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Serious Sam: Next Encounter PlayStation 2

Published by Global Star Software
Developed by Climax
Released - Out Now
Price : £19.99

Serious Sam bought the fun back to the FPS genre, on PC, when it first appeared all those years ago. For too long the genre had become overly concerned with stealth and caution. Serious Sam, and it's sequel, threw stealth and caution out of the window and replaced it with good old fashion high speed blasting action (with the odd puzzle here and there). Now it would have been good enough in my book if just a single player game had been made for the PlayStation 2 but in this age of online console gaming, an online element is called for and Serious Sam: Next Encounter comes complete with online play.

The game has Sam 'Serious' Stone combating the evil being known as Mental. An abandoned mother ship of Sirian origin has been found and it's transmitting signals from the past. Sam must get to this mother ship before the evil Mental and his hideous minions. Failure to do so would mean disaster for humanity. As you've probably guessed it's a throw away storyline but that doesn't matter as you don't play Serious Sam games for their story. The single player game has around 40 levels of non-stop action, which are located in Ancient Rome, Feudal China and the mythical Atlantis.

Those few of you who haven't played a Serious Sam game before will probably not know what to expect. Essentially Sam usually walks into an area and will have to deal with a few enemies. This is followed by another wave of more numerous enemies and so on until enemies are coming at you from all angles and at such a frantic pace that you have no option but to shoot and move as quickly as possible. Once all the enemies are defeated you'll have an exit, that was previously closed to you, open. It doesn't seem like much from my description but it's an adrenaline pumping experience that few modern day FPS games can match. What a lot of PC gamers enjoyed with Serious Sam was the way you could play through the game in co-operative mode and thankfully this feature has been retained for Next Encounter. Along with the single player game and the 2 player co-operative mode, there are also multiplayer games such as Deathmatch, Pass the Bomb and Hold the Flag. Offline it's a two-player experience but up to eight players can participate for what's best described as a decent online experience.

The PC Serious Sam games looked excellent, if you had the necessary hardware. The PlayStation 2 version though doesn't look anywhere near as detailed and is actually quite basic for a PlayStation 2 game. Whilst the frame rate is mainly OK, it's noticeable that the pace of the game has been considerably slowed. To a certain degree this makes sense as the PlayStation 2 controller doesn't afford the quick movements that can be made with the PC keyboard and mouse combination. However, it detracts from the Serious Sam experience. Like the PC games you can choose to have the full gore or hippy mode, which replaces blood with flowers.

Serious Sam games aren't exactly known for their interesting dialogue and Next Encounter isn't any exception. It's a good thing though because the cutscenes that tell the story aren't subtitled, which is disappointing. As with the PC games Sam has the NETRICSA (NeuroTRonically Implanted Combat Situation Analyzer) that informs him of all the weapons and enemies that he encounters. When an entry has been made in the NETRICSA an envelope icon will appear on the screen and pressing the triangle button will allow you to view the information, which is all in text. You're also notified in text when you score combos and when checkpoints are reached. Enemies can usually be heard before they are seen in the Serious Sam games and Next Encounter is no exception in this respect. Whilst this gives deaf gamers a slight disadvantage, it's not really a problem.

Serious Sam Next Encounter falls short of the Serious Sam PC titles (and Xbox version for that matter) but it's still a title that fans of PlayStation 2 FPS games should pick up. It's been made easier than the previous versions of Serious Sam, quite a bit easier in fact, but as you can't quick-save like you can in the PC versions, the difficulty level had to be decreased in order to prevent it from becoming too frustrating. However, it's maybe too easy and even the hardest difficulty setting doesn't pose too much of a problem. What it does have going for it though is it's co-operative mode. This mode was great on both the PC and Xbox versions and it's also great fun in the Next Encounter. Whilst the single-player game isn't that long the fact that you can play through again with a friend makes it a good purchase.

Overall Game Rating: 7.2/10
It's not quite up to the quality of the previous Serious Sam games but nevertheless it's still an enjoyable game and if you are able to play through in co-op mode with a friend then it's definitely worth a purchase.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Cutscenes are not subtitled but otherwise there are no problems.