Serious Sam 4 is an action first-person shooter game made by Croteam. It is the fourth main entry to the franchise and a prequel to its predecessor, Serious Sam 3. You play as the man himself, Sam “Serious” Stone, as he travels to different places of the world in search of the Holy Grail, as an effort to stop an alien occupation from completely overtaking the Earth.
At face value, Serious Sam 4 has the qualities of an amusing game. It is a first-person technical marvel. Its ability to spawn so many models in one drawing is a feat not that many developers will attempt, for all the good and bad reasons. This game does this shamelessly, and oftentimes, way too excessively, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Those who are familiar with the franchise know that this is a game you should not take too seriously. Contrary to the main character’s nickname, this game (or the franchise for that matter) is in no way trying to be a serious game with a deep narrative, political undertones, or groundbreaking gameplay. Players are just supposed to pick this game up and bask upon its absurdities, all the while being entertained by the fun gunplay combat. With all of that said, I have extremely mixed emotions when it comes to this game.
First of all, the game is very funny. It also does a good job of acknowledging what it is: an action franchise with stereotypical characters, cliche elements, and incorporates all the tropes in the book: Cheesy one-liners (which is almost a plot element in the game), relentless military officials, often-cringy dialogue, the hot woman on the team has slept with the male protagonist, and so on and so forth. Hell, the first good guy to die on this game is the only African-American member of the team. If you can think of an action movie trope, chances are, this game and this franchise have done it.
As cheesy as it is, the game is in all-fairness, sort-of lovable. The cutscenes especially have a lot of great moments and banter between characters. The heroes are also lovable, and while they have characteristics that make them one dimensional, this game is not about character building. Not too extensively, at least.
The game’s main center is its combat. This is perhaps the main reason people play this game. Serious Sam 4 has a very decent shooter gameplay. The controls are exactly what you’d expect from a game like this. It is not clunky and awkward. Players will also have the chance to use a ton of different weapons. Some of them are more powerful than others, but a certain type of weapon can be better used on specific enemies, which is helpful if you want to save up ammo of the more powerful weapons for the more powerful enemies. The game is also very good at giving you new weapons before moments where they’ll be most useful, so the next time the same moment comes up, you’ll know to use that exact weapon.
The game also gave us a glimpse of how fun a mech game can be. There are sadly not that many of that going around. Fans of the mech games of old will find a few moments of this game very enjoyable.
All-in-all, the game’s gunplay was very well done. For a game that lets you face a buttload of enemies at once, it should have a very decent first-person shooter gameplay, and this game does that well.
Speaking of facing a buttload of enemies at once, the game is absolutely audacious with its enemy spawns. There are so many enemies at certain points that they often fill up the entire screen. That is not an exaggeration. Yes, Serious Sam has always been known for letting the players face a whole lot of enemies. That’s where the challenge in this franchise comes from. However, there are certain points where the game just doesn’t know when to stop. There’s a line between reasonably challenging and just outright outrageous and this game crosses that line a lot. It is relentless with both enemy spawns and enemy waves. Any game can throw you with a seemingly endless number of enemy waves, but there’s a point it has to stop so the game can progress without seeming repetitive and dull. This game, unfortunately, suffers from that very flaw.
One part of the game I often found problems with was its use of checkpoints. The checkpoints just aren’t handled well. If you reach a checkpoint with very low health and an army of monsters are after you, you’re screwed. You will die time and time again and will be spawned to an unfortunate spot to repeat the loop. The game tells you to just load a previous save, but that’s just a lazy way of integrating a checkpoint system into your game.
The game’s audio also requires a little retouching. The games of this generation have made great use of audio and how they can be incorporated in combat. Something as simple as a proper audio pinpointing, where players can hear exactly where an enemy is coming from so they can anticipate their attacks. This game does this very poorly. It’s very hard to hear where an enemy is coming from, especially one in particular which fans of the franchise will mostly like be familiar with.
The game’s soundtrack is hit or miss. Some of the tracks are perfect for the situation they’re in. Distortion-heavy, guitar-driven songs are always perfect for games like this. However, some of the tracks feel very out of place, like some that give off an epic-fantasy vibe, which is very foreign to a game like this. I also found it odd how abruptly the game’s music fades out after every enemy encounter, and it is noticeable given how blatantly loud the music is during combat. It was just mixed poorly and there was no organic transition between combat music and natural audio.
The voice acting is another hit or miss. Often times it’s just fine, sometimes it’s unnatural especially during more emotional moments.
There are a ton of different enemy types in this game. Some of the fans will already be familiar with, some of them are new to the game. The character design for the enemies is decent. They’re the right amount of absurd and terrifying, which makes them perfect adversaries for a game such as this. This game also does this thing where they make previous bosses regular enemies later on. A lot of games do this to give the players a feeling of “growth”. Yet, that doesn’t really work in a game like this where the challenge comes from the quantity instead of the quality.
To cap it all off, Serious Sam 4 has heart. It’s fun to play with at certain moments, and it’s too overbearing in others. This game is proof that more isn’t always merrier. It’s almost the video game equivalent of a Michael Bay movie. It’s good to look at, it has jaw-dropping moments, but it just lacks substance. The first few games of the franchise are proof that a game like this can be great. This title, however, is far from that.
Serious Sam 4 – Review
We want to emphasize that 5 will always be the “average” number, not 7. So by far, it’s 50% great and it’s also 50% bad.