Throwback FPS month, Dark Forces, and Serious Sam 2.

I don't know how many read my list of conquered games, but I noticed a strange trend in the games I've beaten lately: Doom, Doom II, Wolfenstein 3D, Dark Forces, Quake...

Somehow I got myself into a throwback FPS kick this month. Some of these games like Doom, Wolfenstein and Quake hold special memories to me since I was a kid. Playing lots of the shareware versions of these games and having a blast. I decided to randomly pick up Ultimate Doom on late February, and then it kinda snowballed from there.

However, there was one game that really caught my interest more than the greats, and I never thought I'd like it considering I don't care much for the source material, but I really liked Star Wars: Dark Forces.

This cutscene eerily reminds me of Rebel Assault, that awful FMV Star Wars game. I assume this is something LucasArts did a lot of in their games.
This cutscene eerily reminds me of Rebel Assault, that awful FMV Star Wars game. I assume this is something LucasArts did a lot of in their games.

I picked up a bunch of the Star Wars FPSes on a Steam sale many months back, and I decided to pick up Dark Forces since I was on a retro FPS kick. Man. This game is awesome for many reasons. Mainly because it did some cool things that not many FPSes were doing at the time, like being in a 3D space, interesting puzzles, and taking the Star Wars franchise and somehow making it into a good FPS without having to rely on using lightsabers or the Force all the time. (I heard they changed that in Dark Forces 2, which I hope is just as good.)

However, the game is balls hard on later levels. The game doesn't use a quicksave/load function, opting for extra lives and checkpoints. It takes a little getting used to, but nothing sucks more than dying right at the end of a stage and having to redo about 20-30 minutes of progress. Eventually after going through the complex and elaborate final level only to die right at the last level, I kicked it down to Easy. It's a pretty tough game.

If you haven't played it, you should. You don't even have to be a Star Wars fan to understand what's going on. Oh yeah, there's one more cool thing about it:

You can punch space dragons.
You can punch space dragons.

The other retro FPS I was playing was Serious Sam 2. It was on sale, and it recently got a Steamworks conversion about ten years after release. I heard great things about the first and second encounters, even Serious Sam 3, but somehow this one got put by the wayside by fans. I wondered why.

I played through the whole campaign in co-op, because it feels weird to play Serious Sam solo. It's style and gameplay is built for co-op fun, and I fully believe any game, no matter how mediocre, is fun even in co-op. Then as me and my buddies played along, it became obvious why.

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This game is very random. The first few levels take you through an island place, then you're suddenly in a small garden (shown left). Eventually go to deserts, stereotypical asian lands, volcanic worlds, ice worlds, futuristic space worlds, and so on. While the locations are diverse, it doesn't really fit well together. Unless the cutscenes explain everything, which are disabled in co-op except for the ending cinematic.

Croteam also tried to experiment with interesting mechanics. There's several vehicle sections, rail shooter levels, item hunts and defending areas. Of course, there's the usual big-ass boss fight, but it seems lots of members at Croteam had ideas, and rather than stick with one that could make Sam II interesting, they threw them all in. There's a lot of strange gimmicks, like the ice world requiring you to be near heat sources otherwise you lose health, or a later stage where suddenly you in a game show arena fighting for your life.

WB Games should get Croteam to make the next Smash TV. I'd play it if it were like this!
WB Games should get Croteam to make the next Smash TV. I'd play it if it were like this!

In addition, there's a lot of strange weaponry. A lot of the weapons are futuristic like the weird rotating barrel shotgun and rocket launcher, but then you have space Uzis, miniguns, and Sam's default revolvers. The whole game is confusing, and it's a shame.

On the bright side, we're playing through Serious Sam 3 now, and while it's a bit more corridor-shooter than previous Sam games, it's a lot, lot better than this. Now I totally understand why people forgot about Serious Sam II: It's kinda crap.

I really wanted to get into some other old-school FPSes like Heretic and Hexen, but since March is just about over, I might actually go back to playing normal games again so I can tackle my large and burgeoning backlog.

On the bright side, I did try a few games like Dead Rising 2 and Titan Attacks, but I haven't played either enough to really give good enough thoughts on them yet. If only the co-op worked fine in DR2 and didn't disconnect me and my friend constantly...

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