Serious Sam 3: BFE is wild, bloody, silly, stupid fun

Serious Sam 3: BFE is a heck of a game. For newcomers it’s a revelation, for old-timers, a reminder: this is how it used to be, back when men were men and shooters didn’t have cover or weapon limits or storylines that people pretended to care about. Instead they had guns, and lots of things to point them at. That, in a nutshell, is Serious Sam 3. It’s fast-paced, wantonly violent and viciously disdainful of the modern era of FPSes. And it is awesome.

If you played the original Serious Sam, you’ll have some inkling of what awaits you in Serious Sam 3. The new game cleaves very closely to the formula of the original while at the same time incorporating a few familiar features of more modern shooters, but to its great credit it does so without diluting the sheer frenzy that fans have been looking forward to for so long. There are a handful new enemies but they’re complimentary to the old gang, and a couple of new weapons as well, but the traditional pistol-to-rocket launcher mix, plus that giant 19th-century cannon that Sam carries around in his pocket, are all still here too. A few weapons have iron sights that you’re perfectly free to ignore, and while Sam now goes into battle wearing one of those earpiece communicators that’s all the rage these days, its sole purpose seems to be to give him an excuse to rattle off some wisecracks and amusingly cheesy dialog.


Speaking of Sam, he’s still the big slab of beef he’s always been, oddly cheerful and happy-go-lucky in his own unique way, a little thick-headed but never offensive or sexist, ironic or not. His occasional f-bombs and tendency to kill everything he sees keep him from being particularly kid-friendly, but his overall good nature and habit of tossing out awful one-liners give him a certain kind of of affable charm that you just don’t see in FPS heroes these days. He’s unabashedly macho but he’s not a jerk about it.

But if Sam hasn’t changed, the world in which he plays most certainly has. Serious Sam 3 may not be the most beautiful shooter you’ve ever played but it’s definitely up there, particularly once you’ve made it through the relatively slow opening levels and reached the areas in, around and under the Great Pyramid of Giza. Don’t expect to do too much sightseeing, though, because most of your time will be spent running backwards, pouring fire into the onrushing freakshow hordes. And once the bullets start flying, so does the dust, smoke and rubble. You’ll often find yourself emptying your gun into dense, blinding clouds, hoping that you’re hitting whatever’s moving around inside them, while some of the world’s most ancient and treasured structures get blown into chunks of worthless rock around you. It is fiercely intense.

It’s almost too intense, in fact. Levels are huge and the game is long, and while you can save whenever and wherever you choose – another welcome throwback to the old days – playing for any length of time is a grueling experience. Scores of enemies will descend upon you at every turn, and there’s nowhere to hide; all you can do is run and shoot, run and shoot, until everything is dead. And then more come, and more. It never stops. It’s ridiculously fun, but it’s also a punishing grind. For those who want to share the agony, numerous multiplayer options are offered, including a wild co-op mode for up to 16 players that’s an absolute blast, and there’s even split-screen local play for up to four players at once. It’s like the game is determined to cling to its roots, and to rub your nose in them, at every opportunity.


The most glaring flaw in Serious Sam 3, believe it or not, is that it’s slow to get going. Before you get thrown into the classic, wide open areas of ancient Egypt the series is famous for, you’ll have to battle your way through the bombed-out streets of modern-day Cairo to reach them. It’s fun and still pretty nuts compared to most games, but it’s not the all-out insanity we paid our dimes to see. It’ll take a few hours to get to the good stuff and until it does, it’s a relatively generic and unremarkable exercise.

It’s also wickedly hard. I may not have the reflexes I once did but I’m no slouch in the computerized combat department, yet even at the “normal” setting it’s a constant, barely-clawing-through struggle to survive and advance. And there are three higher difficulty levels! Take my advice: don’t try to impress the ladies by jumping in at the “Serious” difficulty for your first go-around. You will suffer for it.

The truth, I think, is that shooters were never actually quite like this. Even in the good old days when we’d stand brazenly in front of our enemies, braving their onslaught with gun in hand and crotch thrust forward, there were limits. There was pacing. There was rationality. Serious Sam 3 has no such limits. It’s a relentless, pounding flood of headless men with Looney Toons bombs strapped to their hands, waddling blobs of flesh with three faces and rocket launchers for arms, naked bird ladies, and space monkeys. Space monkeys! And bullets, rockets and cannonballs the size of Mini Coopers. There is just nothing else like it. Nothing.

Serious Sam 3: BFE is the most ridiculously off-the-hook game I’ve played in years. It’s wild, it’s bloody, it’s silly and it’s stupid amounts of fun. It’s not for everyone, of course; sissies, pansies, pantywaists, nancy-boys and girlie-men need not apply. But if you’re a shooter fan in the market for some serious action, look no further. Sam is your man.