Serious Sam 4 Review

How long can our idiotic minds last without another corny shooter being released? Duke Nukem’s last game was 2011, and Serious Sam’s last game was in 2011 as well, barring any spin-offs and VR titles. Without games like these, our brains have been fried and scrambled like eggs, forced to sustain our shooter addiction through games featuring intricate storylines and realistic gameplay. But hark! Just like how Christ is prophesied to return, so too is Sam Stone. Turn that “is” into “was,” because Sam is back, baby! Serious Sam 4 is a return to the classics, delivering the same old kite-and-fight combat and ridiculous one-liners we all know and love.

American badass

It’s rather ridiculous to talk about the story in a Serious Sam game, but it’d be good to know what you’re about to get into when you play this game, eh? As usual, the forces of the alien overlord Mental has overrun Earth, and it is the mission of Sam the Stone to kick their asses. You’re part of the Alien Artifact Acquisition team led by General Brand, seeking out Sirian artifacts before Mental finds them first. The ecclesiastical MacGuffin you’re aiming to find throughout the game is the Holy Grail, rumored to hold the power needed to stop the monstrous invasion in its tracks. Rumored, of course, but Sam takes any chances he can get.

Here’s your crew: Sam, the man himself; Kenny, inept at both combat and one-liners; Father Mikhail, religious expert, and shotgun extraordinaire; Rodriguez, a sociopathic run-and-gunner; Jones, a non-sociopathic run-and-gunner; and Hellfire, who acts as both the team’s Uber driver and heavy weapons specialist. There are other important characters, but they aren’t the guns of the team. You’ll also find minor characters that, while you may only see them once, will leave quite the impression on you because, in this series, absolutely no one is right in the head, be it a minigun-wielding grandma or a New Age hippie farmer. They may be in different parts of the world, but they’re all Americans at heart. God bless nonna.

Back to the good ol’ days

So, here’s how the game works. You got 16 levels divided into three chapters. Enemies usually won’t spawn in as soon as the map loads; instead, waves teleport in place as scripted triggers when you reach certain parts of the level. How many enemies per wave? Well, a shit ton of them. See, with Serious Sam 4, Croteam introduces the Legion system, allowing the game to spawn thousands of enemies on screen at once, which you can see in action in the prologue. Granted, you’re not going to face that many enemies in your average wave, but do expect to face up to a few hundred enemies in some circumstances.

If you’ve played any other Serious Sam game, you know exactly what to expect in terms of enemy variety. You got your hulking Gnaars, your calcium-enriched Kleers, your bloated Scrapjacks, and of course, those adorable kamikazes. Word of warning: you may want to consider lowering your volume at times, lest you desire to go to bed imagining yourself hearing a cacophonous, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” So, you got monsters with giant guns, giant hammers, and giant grenades coming your way. One man against a whole horde—how can you stand a chance?

Fortunately, with you being human, you are able to utilize brilliant tactics that would make Napoleon Bonaparte proud, such as taking cover and dodging projectiles. Meanwhile, though Mental may be as brilliant as Carl von Clausewitz, his legionnaires seem to have taken inspiration from Leeroy Jenkins (especially the lobotomized ones). Sure, the average life expectancy of a typical Beheaded may go up by 9999% if they actually coordinated their assault, but why do that when the fastest way to a man’s heart is to charge at them in a straight line and eviscerate their arteries? With that in mind, you can expect the melee fodder to banzai charge at you and expect the ranged units to just sit back like a sitting duck. Set your S key to cruise control and run, run, run, because if you stay in place for too long, you’re going to feel the sting of a hundred Kleer claws mincing your meat-bones. At least there’s autosaves for when you forget to save before a conspicuous battle.

Guns, knives, and traffic signs

That’s what you’re going up against, so how about what they’ll be going up against? Sam starts off with only a combat knife and a pistol, but along your trail to the Grail, you’ll be picking up Sam-approved weapons like the tried and true pump shotgun to fan favorites like the minigun and cannon. There are about 15 different weapons in total, and while you may have a favorite weapon, you’re gonna have to use everything you got to push the horde back. Bunch of grunts coming your way? The double-barreled shotgun’s cone of fire has got you covered. Sirian Werebulls on your tail? Croteam gave you a grenade launcher; now is the time to use it.

If the sheer size of a wave proves to be too much for you, you’ve got another trick up your sleeve: gadgets. You can get most of them through the completion of side objectives (they also may reward you with weapon attachments, improving the base weapons with new features). Use them to turn the tide and prevent yourself from having to load a previous save. Stop time, heal yourself, turn enemies against each other with nerve gas—Hell, you can even cause a nuclear explosion. Gadgets are your friends and trust me, it’s so sweet to watch as dozens of enemies get sucked up into a vortex just because you threw a gadget containing a miniature black hole.

The Holy Grail isn’t the only artifact you’ll be coming across. Sirian Artefacts of Might are found within the levels which act as skill points. Yep, there’s a skill tree. You got 17 skills to choose from, with two primary branches: the dual-wielding branch and the melee branch. With the dual-wielding branch, you can invest to go from being able to dual wield two pistols to, oh man, two miniguns at once. Or, you can even dual wield a minigun and a sniper rifle together, if that’s what you wish. With the melee branch, you can boost your melee range and perform melee attacks on larger enemies, and even do something ridiculous like wielding a stop sign as a weapon or mount certain enemies if they’re stunned. The melee animations are dope to perform, so it’s definitely not a branch to sleep on. Best of all, you can always unlearn a skill to invest that skill point into something else.

It’s been an absolute blast to have played this game. There may have been some issues here and there with the graphics and animations, but they don’t detract from the gameplay itself. If anything, my main complaint would just be that the sheer number of waves I had to deal with mentally exhausted me if I played for too long in a single session (be sure to take breaks). But this game is first and foremost about having simple, dumb fun. You can completely turn your brain off if you want, reactivating it just to process the silly one-liners Sam is known for. Serious Sam 4 is definitely a recommendation I’d give you to all. Buy it, and, if your friends also have financial capital, convince them to buy it too. There’s co-op, and it’s scientifically proven that you’ll have double the fun with double the players on board. Get to it!

Serious Sam 4 can be bought on Steam.

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