If you’re a fan of shooting hordes of enemies with a wide assortment of weapons while your character blurts out groan-worthy one-liners, chances are you’ve played a Serious Sam game at some point in your life. If not, you’re doing things wrong.
For 20 years now Sam “Serious” Stone has been fighting for Earth, trying to protect it from the forces of Mental. And while the scenery might have changed from game to game, one thing has remained constant: a focus on balls-to-the-wall action. Serious Sam 4 doesn’t stray from it either, though it does add a number of new elements to keep the experience feeling fresh, and takes players to more locations than ever before. The original Serious Sam will always have a place in our hearts, but on the whole, Serious Sam 4 is just better.
The action picks up with Mental’s hordes launching a full assault across the world. And so of course it’s up to Sam “Serious” Stone to do something about it. This time though, he has a team to back him up. They occasionally come in useful, but are mainly there to provide some laughs. They joke about the rookie’s inability to pull out witty one-liners at opportune moments, and how the series is AAA now so it needs a deeper story. You’re undoubtedly still the star of the show though, along with an arsenal of weapons ranging from a double-barrelled shotgun to a canonball launcher, all primed to turn enemies into explosions of blood and guts.
While the characters laugh that Serious Sam’s latest outing is a AAA game, however, you might be disappointed if you go in expecting something as polished as, let’s say, DOOM Eternal. There are some new features such as optional side-objectives and a skill point system that allows you to develop Sam over time, eventually allowing him to ride certain monsters or dual-wield even the biggest of weapons. Ultimately though, this is still a very simple game where all you really need to care about is killing anything that charges at you with ill-intent.
When it comes to the PS5 port, there are some unfortunate technical issues that sour the experience a little. You’ll notice that loading times are pretty long, for example. If you’ve become accustomed to next-gen gaming, you’re undoubtedly used to loading screens appearing then disappearing in the blink of an eye, and so here they stick out like a sore thumb. The frame rate isn’t perfect, either. There are two graphics options available – quality and performance. In quality mode the visuals truly shine, but the frame rate fluctuates rather wildly, especially as it’s not capped at 30fps. Performance mode is much better, but there are still times where the frame rate will drop from 60fps.
The truth, though, is that it’s no surprise that Serious Sam 4 struggles at times, as the action truly is mental. Environments are large, and while the visuals aren’t the best, they still are rather nice. There’s an impressive range of enemies for you to face, too, and you’re rarely up against just a handful of them. Sometimes you’ll find yourself up against 100 enemies or more, truly testing your abilities to circle-strafe and effectively pick off targets. There’s nothing else quite like it. Or at least not on this scale.
Stick Serious Sam 4 in performance mode, then, and while your experience won’t be perfect on PS5, you’ll still have a bloody good time. It’s perhaps the humour and simple premise of the game that will be more divisive; some will love it for its daft one-liners and balls-to-the-wall action, others may find it too repetitive and macho. If you like the idea of butchering an entire army of monsters ranging from vampires to reptilian demons that throw green balls of energy at you, however, then be sure to give it a go. And what other game lets you loose in a combine harvester to up your body count?
Serious Sam 4 Review (PS5) – GameSpew’s Score