It was just earlier this month that word got out that we were getting a new Serious Sam game, and I honestly couldn’t believe it. Can you imagine if companies only announced their games when they were about to be released? No more delusions created by hype, no more waiting in dread to learn more about that game you really want to get your hands on but you’re probably going to have to wait months, if not years, just got get a sneak peek. Lo and behold, Croteam and Devolver Digital have done just that.
Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem is the newest entry in this much-beloved franchise, but contrary to previous games, this time the work hasn’t been done by Croteam. Originally created as a mod, Siberian Mayhem ended up becoming a standalone expansion to Serious Sam 4. With oversight from Croteam, this new instalment was developed by Timelock Studio, a studio formed by a group of hardcore Serious Sam modders from the Russian community. When I learned about the people responsible for this release I definitely got excited to see what such experienced fans would put out into the world, but maybe that was just me being overly excited.
Since this is a standalone expansion, that means that not only do you not need to own Serious Sam 4 to buy and play this, but you also don’t really lose anything if you just play this instead. Sure, it helps to have some context, but given the story of Siberian Mayhem, you won’t be at a disadvantage if you jump into this blind. The story is pretty self-contained, but to be honest, is there actually someone who plays Serious Sam for the story? Regardless, I’d also argue that the fact that the game just costs 20€ is also a big incentive to jump straight into this one if you’ve been waiting to dive into Serious Sam 4.
While Siberian Mayhem isn’t going to win any awards thanks to its narrative, the game still retains the characteristic humour of Serious Sam. There are a few times when you can sneak and listen in on guards chatting among themselves. It’s really funny to hear them talk about Sam as if he’s some otherworldly entity capable of massive destruction, which to be fair, he kinda is.
In terms of setting, the game takes place in Siberia and features massive battles with a ridiculous amount of enemies, as tends to be the case with Serious Sam. Contrary to what one might think, Siberia isn’t just snow. You’ll be fighting across forests, abandoned villages, a refinery, and a forsaken town. As far as level design goes, the game makes good use of these locations to provide a decent back and forth between open areas and more tight arenas with huge hordes of enemies. Exploration is also rewarded, even in the far edges of each map where it might seem like there’s nothing there. There are plenty of secrets and hidden stashes of ammo and other pickups waiting to be found.
The game populates itself with countless enemies waiting to be slaughtered in whatever way you find the most fun. While most are returning enemies of the series, there are some new additions. Likewise, most of Sam’s arsenal is also being reused, and although there’s an AK, a crossbow, and a raygun that are new, they just feel like replacements of other weapons that were available in the original game. However, at least there’s quite some fun to be had in the few segments of the game where you get to drive around a tank and use the mech to obliterate Mental’s minions.
Whether you’re playing solo or with 3 other people in co-op, the game encourages you to constantly switch between weapons if you want to be efficient. Using the rocket launcher or the minigun can make good work of an enemy wave, but perhaps it’s better to just switch to the grenade launcher to make sure that you hit the wave right in the middle, where it hurts. Whatever your favourite weapon ends up being, blowing up enemies and watching them turn into red floating mists never gets old. Siberian Mayhem is 100% fun guaranteed.
Overall, I enjoyed the 6 hours that it took me to complete the game on Normal, but it does feel like the developers played a bit too safe. It’s Serious Sam alright, it’s the Sam Stone who we’ve all enjoyed throughout the years, but having only 5 levels, leaves me craving for more. I don’t mind that we’re just getting 5 new levels, it’s just that there isn’t anything too crazy or unique about them, except for a few memorable moments. I get it, it’s a Siberian themed expansion, but still, it could have definitely used a bit more variety.
Ultimately, if you’re a hardcore Serious Sam fan, I’m sure you’ll have a jolly time with Siberian Mayhem. However, if you were hoping for this to be the next big iteration of Serious Sam, or for this to be groundbreaking in any way, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. As a fan of the series, I definitely think that the game justifies its lower price, but I’m sure some people may disagree on that. Either way, I look forward to seeing what Timelock Studio and Croteam come up with in the future.