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Serious Sam II

Back when I was a kid nearly two decades ago, playground chatter about video games wasn’t as far a cry from today’s as you’d think. When a new game came out there’d be an intense phase while we all played it, then there’d be the traditional comparing of notes. We’d talk about what cool weapons you got and shields and armour, and how good the controls where. Then we’d talk about which of the wave after wave of determined baddies we liked, which we hated, which levels we liked, what the multiplayer was like, which end of level boss encounters were cool, stuff like that. Does any of this sound familiar? Yes, I thought it would. It’s a safe thing to say that the blast frenzy of explosive carnage that pretty much all gamers need at some point or another, is no longer provided by those 2D scrolling shoot ‘em ups of yesteryear, rather by those graphically intense 3D first-person shooters which clog up all the game store shelves across the land. That’s technology for you.

Them clockwork buffalo can be a pain in the ass.

But if 3D first-person shooters are just 2D blasters at heart, why do so many of those games strive to be something else? Why the onus on making your games like interactive movie? Why all the puzzles? Why all the cool stealthy bits? Don’t you sometimes wish that 3D shooters would quit all that monkeying around and just get back to some good old fashioned hardcore blasting action? Well if you do, you’ve landed on your feet this time, because Serious Sam 2 does exactly that. In old school terms, this game is the FPS equivalent of 2 player table top cabinet space invaders. Ouch.

This is that big giant spider I was telling you about.

The shoot ‘em up heritage is right there from the word go with the game being divided into many levels with Sam getting a set number of lives to get through each in one piece. He gets a few weapons, more from pick ups throughout the game, and is supplied with plenty of ammo to get the job done. Each level itself involves Sam either having to shoot wave after wave of determined bad guys piling in to an enclosed area, or he has to protect someone or something from wave after wave of determined bad guys charging towards them. Or, to link these areas together, Sam has to blast his way through wave after wave of determined bad guys while making his way from A to B. Sometimes if you’re very lucky, you even get to jump into a vehicle for a while and blast wave after wave of even bigger bad guys. And sometimes you’ll even get those all important boss encounters where – you know – you get to circle strafe like mad while unloading everything you’ve got. Ah, the simplicity of it.

Those little blue guys have spirit but they often get knocked for six by those guys with clubs.

In fact it’s refreshing to play a game that has no pretences about it at all. There are no flashlights, no grappling hooks and no computer terminals to hack, neither are there any fiddly platform sections. What you get instead is really good, really smooth, and really constant, arcade first-person shooting action of the highest order. The graphics are bright and charmingly cartoon like and the sound effects are rich and totally in keeping with the retro feel; even to the amazing shrill when the TV screams “Extra life!” (How old school is that?) The weapons are also big and bold and there’s a pleasing variation of types to keep everyone happy. But best of all, and what keeps you coming back in those big multi-player battles that I’m going to tell you about in a minute, is the wicked assortment of really crazy bad guys you get. They are brilliant; big green American Football players that run at you going “Huh! Huh!”, green demons which charge at you, huge white things with clubs that of smack the hell out of whatever villagers you’re supposed to be protecting on their way towards you, huge giant robot spiders, guys with rocket launchers that wouldn’t look out of place in a Quake game, mutant butlers with chain guns, the list is endless. The cream of the crop however are guys with bombs for heads that run at you screaming “Aaaaargh!” then explode. When one runs at you it’s funny, but when twenty run at you from all directions… actually it’s still funny. I love the exploding bomb head guys.

Oh no, it’s the Green Bay Packers!

But the saving grace of this game, and what ultimately saves it from being one of those shooters that you finish then sell quick to get money off the next one, is the multiplayer game. With Serious Sam 2 you can take any of the levels you’ve completed online (or just unlock them all with the ‘easy to find on’ cheat mode) and invite up to three other players to join you. Then it’s a veritable carnage; monsters fly in from all angles, bullets whiz past, chaos ensues. There’s no death match; you’re all on the same side, which is perfect for, say, the post-pub quick online bash where you just want to wreak havoc with friends without getting too competitive. It’s so much fun the government will probably start taxing it soon. Who said video games are anti-social?

Bombs for heads. Maybe life would be more entertaining if we all had bombs for heads?

So that’s Serious Sam 2 for you; it’s a real old school arcade shooter where your friends can join in online too. It’s not without its faults I’ll admit; one of the problems with pure arcade shooters is that by their very nature they do get repetitive and Serious Sam 2 is no exception. But when I say that it’s a classic arcade shooter I mean just that and that the game pretends to be nothing else, meaning this isn’t the game you’ll play obsessively forever, but that’s not the point. The bottom line is that this game is a lot of fun, does what it sets out to do with ease and I’m sure you’ll find yourselves going back to this again and again if you get hold of it, especially if you can talk your mates into buying it too. I know I did, and I won’t be selling my copy in a hurry.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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