Serious Sam Collection (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 29.11.2020

Review for Serious Sam Collection on Nintendo Switch

A common misunderstanding concerning the Serious Sam series, is that this is nothing more than a second-grade line of first-person shooters, with zero depth, and an extremely silly comedic side. This is an oversimplification. A very serious mistake, if you will. Yes, Croteam's creation isn't a complex one, but as it has been seen from industry legends like 1993's Doom, simplicity can work wonders when it goes hand to hand with smart design. So, yeah, while the gist of Serious Sam is basically "lots of guns, tons of ammo, hundreds of enemies," there's more than meets the eye here - and what better way to learn all about this bundle of cult classics, now that Serious Sam Collection has reached the shores of the Nintendo Switch.

Here's the basic Serious Sam formula for the uninitiated: the plot at hand is one more typical alien invasion, with the titular protagonist being sent to the past, so that he can have a chance in defeating the arch-villain of this tale, the faceless dude named Mental. The story is there just to place some sort of an incentive into your subconscious, of course, and an excuse to visit places, and do some shootin'. Thankfully, the series understands and embraces the cheesiness of it all, and the core of Serious Sam is mainly all about running around in gargantuan, almost empty locales, shooting at impressively large groups of bad guys, with ammo rarely being an issue - if ever.

This collection bundles together three mainline games. Starting with the original, The First Encounter, as well as its standalone expansion, The Second Encounter, it then skips the - tonally different - Serious Sam 2, for some strange reason (probably has something to do with publishing rights), and goes straight for Serious Sam 3: BFE. All these are available in their upgraded, HD versions, with all DLC included, and without any changes whatsoever, meaning that all modes remain intact, which is great, as co-op especially, has always been a major part of the Serious Sam experience. Now keep on reading, as Cubed3 takes a look at each individual title.

Screenshot for Serious Sam Collection on Nintendo Switch

Serious Sam: The First Encounter

Sam does his thing in Ancient Egypt, and in Ancient Egypt alone, yet while things can feel a bit samey, there's enough variety at hand, with the scenery going from endless dunes and dark temples, to villages, oasis, and more. Each stage also takes place during a different time of the day, so you'll enjoy some pretty high quality skies, with bright mornings, beautiful, star-lit nights, and everything in between. Not much detail to be found here, though. The level design is extremely simple; large and usually rectangular arenas, with not much in the way of decoration. This is deliberate. The Serious engine was mostly built with rendering as many enemies as possible in mind, in larger-than-life locales.

It succeeds in doing so, with the whole thing still looking good, especially now with the addition of HD textures. In the end, however, the Spartan aesthetic mainly serves the gameplay portion, with a typical level going like this: Sam enters a large area, picks the new weapon, or the ammo, health, and armour pickups waiting for him in the centre, and bad things start appearing. A lot of bad things. Prepare for a flood of enemies. Battles start as mildly impressive, and soon turn into epic marathons, where the trigger remains pressed for five minutes straight! The action is chaotic, super fun, and unbelievably cathartic. More importantly, it's not as dumb as it sounds.

Screenshot for Serious Sam Collection on Nintendo Switch

Although this is all about shooting at stuff, it is the smart design on offer that has turned it into such a beloved cult classic. The visual style, for example, is minimalistic, and thus doesn't tire the one doing all the shooting with unnecessary detail, and the enemy design is very striking, so that players can make out who is who in a sea of foes. All of these make distinct sounds too, so that one can know when a herd of Werebulls is trying to ram them, if an exploding kamikaze (or ten) is dangerously close, and so on, immersing you in the moment, and forcing you to prioritise targets, and ponder if its best to use a rocket launcher, a mini-gun, or something more fancy like a portable canon.

No, Serious Sam doesn't take itself to serious. It's a purposely cheesy take on the macho action hero who singlehandedly obliterates an army of monsters, throwing one-liners while at it - and yet serious attention has been given to the actual gameplay. The excellent, smooth controls, and carefully thought-out weapon and enemy behaviour keep things fair, putting the blame for any defeat on your hands, and your hands only. Repetitiveness can, and will kick in after a long session of shooting down Mental's minions, but it's hard to deny how entertaining and addictive the whole process can be, despite it lacking the variety of other first-person shooters.

Screenshot for Serious Sam Collection on Nintendo Switch

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

Don't mistake this for Serious Sam 2, which is an actual, full-blown sequel. This is basically more of The First Encounter, with the same engine and all, but with the action taking place away from Egypt, as Sam will now get to visit Aztec temples and pyramids, Persian gardens and mosques, and Dark Age-era European dungeons and castles. Expect some new, welcome additions to the enemy roster, as well as some new weapons, like a sniper rifle that's excellent for dealing with those enemies that are one kilometre away from you (like those pestering harpies), a flamethrower that's great for crowd control, and the awesome 'Serious Bomb' that destroys everything on screen.

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As mentioned before, it's more of the original, and at times it is even better, with more interesting combat scenarios. Moreover, it adds a thing that The First Encounter definitely needed: power-ups. These spice things up by adding the chance to receive a speed boost, a damage multiplier, or even invulnerability. Traditional stuff, but fun. What Serious Sam never needed, however, were levels where you had to search for keys or do some platforming. Thankfully, while these are definitely the worst parts of the game, they don't really last for long, not to mention that the key-searching bit still involves dealing with dozens upon dozens of angry minions to shoot at.

As a whole, this is a great expansion, and along with the original instalment, the best the franchise has to offer. Note that the DLC pack The Legend of the Beast is available. Is it good? Frankly… no. It's not a bad Serious Sam experience, to be perfectly honest, but the fact that it is nothing more than a beta build-era mapset that has been repackaged as a small add-on really shows in how bland and unimaginative the level design is, how annoying enemy placement can occasionally be, and, most importantly, in how you'll struggle to build a decent arsenal… and how you are once again in Ancient Egypt. Still, it's nice that this is here, all the same, given the price-tag.

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Serious Sam 3: BFE

After Serious Sam 2, which was… err, seriously non-serious, as it was so cartoony that it made what came before look like Call of Duty, Serious Sam 3: BFE finally came to fix things. Sadly, this went exactly the other way, and became a bit too Call of Duty for its own sake. This still is a Serious Sam game, but it will take a few hours for it to realise that, as it starts way too slow, with small encounters in the constrictive streets of modern day Cairo, a weird lack of decent ammunition for your weapons, and an even weirder focus on storytelling through cut-scenes. Nothing that a skip button can't handle, of course, not to mention that those bits retain the franchise's innate corny-ness.

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Thankfully, a couple of hours later, and Serious Sam 3: BFE finally remembers what it is, and the chaotic carnage (and fun) will finally begin. Unfortunately, even then, it's easy to see that this can't hold a candle to the original two entries, as few combat scenarios manage to stand out - like the awesome final one for example, where Sam has to destroy what feels like 1000 enemies in the bottom of a canyon. There are also far too many sections were almost nothing happens (even Sam makes a comment on that), where you'll spend your time searching for levers, and battle with foes that were mostly meant to be fought on a large field, and usually with a rocket launcher on hand.

There are a couple of more flawed, or at least questionable additions to talk about, like those melee finishers that may or may not work, and which feel out of place here, and this iteration of the Serious Engine is one of the worst ones yet, as the frame rate can occasionally dip very low, which probably has to do a lot with this title's need to be more realistic and detailed, whereas previous instalments new very well that Serious Sam and detail don't go hand to hand. Luckily, this is still a very fun ride, despite its issues, with a couple of new weapons and enemies thrown in, and plenty of gratuitous amounts of exploding gibs, and environmental destruction. The DLC is once again… there, though.

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Now, in case this wasn't made clear already, this is a must-have collection. The titles included are in no way perfect (especially the third one and the DLCs), but unless a hater of all things FPS, and especially super-old-school FPS, there's little reason not to grab this right now. As mentioned before, while the concept is in theory way too simple, in practice you'll realise that this needs a methodical way of playing. Even if some don't agree with this critic about the depth that's hidden under Serious Sam's silly exterior, just try this out for the chance to blow out aliens by the dozen.

Not only is the price right, and the ports flawless, but players are basically buying an immense amount of replay value. The single player experience is very addictive, as you'll keep coming back to it, whether to simply enjoy some "mindless" bloodshed that will put a smile on your face, or to improve your score, be increasing the difficulty, finding all secrets (and there are many), or using the least amount of saves possible. Bored of playing alone? Gather a bunch of friends, and enjoy some co-op or competitive mayhem, online or in split-screen mode. The fun will then get seriously serious!

Screenshot for Serious Sam Collection on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Tired of the latest shooter trends in the video game industry, or simply tired from your real-life troubles, and just want to kill hundreds of aliens, monsters, and demons to relax? Serious Sam Collection is the solution, to all your trigger-happy needs. This bundle, which includes all mainline games released so far (bar one), and with all additional content thrown in as well, is one of the best deals in the world of first-person shooters, and an excellent pick for any retro-loving owner of the Nintendo Switch.

Developer

Croteam

Publisher

Devolver Digital

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

16

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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