Years ago, I fondly remember playing through the Serious Sam games from Croteam at LAN parties with friends. A few months ago, Serious Sam: The First Encounter was re-released with "HD" inserted into its name, meaning it had spruced up graphics and new features. Now, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter has made its way to Steam and XBLA for FPS fans to enjoy. Is the $20 price tag worth it? Let's find out!
If you haven't played the Serious Sam games, just imagine huge outdoor environments with dozens of enemies all eager to eat your lunch. I've actually never played through either the First or Second Encounter alone, because this game screams co-op. The entire experience is a lot more enjoyable with a friend or friends. Playing single player is good for practicing your reflexes and dodging skills, but it doesn't hold a candle to playing co-op.
So, anyway, what is The Second Encounter about? To be honest, I was too focused trying to stay alive amidst the swarms of enemies to really pay much of any attention to the story. Think aliens on earth, eager to take over and you're the guy that can save the world and there you have it. Seriously though, the story isn't important. The object here is to destroy every alien on the screen. Enemies include headless kamikazes that charge at you and blow up when they're close, yelling as they run (truly one of the most distinctive sounds in the Sam franchise). You'll battle flying enemies, massive boars, huge scorpions and spiders, large demons that hurl projectiles at you, and pumpkin-headed chainsaw madmen. The variety of enemies is nice and if you're familiar enough with The First Encounter you'll recognize several of the enemies making a return. No matter what's in front of you, take it down and stay alive for the next wave.
The weapons at Sam's disposal will see fit to get the job done and include a chainsaw, shotgun, pistols, assault rifles, a sniper rifle, and a flamethrower. Power-Ups like the ability to run quickly and dish out more damage are scattered about the playing field to help you and anyone you might be playing with survive the onslaught. You'll need these tools to dispatch massive bosses and seemingly endless flows of bad guys.
New to this HD version for single player gamers is a Survival Mode, complete with Leaderboard support. In this mode, as you would guess, it's all about seeing how long you can keep Sam alive against continuous attack. More modes have been added to the co-op experience though, including Co-Op Survival, Team Deathmatch, CTF, and Last Team Standing. Another mode known as My Burden is included in which the player with the 'burden' earns points for as long as he can survive. Beast Hunt is another new competitive multiplayer mode that I have yet to play.
An impressive sixty-nine Steam Achievements are available for the hardcore gamer to unlock. These include things like beating any level in single player to delivering the final blow to Mordekai with a knife. You can check out the list of Steam Achievements and the progress of the community at this location.
Clearly, the core of the game has remained the same, but now you have the addition of the Steam community, a few new modes, and ramped up visuals thanks to the Serious Engine 3. Having not loaded up my original Second Encounter in years, the difference between the original and this HD version may not be as profoundly apparent to me as those who have done a more recent comparison. That said, it's clear that this new HD version packs an impressive visual punch and runs smooth with the right hardware. Just like The First Encounter HD, Second Encounter HD brings with it an increased number of polygons and and higher res textures.
Ultimately, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is a superb game for action junkies looking for some nostalgia or even for those who have never played the series. It's by far a much more enjoyable experience with friends, so much in fact I wouldn't recommend you play it alone due to the monotony. With that in mind, you can actually save a few bucks and purchase a four pack of the game for Steam for $60 instead of the regular $20/per price tag. If you've already had your fill of Second Encounter years ago and don't intend on playing with friends online, or aren't hell bent on getting Achievements, $20 feels like a bit much for this revamp. But on the other hand, if you are a huge fan of the game and have some friends to play with, this is a great purchase that will surely bring many hours of enjoyment.
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