Serious Sam 4 is the latest release in the long running series from Croteam, with the latest version of their engine powering this installment, as other improvements to the formula could be on the cards after almost nine years since Serious Sam 3. Does Sam still have enough one-liners for the fight after all these years though? Let’s find out.
Serving as a prequel for the series, Serious Sam 4 sees the Earth under siege from Mental’s hordes as they spread across the globe to finish off the last of humanity. Standing in their way is the Earth Defense Force, led by Sam Stone & his squad of heavily armed misfits.
Funnily enough for a series that hasn’t really bothered before, this release packs plenty of cutscenes. Whilst I personally don’t care for why I gotta destroy everything, I generally found the cutscenes amusing due to the dialogue and janky look to them. Most of the amusement comes from Sam’s dirty dozen, each character has their own take on one-liners and gives Sam something bounce off with his own. You don’t need to take on the hordes yourself either, as when the odd AI partner doesn’t suffice you can head online to tackle the stages & challenges cooperatively.
Serious Sam 4 isn’t quite the leap over 3 as 3 was over 2, but there are still noticeable improvements to the presentation throughout. Enemies in particular are more detailed than before, with the particle effects from dishing out the pain another standout aspect of the presentation. All the little details from 3 make a return, the shadowing on dust & fog looks as good as ever, with everything else a notch above the previous release. Destruction can also play a role as large enemies smash parts of the scenery, causing debris clouds to fill the screen and lessening your cover. When it all comes together like that, there are few games as visceral out there.
Performance can be pretty good, due in no small part to the wealth of options available to the player for optimising the game to your needs. High setting across the board on my system (R51600/16GB/5700XT) at 3840×1620 netted a solid 60, not perfect but not far off. The game also has some render resolution & upscale options like FidelityFX in case you want to drop that a little before hitting the settings menu. The one annoyance that kept cropping up for me tho was the pauses during cutscenes & just after loading into a level, possibly due to data still being loaded in from my SSHD – SSD install could likely improve that. Oh and the game kept randomly taking away our assault rifle every time one was found….
To be honest the basic premise of Serious Sam hasn’t really changed over the years, you basically move from one area of the stage to another and blast anything that twitches until the entrance to the next section unlocks. Enemy variety in these encounters will start to vary more as you progress to keep you on your toes, and they get more grandiose with the occasional boss character thrown into the mix. In an old school shooter kinda way, knowing where the health and ammo are located during these encounters is key to surviving with the best score.
There’s been some tweaks to the formula of course, it’s not just a visually improved Serious Sam 3 we are looking at. The most noticeable is the speed of the game, your movement in particular being much quicker than the previous entry. This coupled with the addition of some new enemy types can make for some interesting encounters for veterans with the slick gunplay taking centre stage. There’s also some tweaks to gear with some side missions offering weapon upgrades and artefacts giving you skill points for a somewhat customisable skill tree. For the most part though this the same Serious Sam as always, no need to fix what isn’t broken.
Serious Sam 4 takes its predecessor and improves on it in nearly every way with better visuals, a few additions to the formula, slicker gunplay and an amusing supporting cast for Sam. It doesn’t quite hit the bullseye every time, but when it comes to old school arcade shooters – there’s not much better on the market.
A fast & furious classic shooter that will have you losing shoes & living with the screams of the Headless Kamikaze echoing in your ears long after you’ve finished playing.