STAFF REVIEW of Serious Sam Collection (Xbox One)


Wednesday, January 6, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Serious Sam Collection Box art Back when the Serious Sam games originally released, I remember thinking how amazing and mind blowing it looked and played. Nostalgia is a funny thing though, as you sometimes remember things quite differently from how they actually are. Case in point, revisiting Serious Sam after all these years made me realize just how primitive it actually was by design, especially compared to today’s gaming standards. Serious Sam has a simple concept: Give you guns and a near endless amount of aliens and enemies to shoot, rinse and repeat. Serious Sam will never be known for its story or cutscenes, and that’s fine, as it’s simply meant to be a mindless shooter where you blast anything that moves. Like I said, my nostalgia made me remember so much more, but playing through again I realized how utterly basic its gameplay really is.

Back in ‘the day’, shooters were very simple affairs. Many didn’t have elaborate set pieces, lengthy cutscenes or even much of a story, and Serious Sam is the epitome of this classic and simple game design. Harkening back to a simpler time, the Serious Sam Collection will give you a glimpse into the past of early 2000 shooters, for better and worse.

There’s really not much of a plotline when it comes to the Serious Sam games generally. This was improved in part 3, but for the most part, Sam is fighting against a never ending onslaught of aliens and machines that serve an alien overlord that humans call “Mental”. You never see this overlord though, and the “story” is paper thin at best, but that’s not why you play a Serious Sam game. You play to blast aliens in the face nonstop, of which Serious Sam knows how to deliver. Combat is constantly chaotic and frantic, with enemies coming at you almost endlessly, so you need to constantly be moving, finding health, shield and ammo pickups as you try and navigate towards the confusing land of Egyptian pyramids and relics. Combat is as simple as it gets, simply point and aim at the enemies constantly rushing towards you with your pistols, rifles, rocket launchers, cannons, alien guns, shotguns, minigun and more. It’s as basic and brainless as it comes.


So what’s included with this latest collection? The Serious Sam Collection includes all content from Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter and Serious Sam 3: BFE, including The Legend of the Beast and Jewel of the Nile expansions. Oddly enough, the latest Serious Sam 4 isn’t included, though it hasn’t been released on console yet so I can see why, I guess to get you ready for it next year. I also expected the awesome spin-off Serious Sam Double D XXL to be included, as it was with an older collection, but sadly it’s not here, just the main core games.

So what’s been improved and updated since the last time we played as Sam? It really doesn’t seem like a lot. Yeah it’s got its resolution upped to 4K, but its ancient textures still make it hideous at the best of times. Multiplayer has been added for cooperative and competitive 16 players, but throughout my days of reviewing, I was only able to find a handful of other players to join every time I tried. Aside from that, it’s a pretty bare-boned collection without much in terms for extras.

The first two Serious Sam games are very similar and quite basic in design, sadly also showing their age and not much content within. You need to make it from area to area in Egypt, but as you reach a locked door you either need to defeat every enemy that spawns over a set amount of time, or find special relics that will then unlock said door. Enemies spawn almost constantly, so you need to always be moving and strafing to survive as you blast everything in your way. You can quickly become overrun, so don’t back yourself into a corner. Game design is as basic as it comes in these first two games, but such was the time in that era, so it’s hard to hold it against it.


Serious Sam 3 is where the series started to take a more modern approach to game design, with more intricate levels, cutscenes and even ADS (aim down sights) for your weaponry. It’s still very rough and basic compared to other games, but the graphics were much improved, especially the lighting and water effects, and actually had some minor dialogue thrown in for good measure. You were also able to reload weapons in this one as well, so you can see just how basic the original games were in comparison.

What makes Serious Sam so unique is its odd and unique enemies that barely change throughout the whole series, the most iconic being the headless men that run at you with bombs strapped to their hands screaming (somehow). You’ll fight undead skeleton horses that toss bolas at you, robots, one eyed monsters that look like a ringer for Gossamer and more. There’s really not much change or additions in the series from the first game to the latest aside from the visuals being improved slightly as time went on. Firefights will become quite repetitive over time, as it’s always the same setup with being trapped in an area with enemies rushing you, especially if you play the games and DLC back to back.

Being a game series from back in the early 2000’s, its mechanics are also from that era as well. You don’t have regenerating health and shields, so you must search the map for pickups as you blast all enemies you see. Level design in this era was also quite basic, and to be honest, really quite poor when compared to anything even remotely modern. Even though I’ve played through the Serious Sam games a number of times in the past, I still found myself lost now and then, unsure where to go or what I was missing.

One big bonus that I wasn’t expecting was its multiplayer addition. Yes, the series has had online components before, but now it allows up to 16 players at a time, even co-op campaign as well. As noted above though, it seems there’s a very small community playing this currently, as I was only able to find a handful of people playing every time I tried to do so since reviewing the collection. Sure you can play solo, but it’s always better with friends.


Graphically speaking, Serious Sam hasn’t aged very well. Yes, it’s got 4K support and framerates are very smooth in Performance mode, but the textures don’t seem as though they’ve been updated or improved, so you simply are looking at a 4K version of ugly at the best of times. Serious Sam 3 improves the visuals quite dramatically compared to the original games, but still looks quite dated. The audio is basically the same, as it is filled with repetitive gun sounds and enemy groans and screams. The small amount of voice acting included is cringe worthy at best, and the music is fitting for the massive gunfights, but is forgettable overall.

For newcomers to the series, the Serious Sam Collection is basically the best entry point, as you get all of the core games in one place with arguably the ‘best looking’ and performing versions of each. There’s a decent amount of content within, but it’s very repetitive and barely evolves from game to game. That being said, there are a handful of customization options included to make the game more accessible, easier or harder, depending on your preferences, of which don’t affect achievements either surprisingly, something I really appreciated. Playing with infinite ammo was quite a blast and fed into that Serious Sam mindset of shooting anything that moved.

Sometimes you want to simply turn off your brain and shoot a bunch of aliens, and this is where Serious Sam excels, as not many brain cells are required to play or enjoy this collection. Like a movie that has a cult following, most won’t see what makes Serious Sam so special, but to those fans that do love the series, the nostalgia should be worth the price of admission, even if it’s priced a little high for little to no extra care or content added.

**Serious Sam Collection was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10

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