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Old 07-14-2017, 08:04 AM   #1   Add To Ignore List  
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Post SS3 review/though dump/ramble/rant

I couldn't think of a better place to put this in, so it goes to this subforum.

Cast your mind back to 2011. The first person shooter scene seems to be ever more full of endless modern military shooter clones. The classic giants, Duke Nukem Forever and Doom 4 are stuck in development hell or have fallen to the masses with reloadable weapons, regenerating health and two weapon slot limits. But hold on, what is that bright spec on the horizon? Well, that appears to be none other than the sequel to one of the beloved callbacks to pure 90s adrenaline, Serious Sam 3. But what did it end up to be? That's something I'll attempt to answer in this ramble.

After finally playing through DOOM 2016, I decided to go back to Serious Sam, the game series that introduced me to the horde-fighter fps genre. More specifically, SS3. That game has torn me apart for the last 5 or so years I've been playing it. Was it really enjoyable? Was it total gnaar shit? I never was able to decide. Seeing that the game was added to Serious Sam Fusion recently, I decided to replay it to get some thoughts on it.

I had totally forgotten how boring and slow the beginning is. The city chapter lasts for almost half the game, and the game only really gets started once you get out of the city and get to fighting tons of enemies at once. The claustrophobic corridors of a gray cityscape filled with camouflaged zombie soldiers wielding hitscan weapons certainly oozes the 2011 military shooter craze. Weapons also now have sights, and magazines which have to be reloaded, and Sam has to sprint... Let's just say, the first impressions weren't impressing me.

Speaking of sprinting, let's talk about movement. Oh man. Coming from DOOM 2016 and Painkiller, the movement felt really off. Sam feels like he's standing on some kind of hovercraft. Walking is slippy and slidey, and sprinting only exaggerates the issue. Sam also feels really slow compared to the Doomslayer. He can only sprint about as fast as Doomslayer can move normally. And once you start jumping, you discover that Sam wasn't standing on a hovercraft, and he's instead flying on a magic carpet from Aladdin. Seriously, the jumping feels so floaty and strange. And Sam can only get a few fractions of a meter off the ground! Once Sam lands, he stops in midair and then floats downwards some more. Bunnyhopping really makes you actually float. It's a total mess. What didn't help the matter was that DOOM and Painkiller both had stellar movement mechanics. I went to try out Serious Sam Revolution to see if the problem persisted, and Sam feels totally fine to control in that installment.

And since this ramble isn't particularly organized, I'll move on to talk about weapons instead. The arsenal in SS3 never really got in the way as much as the movement did, but it was still... disappointing. The main weapons you'll probably end up using are the assault rifle and the two shotguns. There's nothing wrong with them. - well, actually there is, but we'll get to that in a moment - they're mainly just boooooring. Which kinda describes the arsenal as a whole. Where's the fun weapons? Where's my chainsaw? Where's the flamethrower? The grenade launcher? None of that in here. The lasergun, arguably one of the more fun to use weapons in the game is religated to secret areas only, and it's painfully difficult to find ammo for unless you know the game inside out. Even then, the ammo isn't very plentiful.

I mentioned a while back, that the game has gained iron sights and reloading from the modern military shooter games. I couldn't really find anything wrong with the iron sights. Mainly because I never used them, and would've forgotten about their existance completely, if it wasn't for the constant "Press LMB to aim" reminders. Reloading however just seemed to get in the way. I've heard a few "but reloading adds depth" arguments over the years, and I've sort of even accepted that, but playing DOOM and classic Serious Sam have proven that that argument is basically baloney, as those games have a lot of gameplay depth even without artificially limiting the player.

But what would be the point of weapons if there weren't any enemies to fight? And there were enemies allright... First of all, I think SS: Fusion has made a lot of changes to the fights in SS3. There seemed to be less hatcling Arachnoids around than I remember. Some fights were entirely focused on beating enemies instead of collecting something. I remember there being a really infuriating fight against a ton of hatchling arachnoids in broken wings, which didn't seem to be there this time. All and all, I was less annoyed this time than the last time I played SS3. I also played the game on normal instead of hard or serious, so that might be one reason.

There seems to be something strange going on with the enemy AI this time around. Serious Sam has always had pretty dumb enemies, so rounding them up into one pile and getting rid of them in one swoop is easier. In SS3, enemies seem to avoid Sam and each other. Arachoids and major biomechanoids walk from side to side to avoid direct gunfire. I mostly used the rocket launcher to get rid of them, and their swerving about made that difficult. Same with the technopolip. Kleers seemed to prefer running around Sam rather than lunging at him, the cloned soldiers just stand in the distance, covered by all the dust kicked up... Writing this review has just made me want to go back to playing DOOM.

I've run out of things to say, so I guess it's time for my final verdict. This wall of complaints has probably made it look like I absolutely hate the game with flaming passion. In reality, things are a bit different. I think Serious Sam 3 is still way above most modern military shooters. It's just boring as both a callback to the old days and as a Serious Sam title. I've heard rumors, that Serious Sam 3 was born out of the ashes of a Doom 4 pitch to ID software. Judging by how the original, pre-reboot DOOM looked like, this makes a lot of sense.

SS3 is put into shadow by both the newer and the older games. It represents a middle area, a dark time between when first person shooters were good, and became good again. Similarly to Bulletstorm, Serious Sam 3 is a weird amalgamation of two different design archetypes, which do not fit with each other at all. The recent releases of Wolfenstein: The New Order and DOOM gives me a lot of hope for Serious Sam 4. Maybe this time, we'll see a more classic fast-paced shooter.

Ramble over.
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Old 07-15-2017, 12:42 PM   #2   Add To Ignore List  
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Default Re: SS3 review/though dump/ramble/rant

SS4 will be more old school.
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Old 07-15-2017, 02:21 PM   #3   Add To Ignore List  
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Default Re: SS3 review/though dump/ramble/rant

I agree a lot with the physics part, I didn't bother going for the all secrets achievement because of the amount of parkour secrets. It would just make me angry. Also Croteam went a lot more for the realism, which I dig in level design, but not having Sam move like a maniac and being able to jump properly takes a lot out of the pace and being able to dodge.
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Old 07-15-2017, 03:47 PM   #4   Add To Ignore List  
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Default Re: SS3 review/though dump/ramble/rant

The level design was probably the closest to the classics. Well, at least in the more open areas, and not the weird dark tunnels. I guess it's cool that the areas take a lot of inspiration from real-life locations, even down to the layout, but I never really noticed it until I watched some video about it.

Also, I think the issues with the movement might actually be engine problems rather than exclusive to SS3? SSHD has a similar floaty jump, although Sam moves way faster in that game and seems to stop quicker too. Perhaps I should play Talos to confirm my theory.
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