Serious Sam 3: BFE – developed by Croteam and published by Devolver Digital – takes the training wheels off first-person shooters and throws the player right into the action via a seemingly endless swarm of alien enemies. Serious Sam 3 is technically the fourth installment in the series (with the full order being Serious Sam: The First Encounter, Serious Sam: The Second Encounter and Serious Sam 2), but the first prequel, as it takes place before the events of Serious Sam: TFE.
Serious Sam 3: BFE seeks to serve up fast-paced gameplay mixed with witty one-liners to provide a game less focused on plot and more on entertaining the player as a harken back to older first-person shooter titles that were less narrative driven.
The complex matrix of the Serious Sam universe is something to truly be amazed at, or it’s just an alien invasion and the player needs to kill them all. The Serious Sam series has never put all of its chips into story, and Serious Sam 3: BFE is no exception.
In the future, Mental (read: evil alien overlord) invades Earth with his mighty armada of various alien species and assaults the planet to the brink. Enter Sam “Serious” Stone, all around rugged badass who doesn’t like his planet being targeted for destruction. Let the chaos begin.
Serious Sam 3:BFE serves as a prequel to the series and takes players through the alien invasion until Sam can activate the “time portal” and travel back in time to stop the invasion before it starts (which is where Serious Sam: The First Encounter takes off). While the plot might not be particularly impressive, Sam’s one-liners are. While Sam often drops a well-placed f-bomb, the delivery of the voice actor mixed with the seemingly endless hordes of aliens makes it a rewarding experience all the same. Serving as a parody of Duke Nukem-style games, Serious Sam 3: BFE seeks to cut out the middleman of plot in favor of mindless mayhem, and it certainly succeeds in that endeavor.
Gameplay is where Serious Sam 3: BFE truly shines. With an intense arsenal of weapons ranging from the absurd (cannon) to realistic (pistol), players will find plenty of delightful ways to destroy alien hordes. Gameplay is simple and really only requires the ability to aim and shoot. Often, even “spray-and-pray” techniques can be used against the waves of enemies Sam faces.
At times the enemy destruction can be tedious, but Serious Sam 3: BFE does a fair job of introducing new enemies at a steady pace in order to ease the player into new strategies. All of the enemies thus far are melee based? The game introduces the gun variation of the standard foot soldier. Constantly mowing through the foot soldiers? The game introduces air units with varying attack strategies. Kamikazi bombers require a long-range approach, while some of the Gnaar (melee-based enemies) can simply be ripped through with the sledgehammer. This variation of enemy types keeps the game fresh enough to be enjoyable, but there are some moments (namely the final boss battle) in which the unlimited wave of enemies trying to distract you becomes less exciting and, simply put, flat out annoying.
Levels also can blend together to an extent. During fetch quests (in which the player must finds various keys to progress) it is easy to get lost and confused as to what areas have and have not been explored, leading one to wonder why Sam can’t simply rip apart the door with his arsenal of death.
Serious Sam 3: BFE looks amazing. Simply put, it is a very well presented game that has great visual appeal. The enemies are varied enough to allow quick and easy distinction while also being enjoyable enough to kill repeatedly throughout the course of the game. As noted before, the levels do ultimately tend to blend and this can lend to a feeling of repetition as players advance from level to level.
Some wonderful animations can be found in the game, specifically when Sam (with encouragement from the player of course) uses his melee attack to rip out the eyeball of the Gnaar enemy and promptly throw it at another enemy. Satisfying little details like this really add to the atmosphere of Sam’s world. Coupled with the various sounds, the different enemy types emanate upon zeroing in on Sam. The enemy distinction is fast and easy to pick up, which allows for quick changes in strategy and a far more fun gameplay experience.
Music is light and bouncy, elevating at the correct tension points to ensure a good rush of adrenaline for players during the more intense encounters while providing solid background music to the carnage during less serious events. A particularly great moment for sound in Serious Sam 3: BFE is with the iconic “kamikaze” enemies, which scream continuously until they eventually run into Sam (thusly exploding). The same iconic scream from previous games is retained and the silliness of the scream, mixed with the terror it brings is one of the finer moments in the game.
The voice acting talents of John J. Dick (who voiced Sam in every game in the series) are worth noting. He really brings not only the character, but the game to life. With his honest and genuine delivery of lines, Sam’s frustration at the endless waves of enemies (as well as his joy at killing them all without mercy) becomes the player’s through his voice talents. Not to mention hearing him curse is truly a delight in and of itself.
Multiplayer is where Serious Sam 3: BFE truly shines. Single player is a great deal of fun (not to mention a very well put together challenge), but nothing beats the intensity of playing through the campaign cooperatively with up to 16 other players.
Mental’s forces can be scaled in difficulty to accommodate more players and bonuses given to the players (such as infinite ammo) can be toggled to allow for a variety of playthrough methods with various changes to ensure a solid challenge (or lack thereof if mindless violence is all the player wishes). Deathmatch also serves as good deal of fun, but it ultimately pales in comparison to the prospective of 16 player co-op campaigns.
Serious Sam 3: BFE seeks to step back from the more “serious” direction the gaming industry has gone by providing a more mindless first-person shooter. Ultimately, the game succeeds with this goal but fails in some key areas including avoiding repetition.
Multiplayer co-op greatly picks up any of the slack given in the rest of the game by providing a fairly customizable experience that serves as a great way to kill time with friends while not becoming a massive time-sink.
Fans of the series will be entertained and get to relive some of the glory from the previous games, but newcomers may be put off by the difficulty of the game or even the simplistic nature. Serious Sam is a series not to be taken lightly, as modifiers to co-op can make the game ultimately a cake-walk, the solo campaign is a cruel and unforgiving master that will get even the most casual player to a more serious state.