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Old 03-30-2009, 10:40 AM   #1   Add To Ignore List  
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Default [FE SP/Co-op] Sam be Damned!

Sam be Damned

Author(s) : SteelHORN
Game : Serious Sam : The First Encounter
Type : Single Player & Co-operative


Being one of the first of the Serious Sam maps ever created and published online, many of us were quite stunned by the completely new setting and direction to which the author took this map. Reviewing the map retrospectively several years down the line, while it is still enjoyable to play, some of the flaws show up which prevents this map from being top notch.

To start things off, this map contains two levels set in Amsterdam. The plot is pretty basic; Mental's forces, lead by self-proclaimed mayor Jyrad, have taken over the city and it is your task to find and slay evil mayor. Your mission takes you through various settings. Besides the city, you fight your way through a sewer, a cinema and a prison block. The motifs of each of those settings are played pretty well. The author deserves a lot of praise for the sheer amount of original textures used as well as the pretty cool car model at the beginning as well as the boat & windmill models at the end.
The city motif is played pretty well visually.

The credits rolling in the cinema is a nice touch too. If I have to nitpick on a few things on the visuals, it would have to be the choices of textures at the beginning, brushes with flickering polygons and some questionable elements of architecture like the square manhole to the sewers, some of the walls seemingly sunken into the windows of buildings and a blade of the windmill facing the wrong way at the end.
Not sure how solid invisible barriers can be overlooked. Also, some of the textures could also benefit greatly from being of a higher res.

If I had to pick out on stuff that can be improved on top of that, it would be more attention to detail, namely the window sills on buildings as well as adding grilles on the sewers. To its credit, I would have to say that the intro of the first level and end cutscene of both levels are pretty neat. Overall a pretty decent effort on the visuals.

There are a lot of new sound effects used. Unfortunately, the readme file says that new music is included when it really doesn't have any new tracks. That's not entirely honest and quite disappointing. Even a short electronica loop playing while in the Disco bar near the end would have improved the experience substantially.

The gameplay, while somewhat original, is pretty sparse overall. Alternate routes are available at the beginning, but it becomes pretty linear in terms of progression pretty quickly, which gives very little replay value to the map. While I do like the idea of planning your next move carefully and stealthily, this map scored a hit and a miss with regard to this aspect of gameplay; It is played well at the beginning of the second level when you're captured, had all your weapons and ammunition taken away, beaten to within an inch of your life and thrown into prison where you have to sneak out carefully and take out all surveillance cameras before they detect you. In the first part of first level, however, it feels tedious as you start off with barely any ammunition and a red biomech already on your tail, maybe it's a good thing that there are barely any enemies in the map to fight because it would become pretty frustrating pretty quickly otherwise. I digress though, the level is only challenging because its difficulty is artificially inflated with the lack of ammunition supplied for a good portion of the map. I know this because it got stupidly easy when you have plenty of ammunition to burn. On the plus side, the supply and placement of health and armor is very nicely done.

Another reason I say that the gameplay is very sparse overall has to do with the non-combat gameplay elements of the map. There is none. At the beginning, you can just walk out of the group of buildings and run around on a large empty stretch of flat ground. Throughout the map, you come within reach of buildings, clubs, stores, windows etc. and yet there is no interaction to them whatsoever. There is absolutely no reward given for going out of your way and/or exploring the city. It really feels as if the buildings are there for just as props and not a part of the gameplay.

At least it is very network-friendly. I have played this map with friends on co-op on numerous occasions and I have yet to encounter any network specific problems with this map. I also like the fact that mission briefings with its own screenshots are included although there is no backstory narrative given in context to the mission.

Overall, I would say that this map, despite its faults and shortcomings, is still worth having in your collection. It is just a shame that the author hasn't made any new SP/Co-op maps for Serious Sam since.

Overall Score : 69/100 Fair
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