itself are not free though, but there are free trial version if you curious enough to try!

    Read it through here http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/hewhy/howto_play_lan_multiplayer_games_with_one_pc/

    Thanks to megazell at http://www.cheapassgamer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=244468

  5. Ovno says:

    ACE!!!!

    I can’t wait for this, the most important thing I want to know is can we play it on a LAN and will it need online activation? Because the LAN in question is behind the work fire wall….

    • jon_hill987 says:

      My guess is Steamworks based on what they did with the HD variants of the first game.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Given that a huge, huge proportion of the fun of SS1 was co-op at LAN parties, and Internet access at someone else’s venue is always flakey, no exceptions, I hope they don’t do anything so stupid as to demand an Internet connection for LAN play, let alone not have a LAN option.

    • Snowman5677 says:

      Does anyone know if I buy 1 copy of SS3 if I can play LAN multiplayer with 2 machines with 1 copy of the game? Basically can we still play LAN as we used to with steam?

  6. DSR says:

    I know graphics do not matter, but those screenshots look like they’re from 2005.
    Bloom and poorly written water shaders say: “hello!”
    I hope they’re not asking full price for that game?
    I loved first 2 games(FE and SE) and bought both of them in HD version.
    But I’m seriously considering not buying this one before trying demo(And I wanted to pre order it not so long time ago).

    • Bodminzer says:

      Show me a game from 2005 that has a comparable amount of onscreen action that looks anything like this.

    • Spacewalk says:

      It’s probably going to look fantastic when you have twenty things running straight at you and everything else is exploding and the frame rate is consistent. And then with four players.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Only twenty? Playing on “I am a little baby” difficulty by yourself, eh?

    • Nick says:

      “I understand graphics don’t matter but graphics matter”

      You so silly.

    • IDtenT says:

      The graphics reminds me of Far Cry and that isn’t bad.

      @Nick: I’m not a racist, I have many black friends.

    • skurmedel says:

      Probably looks better in motion.

    • Calneon says:

      Why do people have this aversion to bloom? Do people see shiny things in screenshots and immediately think, oh bloom, therefore the graphics are terrible? Equally, I don’t see how from one screenshot you can say that the water shaders are poorly written. The size of the landscapes being rendered by the engine are massive, you’re obviously not going to get Crysis water.

    • JellyD says:

      Also this is not the final version yet. So there is a possibility they will up the graphics when the final game releases.

    • WrongThinker says:

      Huh? Graphics don’t matter but you’re hoping they don’t change full price because of the graphics. I think you’ve confused your previous sentence with another sentence.

      Serious Sam has always looked pretty good in motion and, contrary to this article, wasn’t always known for it’s cartooniness. FE and SE both had a more realistic (albeit colorful) look to them. Only SS2 went cartoony (which I did not like). This game looks really good and really detailed and I’m sure can pack 10 times the chaos on screen of any other modern FPS and do it at a silky smooth frame rate, just like the originals.

    • treat says:

      @ Calneon – Have you seen how poorly implemented bloom is in most modern shooters? I want to fight the monsters, not the sun. I am sitting in the dark playing video games to avoid the photosensitive migraines that come with stepping outdoors. All games should take place in dark basements. Ect, ect.

      Also, these graphics look better than fine, they look great.

  7. magnus says:

    Kleer Skeletons AGAIN? Not so many this time I hope!

  8. Vague-rant says:

    Any minimum system requirements released?

    Also any word on plot? Is it more Serious Sam 1 or 2?

    • John Walker says:

      The plot isn’t in these levels yet, so no idea about that yet. And they’re still working on getting the game working on lower spec machines, so those details aren’t announced yet either.

    • Kablooie says:

      My introduction to the series was Serious Sam 2, which I played years ago. I hope they retain the humor and story elements that were present in SS2. I know the big guns and Mental’s hordes will be there :).

    • Frye2k11 says:

      “A guy called Sam made a lot of enemies. Thank goodness wherever he goes there are plenty of guns lying around. Our hero decides to fight back.”

  9. Burning Man says:

    It is not shit then.

    Awesome. I may actually get this, despite my utter lack of knowledge of the Serious Sam franchise.

  10. Springy says:

    God bless you, Croteam.

    *wipes away a tear*

    God bless you all.

  11. soldant says:

    Hey look, that thing looks like a Mancubus!

    Well, I’m sold. At least until battle fatigue sets in, I can only play a Serious Sam game for so long before I get tired of Kleer Skeletons coming from all directions while I wait for the next checkpoint.

  12. LionsPhil says:

    >Melee is now on E, not a weapon slot

    …mighty foot engaged?

  13. Inigo says:

    R Reload

    Why am I seeing this.

    • Bhazor says:

      Oh God no.

      One thing I loved about Sam is the complete lack of reloads. Nothing kills momentum in a big silly shooter quite like having to stop to reload. My finger should be crushing the mouse down until everything in the world is dead.

      Hopefully this is but an anomoly and Sam throws it away a few seconds later in favour of a manlier shotgun.
      Like this

    • LionsPhil says:

      Technically the infinite pistols did require reloading (IIRC the only way to do that manually was to weaponswitch for a moment, or empty them out into the dirt), although since the screenshot looks like it’s on an SMG… :(

    • Bhazor says:

      There was a reload animation but it didn’t actually slow your fire rate down. Serious Sam is like that.

    • Kryopsis says:

      No, it did slow down your rate of fire.

  14. gbcrush says:

    Been reading this site for months now, decided I had to register just to give you a +1 for using the term “Möbius-strafe”

    Rock! :D

  15. Vorrin says:

    oh wow, good news!

    I think serious sam always has remained the apex of old school proper action fps (I know painkiller and the likes where supposed to be too,but I somewhat didnt like the action quite as much there), a genre that has mostly vanished since (as can be noticed playing the last duke nukem), so yes, go go Croteam,I miss the unfairness and the requirement for spatial awareness perfection :D

    • LionsPhil says:

      Maybe it’ll remind people of what “retro ’90s FPS gameplay” was, when our protagonists weren’t as overweight and unfit as the players, and could run and shoot at the same time.

  16. diebroken says:

    Sledgehammer looks fun to use! :D

  17. Hanban says:

    This is how I read one of the sentences:

    “is a female Gnaar – the giant, hulking breasts that lumber on their knuckled forearms”

    And thought to myself: “Well that’s weird.”

  18. playworker says:

    Sounds like the game DNF should have been

  19. GallonOfAlan says:

    No it doesn’t. They’re completely different types of game. Having a sort-of-similar main character notwithstanding.

  20. Alexandros says:

    Serious Sam 3 and Hard Reset, both PC-led shooters, fill me with hope that the “Era of the COD clone” is finally coming to an end.

  21. bill says:

    @John: You imply that it’s not fair… but then you never followed up on that.
    Hopefully you just mean in terms of numbers, not in terms of gameplay.

    I always found the serious sam games to be a lot MORE fair than most modern FPS games. If you die in Sam it’s usually because you messed up, and you know what you did. Modern FPS games have a habit of killing me with a headshot from someone I didn’t see – and then making me replay from the last checkpoint. Much more unfair.

    While i LOVED serious sam, i hope they’re going to vary the environments a little this time. Egyptian deserts got pretty old the first time, and i’m rather surprised they’ve gone back to them again. SSam blew Painkiller out of the water gameplay wise – but they could have done with some of the variation in environments.

    Also – I for one would not object to actually having a decent story and characters. I don’t see why we get Story+Corridors OR NoStory+OpenShooters but can’t get both in one. There’s no reason an old-school shooter like this or Hard Reset can’t have a decent story and characters TOO.

  22. VeritableHero says:

    Sounds fantastic. Playing through 2nd Encounter HD right now. Getting me in the mood. While playing, I constantly find myself hitting “R” to reload only to realize that reloading a weapon is automatic. Doh!

    I still can’t find Serious Sam 2 online, though. Come on Steam. Get your act together!

  23. MistaJah says:

    …a shiny, visceral awfulness that makes exploding them into gibbage that bit more satisfying.

    Better have hippie mode

  24. Kollega says:

    I recall playing Serious Sam: the Second Encounter. The weapons seemed woefully inadequate against such large amounts of enemies. Reading these comments, i want to ask – were they intended to be inadequate? If they were, why were they so underpowered? Rocket launcher, for example, seemed too weak to deal with even one biomechanoid, much less fifty of them.

    • bill says:

      Don’t remember them being underpowered. Remember them being pretty well balanced.

    • Bhazor says:

      You is baby.

    • Very Real Talker says:

      you just had to avoid the easily avoidable lasers, while keeping your aim on the biomechanoids, while keeping the fire button pressed, and then BAM rocket rape.

      Not considering the incredibly overpowered weapon you find later on, from the gattling gun to the cannon…. even the tommy gun was pretty powerful against those bio mechanoids

    • PoulWrist says:

      Regular blue biomech took 1 rocket to die. Big red ones took may be 5.

  25. clownst0pper says:

    So we are happy to accept entirely repetitive shooters, as long as it knows it’s one?

    Ive always found SS just so dull, with it only mildly entertaining for 15 minutes before repetative boredom sets in.

    Am I missing something?:-/

    • Diziet Sma says:

      Yes probably, but I wouldn’t worry about it. SS is really there for those that just like dancing on the keyboard and shooting things. There are plenty of other games that will tickle your fancy no doubt.

      I’m really looking forward to this, a bit of an old school hoot and some proper manic shooty stuff.

    • Tachikoma says:

      @ clownst0pper: LAN Play! used to lan with 5-10 people with first encounter. pure madness and fun, escpecially with friendly fire. (Plus the challenge of trying to knife charging bulls. )

    • smoke.tetsu says:

      One thing I hate about friendly fire though is when one goes to a public server and you get one player who wants to ruin it for the rest by constantly killing the other players rather than the monsters. Some of us got fed up with that and surrounded him and kept him as a pile of gibs using mini guns but he still didn’t get the picture. Altough it was pretty funny to keep him as a pile of gibs with unlimited ammo on and the way you can have they respawned on the same spot.

      Of course with LAN play you can bypass that by not having any jerks in your party.

    • Wang Tang says:

      Yes, you’re missing LAN play with friends, unlimited ammo, max. monsters and hippie blood. Mayhem =D

    • Urthman says:

      It’s a game genre. Lots of people like “repetitive shooters” like Robotron or Grid Wars or Serious Sam. You don’t have to like that genre, but yes, many of us not just “happy to accept it” but actively craving the kind of “frantic action feeling” that you don’t get so much in story-based FPS like Half-Life.

      It’s okay if you don’t like it. It’s hardly going to displace every other kind of FPS.

    • Primate Ryan says:

      Yes, you are. The game gets more interesting from level three onwards or so. The craziness on display is not to be underestimated. In fact, the game has quite a few memorable moments (more than practically every shooter released in the last five years), such as the massive bullrush when you receive the rocketlauncher (provided that you didn’t find it as a secret earlier in the game, SS is like that) or the massive walled area with the kamikazes streaming over the walls for minutes on end, or the final gauntlet with the immense final boss looming in the distance and hordes of enemies standing between you and him.

      Unfortunately, things got worse with The Second Encounter and 2 was an abomination, but 3 appears to be a return to form.

  26. Zanchito says:

    “a grotesque half-helicopter, half-octopus, all writhing tentacles and spinning blades, firing its machine guns”

    OH YES!!!

  27. Breedlove says:

    Looks like this should be a blast to play! Can’t wait for campaign co-op.

  28. smoke.tetsu says:

    I love me some serious sam and have been enjoying the HD remakes so of course I’m looking forward to this. Run & Gun FPS games like this are my favorite kind of FPS. So of course I’m also looking forward to Hard Reset.

  29. BobsLawnService says:

    I suddenly find myself slightly hard.

  30. shoptroll says:

    I’m relatively new to the Sam games (first played the HD versions in the Summer Steam sale), but I’m looking forward to playing this.

  31. Urthman says:

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun is the first place in the world to have been given a few levels of Serious Sam 3: BFE to play with

    Congratulations! With this baton, RPS officially assumes the legacy of Old Man Murray.

    http://www.oldmanmurray.com/features/73.html
    http://www.oldmanmurray.com/features/75.html

    Now let’s have an interview with one of the Serious Sam developers about CliffyB’s grooming habits.

  32. Pointless Puppies says:

    What about all the completely ridiculous secrets? I want to have trees attacking me and be teleported to microscopic movie sets!

  33. MichaelDial - They Call Me Dial says:

    Tell MySelf I must Register here lol.
    Is Getting Serious here :D:D
    HI All
    I am a newbie here lol.
    Everyday I keeping my Eyes on this site http://www.croteam.com/index.shtml for SS3 BFE to release.
    Screenshot is Wicked YESS.
    Been playing the HD on Serious Difficulty And youtubing. Made The SS3 Skin too. :D

    http://www.youtube.com/user/Extremeabc

  34. laddyman says:

    I’ve been needing an intentionally masochistic shooter lately. Abuse me more, Serious Sam!

  35. Baines says:

    I know this is a PC-focused site, but I rather hope they can get a good four-player split-screen co-op version running for the console ports as well. I wouldn’t mind taking a graphical hit for it. Serious Sam is the kind of arcade action that has been missing for some time from the “arcade-ish” consoles, and sitting on a couch with some friends should be fun.

    Yes, the PC has split-screen. The problem there is that everyone I know has been moving to laptops for their PC needs. Everyone sitting around a small screen just isn’t the same as a TV, assuming you could even connect three game pads and a mouse at the same time the laptop.

  36. arioch says:

    Clearly the most important thing is – can we still play it 16 player at lan parties, and how many copies do we need to buy!

  37. Cryotek says:

    HELL FRAKKIN’ YEAH.

    And wasn’t this supposed to be out this summer? Guess it’s getting pushed back… :/

  38. ZenArcade says:

    Fantastic. Adding this to my most anticipated list!

  39. JackDandy says:

    Oh jesus fuck, I can’t wait to play this. Loved HD 1 and 2.

  40. BathroomCitizen says:

    Hell yeah!

    I was missing a shooter from the goold old days: when shooting stuff was actually entertaining!

  41. RegisteredUser says:

    Fuck yes for gibs, violence, good times and uncrippled guns, non-recharging health, no checkpointing..EEEEEPIC EPICNESS

  42. Snowman5677 says:

    Can I play Serious Sam 3 with Lan mode with only one copy? I want to be able to play co-op without using spitscreen, basically.

  43. dellphukof says:

    Shame, I was really hoping to play this soon. Oh well, guess we will just have to add it to all the other great titles coming out soon.
    Looking through that article, the pics where you are fighting in the water look awesome. I for one am ready for this – aaaahhhhhhhhh.
    Although I’m not really sold on the shiny bits but I’ll manage.16 player co-op is insanely fun in SS2, can’t wait to do it with this one.dich vu seo