A Rocket to a Cyclops' Eye
Serious Sam has generally been associated with three main concepts – large open areas, mass amounts of enemies, and running backwards while frantically shooting these enemies. Serious Sam 3 features these main concepts for a majority of the game but tries to combine them with shadows, flashlights, and smaller weapons. The result is an unbalanced but decent experience that sometimes feels like two different games.
Serious Sam 3 begins with the titular Sam being flown to a small desert town to theoretically kill many enemies with a military unit. Unfortunately, a rocket hits Sam’s transport and his team gets separated in the small town. Sam has to find his separated team while battling hordes of enemies armed with only a sledgehammer and pistol. Most Serious Sam games would introduce new weapons and enemies every few minutes, but this Sam is different. The first few hours play more like a pseudo-survival game where Sam is exploring dark mazes and trying to spot enemies with his flashlight. Thankfully, this portion only lasts a short time before switching to traditional Serious Sam gameplay.
Once Sam finds more weapons and open areas, hordes of enemies start appearing at what would be an alarming rate were it not for the shotguns, rocket launchers, and mini-guns that Sam has at his disposal. These areas are when Serious Sam 3 is at its best. New enemies like floating witch-brides are mixed in with the classic enemies like beheaded kamikazes. These witch-brides add a new strategic element to the standard “strafe and shoot” method of Serious Sam because they can lift Sam off of the ground and drain his health with telekinetic powers. Killing these witch-brides first is essential to surviving large battles, especially near the end of the game.
The classic Serious Sam gameplay is still a blast to play around with, but some of the elements in Serious Sam 3 felt a little…off. Almost all of the classic enemies were present, but not all of the weapons were. Instead of grenade launchers, Sam now has C4 and regular grenades that can be used to battle the larger groups of enemies. The C4 works well for setting traps, but it doesn’t have the same flashiness as dancing in a circle and playing “hot potato” with hundreds of grenades. The strangest missing item from the game is the Serious Bomb. This super-weapon has been a staple of the Serious Sam series as well as a fan favorite, and withholding the Serious Bomb contributed to the feeling that Serious Sam 3 was less of a passion project and more of a cash grab.
The console versions of Serious Sam 3 seem to lack the polish and variety that older Serious Sam games had. The majority of levels are all brown and dusty desert towns with broken cars scattered throughout. The levels that aren’t desert towns are pitch-black sewers that require the use of a flashlight to navigate. Serious Sam 3 also has quite a few glitches that can be distracting or irritating. Some enemies may stay suspended in the air or stuck in the sides of buildings after being shot. These glitches aren’t game breaking by any means, but they do reinforce the feeling that the game wasn’t exactly finished when it was released.
The run-and-gun gameplay of Serious Sam is a nice break from the modern military shooters that dominate the market with their serious stories and huge set pieces if only for the entertainment that it provides. Shooting gigantic Cyclops with cannons can be a lot more fun than shooting another terrorist with an assault rifle. Croteam had a chance to make an extraordinary game that combined classic gameplay with better technology and weapons, but the lack of polish and fan-focused features make Serious Sam 3 into another mediocre shooter.