Life was simpler in the days when Doom was fresh and new. The formula for an FPS was basic, but fun -- one of you, lots of them, big guns and just enough ammo to go around. Enemy counts shrunk with the advent of 3D, though, going from twenty or more critters on screen at once to maybe half-a-dozen if things got crowded. The bad guys got smarter and tougher to make up for their lack of numbers, but the high-speed, fast-action adrenaline rush was gone. Croteam brought that feeling back with their Serious Sam games a few years ago, and Serious Sam II keeps the basic formula alive despite some stylistic changes to the series.
Have guns, will travel
"Serious" Sam Stone is the stereotypical tough guy. He's a big, lantern-jawed, unstoppable force of destruction who's equipped with a one-liner for every situation. He's also Earth's last and only hope against intergalactic bad-guy Mental, who he's been chasing after for three games now. Although there is a bit more story than this in Serious Sam II, told in goofy cut scenes at the beginning and end of every level, none of it is very important. Action is all that matters, and this is what the game delivers by the truckload.
Serious Sam II starts out at an easy pace. Sam is dumped in a jungle village filled with the short little guys who are the harmless inhabitants of the game's many worlds. The sun is bright, the sky clear, and there's even a basketball available to show off Sam's new ability to lift, carry, and throw things. The bad guys start attacking soon enough, though, and then begins a killing spree lasting more than thirty levels spread out over a huge variety of terrain.
Like a vacation crossed with a killing spree
Whether it's the semi-tropical jungle, medieval and Asian-themed towns, an industrial prison planet or a futuristic city, Sam has a very simple goal -- blast everything. Old favorites like the shotgun (in both single and double-barrel style), rocket launcher, machine gun and plasma rifle are joined by new toys like grenades and bomb-toting kamikaze parrots. Adding to the destructive joy are new vehicles to play with, all loaded with weaponry, and even stationary gun emplacements. All this potential for mayhem is brought to bear on the thousands of enemies in the game, usually found swarming Sam by the dozens.
It's a simple formula that works great -- keep the pressure on almost constantly. There's a new threat around every corner and it's always a blast to tackle. Clearing out hundreds of braindead-yet-determined enemies per level always makes for good entertainment, and the tight control means you never feel too ripped off when you die. What Serious Sam does best is make you feel armed, dangerous and ready for anything. It's testosterone-fueled mayhem at its finest.