Hands On: Serious Sam 3

He's just hungry.

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.

This might be the worst screenshot ever released.

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.



  1. Teddy Leach says:


    • westyfield says:

      How reckless.

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      Beats any Duke one-liner.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Its more aaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAARGGHHHHH. They usually start far away you see.

    • bill says:

      The sound design in Serious Sam was awesome.

      They managed to make you totally aware of incoming threats from any angle. The aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr RRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH! was the most obvious example, but there were also the robotic walking sounds, the skreetches of the harpies, the werebulls and those FREAKY skeleton horses that regularly made me jump out of my seat. Even a lot of the weapons, like the lasers, had useful sound.

      It was one of the things I didn’t like about Painkiller, many of their enemies seemed silent, and they launched silent projectiles that only made a sound when they hit your back.
      So you had 2 games where multiple enemies spawned all around you – but in SS i always knew what was going on. In painkiller i’d get blindsided by 10 magic blasts from the 10 floating mages who’d spawned just out of my site.

      In serious sam i’d focus on taking down the giant walker, before, at the last possible moment, sidestepping, turning, equiping the shotgun and blasting the skeleton horse out of the air as it leapt towards where my back had just been. That was awesome.

    • Navagon says:


      A classic moment in gaming. Looking forward to this second sequel, even if the BFE probably stands for Before First Encounter, which makes no sense. But it’s Serious Sam! When has it ever had to make sense?

    • daf says:

      Maybe it’s B for Beyond?

  2. Ace Jon says:

    When? When when when? WHEN?

  3. Felixader says:

    Oh yeah, what happened to that Gamecock… organisation…. thing?

  4. Diziet Sma says:

    Seriously looking forward to this.

  5. Bodminzer says:

    Hoping for another of those completely mental fever dream adverts for it.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Hoping for the Serious Engine to still support mental twists in the map, like that sphere where gravity is always outwards, or that bit with the corridor that bends up in an S-shape.

  6. Patches the Hyena says:

    Bring on Q3. Looks very promising.

  7. Icarus says:

    Yes. Oh yes, do want, do want so very much. Bullet madness and screaming and running around.

  8. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Edit, I am currently taking more reading lessons, so in the future I don’t make dumb comments.

    Send your donations for my reading lessons to lemonparty.org :3

    Also; this looks like the game/rules that DNF should have been/followed.

  9. WingNutZA says:

    Staring eye tag, perhaps?

    And SS3 looks great, very much looking forward to it.

  10. Flameberge says:

    Looks like the game that Duke should have been / could have been / wanted to be.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Duke Nukem Forever wanted to be Halo or Half-Life 2, not this kind of old-school shootin’.

    • Flameberge says:

      Maybe I should have said this game is what Duke should have wanted to be.

  11. The Sentinel says:

    Yes! *airpunch*

    Old Skool never gets old. :)

  12. Very Real Talker says:

    it is a shame that they deviated from the art style of serious sam 2, I bet they even removed the cartoon style voiced cutesy alien, that were the reason serious sam was so loved among hardcore fps players. It is also a shame that croteam refuses to upgrade the serious sam franchise to the modern convention and innovations of the genre. The world has moved on croteam, nobody likes playing as an action hero, weak and slow fragile soldiers who can’t control the spread of their weapons are more realistic and immersive.

    Ok I managed to dislodge my tongue, it ended up being stuck in the cheek. I mean that I’m already orgasming for this game. Serious sam second encounter hd was awesome and I’m looking forward to this and to the next episodes in the series. I mean that I’m orgasming hardcore, with emission of bodily fluids and all that. Yes.

    • jeremypeel says:

      I applaud your sentiments, from a distance and wearing latex gloves.

    • Urthman says:

      I will–in all seriousness–be seriously disappointed if they don’t support Hippie mode, with colorful flowers replacing blood spurts and stains and various fruits and vegetables replacing gibs.

    • Spacewalk says:

      I’ll be a bit disappointed if they don’t have 5 pages of graphical settings for you to tinker with. But only a bit.

  13. vitalyb says:

    Can’t wait.

    I wish more games would be more like that. I hate to generalize but… If you aren’t Bioware or Rockstar North, please concentrate more on the gameplay and less on flashy graphics or dull cut-scenes.

  14. DeanLearner says:

    I hope they have a tech demo level, I remember playing the first one and thinking


  15. jeremypeel says:

    Been chewing away at Doom Classic on iPod all weekend, and this seems just exactly like what that dodgy doctor of John’s would order. Developers! Take explicit advantage of the gaminess of games!

  16. lurkalisk says:

    Looks promising, if the gameplay’s up to it, so am I.

    Strange though, how people are all up for old-school fun when it comes to serious sam. Yet before anyone played DNF, most were all on about how such a thing wasn’t worth their time…

    • Creeping Death says:

      Well Serious Sam wasn’t in development for 12 years and hyped into the Stratosphere.

      Might have something to do with it.

      Also, Serious Sam games (to me) seem more about the old school gameplay, where as DNF’s focus was more on the “personality” of Duke himself, which doesn’t really work these days.

      Plus it took about an hour before you shot something -.-

    • Urthman says:

      Yet before anyone played DNF, most were all on about how such a thing wasn’t worth their time…

      People said that because previews from Gearbox made it very clear that they weren’t offering any old-school Duke 3D gameplay.

      Unless you’re thinking of the pool table and pinball minigames.

    • lurkalisk says:

      Hmm, didn’t seem that way to me, but I guess without having played it, there’s only so much to glean…

  17. Nick says:

    Yay! A (hopefully.. and most likely) pleasant reprieve from regenerating health and convenient chest high scenery.

    <3 Croteam

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    Sigh, if only EA had Croteam’s attitude. We’d have Magic Carpet 7, Ultima XIII, and Dungeon Keeper 5 by now.

    Oh wait, yeah, Madden. But Madden doesn’t count as a videogame series*.

    *It’s a series of expansion packs.

  19. bill says:

    I hope they put in a bit more variety in the level settings this time. That was my only complaint about the first one.

    If you took the level ARTISTS from Painkiller, and matched them with all the game/level designers from Serious Sam you’d have the best game ever.

    SS had awesome pacing, awesome weapons, awesome arenas, mostly awesome enemies, very awesome sound, and lots and lots of pyramids.
    Painkiller had great looking levels with lots of variety, and a stake gun. (and was otherwise crap)

    Put them together and what have you got.? Best game ever made.

  20. Bilbo says:

    Exciting times. Feel a bit sorry for people who still think duke nukem is worth bothering with when this exists.

    • The Sentinel says:

      Even all these years later Duke Nukem 3D is still very much worth bothering with.

    • Bilbo says:

      I was more thinking Gearbox for buying it up and bringing it back, and people who bought DNF.

  21. bill says:

    PS/ 40 enemies? that’s all? I’m sure SS1 had a lot more than that….

    • Ultra Superior says:

      at once ? nah… there was a decent surplus of them but they were coming and going.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yeah they spawned in waves. Generally I would say the max was about 15-20.

      Bear in mind that this sounds like an early level. So I’m guessing the bads count will only go up.

    • Ringwraith says:

      They save the insanely big hordes for big events.
      Like the Grand Cathedral.
      Also, insanely long fields where you can merely see things as little more than dots as they’re so far away and incessantly spawning in droves while moving ever closer.

    • phosgene says:

      I remember one point in SS1 that involved a 30m deep pit with spikes at the bottom. I had an immense wave of the runny skeleton dog things chasing me, and I rocket jumped over the pit so they would mindlessly fall to their deaths. The pit ended up filling to the brim with the enemies and their corpses which gave their friends a makeshift bridge.
      I’m sure there were a lot more than 40 enemies on the screen at this point. This ran on my 400mhz Pentium 2 with my 16MB Voodoo 3. I was pretty amazed.

    • bill says:

      It may be my memory playing tricks on me, but I sure remember a lot more than 40 enemies on screen at once.
      link to spawnkill.com

    • Cooper says:

      According to SS1 modding forums, the spawner limit is somewhere above 2 billion…

      The game tended to keep the polycount to a limit, not the number ofenemies (as AI was so simple, it would hardly CPU bottleneck) – so when you got tons of enemies on the screen, you were probably in a very low-poly area (such as that screenshot).

      SS1 got around this by often -immediately- spawning a new enemy the moment you popped one. So it seemed like dozens, but rather there was just a ocnstant flow.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Tricks aren’t bad if they work. As long as they keep on making SS3 feel at least full of huge swarms as SS1, it’s all good.

    • Urthman says:


  22. Ultra Superior says:

    John: “no intricate story, no loving protagonist, no augmenting your legs, and no books to read.”

    Jokes aside – you say this like we’re sick and tired of all those years of endless Deus Exing !

    (well, I kinda am, but it’s the lack of similar games that makes me replay the DX1 over and over again)

  23. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Sam I am.

  24. Ashen says:

    Awesome. After the disappointment of Bulletstorm, I can only look forward to this. Hope Croteam delivers.

  25. Yzzerdd says:

    Seriously always bet on Sam

  26. GallonOfAlan says:

    Why do people compare Duke Nukem and Serious Sam – they have little in common apart from Sam being sort of lifted from Duke. In terms of game-play they’re not similar at all, Sam is essentially Robotron in 3D with bosses. That’s not a criticism either.

    • Bilbo says:

      Art style, over the top action, silly plot, and generally flippant outlook – they’re a lot more similar than you make out.

  27. Velvetmeds says:

    I don’t see how anyone would be interested in this.

    • DeanLearner says:

      Why’s that no eyes? Got no eyes or summink?

    • Nick says:

      that must be what I sound like all the time. I’m a dick.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Cool story bro.

      I guess you like MW2.

    • Velvetmeds says:

      Nope. I like good games, not mindless manshooting

    • RegisteredUser says:

      That’s kind of what I thought at first, but then I went and started playing the games.

      They kinda grow on you.
      And, given their stark contrast to all things Call Of Gaylo: 9000 nowadays, the Sams seem like the most brilliant shooters ever conceived when comparing them to what else is coming out/being sold.

  28. JustOneWay says:

    Excellent news. Having played through the first and second encounters in HD recently I found the un-reconstructed shooting to be a perfect pick up and play blastabout. When I just wanted half an hour of mindless carnage, it fitted that role perfectly.

    It is also great to see a development team with an appreciation that just because others do it differently, that is not necessarily better. The way most modern shooters are put together these days provides more scope for immersion in story and whathaveyou but sometimes all you want to do is mow down screaming hordes of bads with a massive chaingun.
    On that front Sams your Man.

  29. Shatners Bassoon says:

    Ahem. Staring eye tag pwetty please.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I object on the basis that none of those eyes are staring out of the screen at us.

  30. Junch says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t italicize the word 16. That made my mouth drop more than co-op. That’s been in Serious Sam from the start.

  31. shoptroll says:

    Ever shot your gun into the air and yelled, “AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”?

    (I haven’t tried any of the Sam games before but I’ll be sure to check this out when it releases. Also, the 4 indie games sound amazing)

  32. squareking says:

    I don’t say this often, but — day-one purchase.

  33. LionsPhil says:

    16-player co-op

    Oh my god. I can only imagine the noise.

    Especially if monster count scaling is still in. 640 beheaded kamakazes pouring over the brow of a hill as sixteen Sams wind up miniguns with barrels longer than they are tall.

  34. DeanLearner says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but in SS1, did anyone else find the floating versions of the one eyes monsters really creepy?

    It was the way they just floated along, silently, no arms, no legs, just their face. :(

  35. noom says:

    Sixteen player co-op has severely moistened me.

  36. Cyberwizard says:

    But most of all, it was about enjoying yourself. No distractions, no obfuscations, just running around and shooting at stuff. Screaming, mad stuff.

    This is exactly what I was hoping either Bulletstorm or Duke Nukem would be. I’m glad I held off on those. I can’t wait!

  37. Baines says:

    Serious Sam HD claims 16 player co-op as well.

  38. deadpan says:

    eh, I’ll wait for the Old Man Murray review.

  39. Ricotta says:

    Oh serious sam… you’re so simple and so very awesome, long live croteam.

  40. EBass says:

    Oh god I hated those frog swarms. Anyway, hurrah!

  41. Ganj says:

    I hope it shares more with the first Sam than the second. That one was a lot less panic ridden, perhaps because of the weapons they added, (the flamethrower I seem to recall being particularly overpowered). The first, however, made me rebind quick save to an easier to reach key :P

  42. PoulWrist says:

    I will buy it and I will play it and I will cry a silent tear.

  43. Fumarole says:

    Ah, Serious Sam. The one shooter with which I am ok turning friendly fire off.

  44. Navagon says:

    So will RPS be doing a Serious co-op? Come on, guys, that needs doing!

  45. Lambchops says:

    But can we talk to the monsters?

  46. BreadBitten says:

    16 player co-op.


  47. RegisteredUser says:

    This is one to get.
    Because Croteam remembers.

    Because you can carry more than 2 guns. Because you can save your game.
    Because there is health, and armor.
    Because there is challenge, and, thus, a point.

    Because Croteam remembers.