"It’s not about the size kid, it’s what you do with it!"
There’s no doubt Croteam had a colossal job on their hands, after all, dealing with Sam isn’t easy, and this force has been away for nearly 10 years. Published by Devolver Digital, Serious Sam 4 is the newest installment of the franchise, which has always been primed by the fast gameplay and intense shooting sequences.
Sam has been all over the world fighting the good fight, which means, kicking alien butt, and this time it’s no different. The events take place prior to Serious Sam 3, right in the peak of the Mental War, which depicts the very last effort of Humanity against the Aliens, before everything eventually collided.
Although these are not spoilers, mentioning anything about the main story as you probably know, will be quite futile, we’re here for one reason, and one reason only: To wave destruction upon those ugly bastards! A lot of questions have risen up, regarding the game’s performance, new gameplay features, and overall quality, so let’s get to it.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, the gameplay is as addictive as it always was. Super fun and entertaining, combining fast reflects with lots of impressive moments, resulting in a feast for any First-person-Shooter fan. It has a sense of reminding you of the classics, but in a new way. The spirit is clearly there, respecting the originals, and you can definitely tell you’re playing a Serious Sam game, out of the box.
Some mechanics of the third game are back, such as sprinting and melee attacks. They are pretty useful and fitting to the game, but there is something new, which I absolutely love: It’s called S.A.M. Skill Points, and they allow you to unlock different perks. These points are scattered around the levels in Military Caches, and perks can range from making enemies drop ammo, to being healed every time you punch an enemy.
You can grow your perk list and extend alongside the skill tree, as you see fit, and if you want to crush those aliens on the maximum difficulty, you better unlock all of those. The difficulty is as tough as you remember, requiring impressive maneuvers to succeed. But if you’re more interested in exploring, Serious Sam 4 offers side-quests, to help you unlock new weapons and amazing locations.
There are a couple more new additions to the game, one of them is the Co-Op mode, where you can have a friend joining for some cooperation. The other, are the Gadgets. Like the name suggests, these objects will help you on your adventure, in the most imaginative way possible. Players can only use them once, but they can be found across the game in multiple locations. There are 9 different gadgets, and their use range from a health boost, portable decoy, a mini-nuke, a slow-time device, and plenty more.
With a very dynamic gameplay, when it comes to the action, Serious Sam 4 nails it perfectly, delivering the experience we all expected. Respecting the maneuver of deadly weaponry, Sam is still the boss of the game, even after all these years.
Performance is perhaps the biggest issue with the game. Developed using the Serious Engine 2017, It’s optimization has been improved in patch 1.03, but there is still room for improvement in this area. Perhaps the engine choice wasn’t the best, and based on what I experienced, I don’t see why the game would perform so terribly. It doesn’t add anything we haven’t seen already in other more demanding, yet, better polished games.
The visuals are not out of this world either, so why would the game run so poorly, I have yet to understand. Plus, there’s the options menu that is lacking as well. Graphic options include simply the CPU / GPU quality, from Very Low to Maximum. All the other options are mostly mechanical, affecting only preferences, excluding the Anti-Aliasing. There’s also the internal 3D Rendering MPIX resolution.
All in all, it’s possible to retain 1080p 60fps stability, by playing on Low GPU settings, and AA disabled. To reach a stable x2 AA, I had to choose 900p, with an RX 580, NO OC. I assume the same can be said about the GTX 1060. In the end, Serious Sam 4 doesn’t justify such demands, except for a lazy and poor optimization, perhaps even rushed. I’ve seen better and more efficient results with Unreal Engine 4, not to mention visually more satisfying.
The visual quality is definitely appealing, with amazing locations such as Italy and France being well designed and with a natural charm to them, especially during the day, with bright colors. Areas and locations surely have a strong presence, but characters on the other hand, they just look from two generations before.
Weaponry design is good, as well as enemy models and all the effects that come with them. Unfortunately, many characters have a weird feeling to them, but at this point we have to see Serious Sam 4 as an indie game. I know it hurts, and for a long time (at least in my perspective), I saw it as a major title among others, but the quality of characters is on-par with indie game development, either we like or not.
Visuals and Performance both have an impact, I still deeply believe the game could be far more polished, even in its design. Nothing is lacking, but further development would be very beneficial for the game.
With the same nostalgic action combat, Serious Sam 4 is still what we deeply wanted, even with all the optimization issues at hand. It delivers a wide pack of weapons, thrilling enemies, intense moments, and quite the funny dialogue lines. A well placed FPS with everything a fan could ever want, and some more.