One of the most refreshing moments of this year’s E3 was a trip out of the noisy, smelly Convention Center to a nearby hotel, to sit down and play Serious Sam 3. Refreshing to be away from the noise, but also to just be sat playing a game (on PC, no less) that’s so focused on being a game.
Cryogenically frozen in 1994, developers Croteam have once again been defrosted, unaware of any of the events that have taken place in gaming since. And the result is such a relief. A pure shooter, no intricate story, no loving protagonist, no augmenting your legs, and no books to read. Just running around shooting waves of enemies so voluminous that they had to build their own engine from scratch to support them.
That’s no exaggeration, either. In the single level I played, there had to be at least forty enemies on screen at once. The Serious 3 Engine not only looks ridiculously pretty, but it seamlessly presents dozens and dozens of baddies without a stutter.
Here’s what you need to worry about: health, armour, weapons. And their application against wave after wave after wave of screaming, trotting, and roaring ludicrous enemies.
Of course the Beheaded Kamikazes swarmed in, along with many other classic Sam bads. They weren’t in the mood for revealing their new range of monsters just yet, but they were willing to show off a few new weapons.
None of which are worth even thinking about alongside the bowling ball canon. Firing a vast ball about 6ft high, it not only crushes anything in its path, but also demolishes the scenery around you. Stood in the middle of a desert scene, the odd structure gave me a clue about which direction to run in next, and then BLAMMO I knocked them down.
However, the exploding rounds shotgun was also a lot of fun. But oddly enough, the weapon that proved the most fun was waiting until a bunch of enemies were near some Kamikazes and then blowing one of those up. Much more satisfying.
But most of all, it was about enjoying yourself. No distractions, no obfuscations, just running around and shooting at stuff. Screaming, mad stuff.
There will be some degree of narrative, it seems, but these won’t appear in the form of cutscenes – that would be widely missing the point. They call them “cinematics”, but you can absolutely choose to just look away while they’re happening, as you carry on playing. Perhaps hunting for the secrets that every level is packed with, because Croteam remembers.
Thankfully the game is to be published by Devolver, the new group formed by those who had originally started Gathering Of Developers with such good intentions. (Let’s ignore Gamecock.) Now an extremely small team, they’re focused entirely on the Sam games, and say they are giving Croteam complete creative freedom.
It was only one level I played, but it was a level true to the original games, which in turn were true to the classic shooters of the mid-nineties, and enormous fun. Of course it required running backward, of course there were ridiculous volumes of enemies, and of course I was stuck with the echo of that Kamikaze screaming in my head for the rest of the evening.
Oh, and something they mentioned at the last moment without any more explanation? 16 player co-op.