Serious Sam 4 | PS5 Review
Serious Sam 4, developed by Croteam and published by Devolver Digital, is a fast-paced first-person shooter and is the fourth installment in the Serious Sam series that dates back to the original XBox. It is available on Windows PC, PlayStation, and XBox, and for the purpose of my review I was playing the PlayStation 5 version.
Serious Sam 4 takes place as a prequel to Serious Sam 3 where a massive portal opens up in Russia which allows alien armies to teleport to Earth to begin what is known as the Mental War. With humanity under siege from alien invaders and Earth already in a grim state, Earth's last hope is found in the Earth Defense Force which is led by Sam “Serious” Stone and his squad of misfits.
First and foremost, I was a massive fan of the original Serious Sam games as a child, so it's safe to say that the nostalgia factor was certainly at play when this game landed itself on my list. This nostalgia really led me to consider the question - should games like this be left in the past and allow nostalgia to remain just that, nostalgia? I will say that Serious Sam 4 left me feeling very conflicted so I’ll try to capture as many of my thoughts in this review.
The first area we will cover is graphics and visuals. Graphically, I certainly didn’t feel like I’d just fired up a PlayStation 5 title. I felt like I’d just uncovered a time capsule of hidden games that never quite made it to be released. Although you get quite large sprawling landscapes you're not really given much to enjoy when the environment essentially renders in as you progress through the world. Serious Sam 4 boasts 60fps but certainly doesn’t look or feel like it. Visually, Serious Sam 4 was deeply uninspiring and really left a lot to be desired in 2021. Whilst this really helped to lock in the nostalgia for me, I think a well polished reboot would have gone down just as well for me because what made Serious Sam great for me in the early days was the comedy in the dialogue and the high octane spray and pray gameplay. Along with the slightly questionable graphics, the sound effects are also quite buggy and cut in and out in some areas which is a shame because one of my favourite things about Serious Sam is flying around an area with a heavy rock soundtrack feeling epic so with it sometimes being intermittent it was unfortunate. In and of itself, this still wasn’t enough to put me off beyond a mild irritation, purely because I really felt like I had just jumped into a time machine and hopped back to my childhood so in that respect Serious Sam 4 had a very particular charm that was very personal to me.
The gameplay itself was exactly as expected having played the originals - fast paced, spray and pray action against a variety of alien looking creatures and as you progress you get access to different weapons for you to use. Existing fans of the series will enjoy how similar it is to the original games and people who are fans of games like Duke Nukem will also see a lot of charm in Serious Sam 4. You don’t really need to be skilled at first-person shooter games to succeed either, so you can just unwind and fly about the arenas blowing heads off. One of the key things that frustrated me was the checkpoint system and how it respawns you when you die. In a few areas I would die and then get stuck in an endless loop of dying because I was being spawned right on top of the boss or the horde; the fix for that is to manually select the previous save in the load menu rather than just starting from the last checkpoint that the game has made for you.
One of the main things I was disappointed in was that local co-op had been removed from the game altogether. I have incredibly fond memories of playing through all three of the original games with my dad. My dad wasn’t a big gamer but he liked the look of Serious Sam and we had so much fun and I was looking forward to doing similar with my little brother and it's a shame that's not a possibility because the co-op element, particularly local, was just something special for me.
I’ve found this review quite challenging to write because often times these games that are made years after a series is released tend to flop, because some would believe nostalgia should just stay in the past because these reboots and modern sequels tend to never match our expectations or quite hit the same spot that the originals hit. Serious Sam 4 does that but it’s hard to tell what is intentional and what is actually just poor craftsmanship but as an existing fan of the series I did quite enjoy reconnecting with that part of my childhood. However, a new player in 2022 scrolling through the PlayStation Store and purchasing it would be far from impressed and would make far less allowances for a poorly made game which is a shame, because if they played something that felt modern and impressed them, it could prompt them to go back and enjoy and love the original games in the same way as I did. So in many ways I feel very conflicted about this game and I can’t really give any definitive answer on whether it's “good” or “bad”. Serious Sam 4 does, however, give me hope that perhaps the story isn’t over and the next game will be the next-gen quality that we love, but still maintaining the action-packed chaos that Serious Sam fans know and love.
Lj’s Rating: 3 Alien Invaders out of 5.
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Many thanks to Indigo Pearl for the Review Key.