Serious Sam 4 (PC) Review

By Athanasios 01.12.2020

Review for Serious Sam 4 on PC

Once upon a time, Serious Sam 3: BFE happened. It was very good, but ask most fans of the series (critic included), and they'll tell you that it wasn't exactly as good as the original duology, first because it occasionally tried to be something it wasn't, and secondly because it wasn't as cleverly crafted and finely polished as what came before. Almost a decade later, and Croteam returns to its flagship franchise. Does it deliver? The quick answer is: yes! Serious Sam 4 is a fun shooter, where people will once again enjoy being a one-man army that demolishes whole battalions of alien scum. Is it the fourthquel Sam "Serious" Stone deserved, though?

In true Serious Sam tradition, this takes everything from the past, and simply repackages it, with new textures, and a new engine powering it all. Serious Sam 4 is basically a more "modern-looking" Serious Sam 3: BFE that, tiny amount of additions put aside, is still nothing more than having the titular macho hero blasting away swarms of enemies. That's not a problem. Those who go into a Serious Sam game simply want… more Serious Sam! That's not to say that nothing has changed, of course.

Apart from the typical bestiary of the franchise, with the - now iconic - running kamikazes, undead skeleton horses, machine gun-wielding scorpions, and magic-spitting, four-armed lizards, this brings forth a couple of new bad guys and gals, which manage to spice things up significantly, especially after they start attacking in large numbers, or in groups that include various types of minions, forcing the one doing all the shooting to keep many balls in the air, and think when to do what, and how.

Screenshot for Serious Sam 4 on PC

Concerning the weapons, this is a case of "don't fix what isn't broken," as it keeps Sam's boomsticks, and simply offers him the chance to dual-wield them, making the whole thing even more ridiculously over-the-top, as players can now carry a minigun in both hands, rain hot, murderous lead in a sea of aliens, and wipe them out in mere seconds. Sadly, while great fun, this leans more towards Serious Sam 3, rather than the original duology, and lacks the polish, and overall smart design of the latter.

Take the aforementioned dual-wielding. This is tied to a skill tree that has no place in such a game, with half the abilities focusing on melee finishers, which have no place here as well. Moreover, this title isn't eager to try new things. Weapons are upgradeable, so the shotgun can throw grenades, and the rocket launcher can spit five projectiles at once, but it all feels like a small step forwards, whereas other "reborn" shooters, like the excellent DOOM Eternal, dared to be major game changers.

Luckily, all this negativity mainly stems from the crashed hopes of yours truly, who expected Croteam to finally learn from its history, and offer the best entry yet, whereas the developer just crafted one more Serious Sam game. Thankfully, this is very, very entertaining, even if it is quite rough around the edges (more on that later), and although, like Serious Sam 3 before it, kind of starts a bit slower than what's expected, with small encounters that feel very… non-Serious Sam.

Screenshot for Serious Sam 4 on PC

Fortunately, this soon remembers what Serious Sam is all about (killing a crazy number of enemies, in enormous arenas), and becomes an extremely enjoyable and cathartic affair. It's also great how it ditches the claustrophobic corridors of Serious Sam 3, as well as its less vibrant colour palette, while also keeping its level of detail. The streets of Rome, the French countryside, and the barren fields of Tunguska aren't exactly next-gen, but they look awesome, with the scale sometimes putting Skyrim to shame.

To be honest, though, while it's nice how this turns everything to eleven, this can occasionally be its problem. A stage in France, for instance, is 100km2 or something, but just to be so. As for the action, it can get super-wild, but it kind of lacks the smart design of what came before, with most combat scenarios lacking imagination, and sometimes even feeling like it's less about playing methodically, and more about using Sam's new gadgets to save his behinds, which include miniature nukes and black holes(?!).

Screenshot for Serious Sam 4 on PC

It's pretty evident that this should spend more time in the oven, as it has many issues, like strangely empty areas, secrets that are mind-bogglingly annoying to reach (usually through some very bad platforming), enemies that get stuck in level geometry, and a frame-rate that constantly struggles to stay put, even when one does something as simple as shooting a double-barrelled shotgun, which is not exactly a good omen for a series which revolves around epic battlegrounds.

Despite the many years it took to develop this, Croteam's creation feels rushed. The pacing is off, some elements, like the vehicle rides, feel like they were placed here at the very last minute, and the storytelling is of mixed quality, with an overemphasis in cut-scenes (for a Serious Sam game, that is), and some bizarrely dark moments (again, for a Serious Sam game). Is it absolutely ridiculous to talk about the story in such a title? Probably as much as it is having so much of it. Nothing a skip button can't fix, of course.

…And still, after all the things that have been said, it is actually impossible to stay mad at Serious Sam 4 for too long. Yes, this needed a lot more work, and the team behind it needed to better understand what made the series famous in the first place, and don't just develop one more Serious Sam game and call it a day - but this remains a highly enjoyable piece of software that will satisfy most - retro? - FPS aficionados. Oh, and don't forget, up to four players can go through it all, and share the chaos.

Screenshot for Serious Sam 4 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Croteam has yet to surpass its first two Serious Sam games, with Serious Sam 4 basically being one more entry; one that is great fun, but far from an evolution of the series. The flaws are aplenty, although they are rarely very serious (pun not intended), making this fourthquel more disappointing than bad - because, make no mistake, this is very good. Sure, it's not the best Serious Sam game… but still a Serious Sam game. Fans of serious action will understand.

Developer

Croteam

Publisher

Devolver Digital

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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