Is it true that you can have too much of a good thing? Normally, I’d say no, but when the good thing becomes stale, repetitive, and mundane, then it’s time for a change. Serious Sam 4 is guilty of this offence as it returns with its whacky ways and OTT story.
Developed by Croteam and published by Devolver Digital, this is a first-person shooter adventure game. This adrenaline-fueled, alien smashing title is laced with clichés and fast-paced action. It attempts to follow on from the mayhem of the rest of the series, but sadly, it falls short. Consequently, only hardcore fans will appreciate what unfolds. Unfortunately, however, the rest of us will grimace as we play. Think of drunk relatives at a wedding. At first, their antics are amusing, maybe even endearing. However, this is quickly replaced by embarrassment and a desire for it to stop ASAP. Disappointingly, this is Serious Sam 4 in a nutshell! It’s the gaming equivalent of your aunty twice removed shaking her thing to the Macarena, while blissfully unaware of the show she is putting on.
Serious Sam 4 has an identity crisis!
The action revolves around Sam, the commander of a crack unit of mercenaries for the AAA (Alien Artifact Acquisition) team. This gruff, old-school hero loves nothing more than to shoot first and ask questions later. His mission is to find the Holy Grail, which is allegedly an alien artefact. With this item, he can restore order, expel the alien invasion, and bring normality to Earth. He joins forces with an array of colourful characters and subsequently, a crazy time is had by one and all. Amusingly, or at least, to begin with, every person is a badass no matter their background. They all know how to wield weapons, and they all love to kill aliens. Sadly, though, this repetitive two-dimensional blend of personalities quickly becomes tedious.
Furthermore, Serious Sam 4 has an identity crisis. It has no idea of the sort of game it wishes to be. On one hand, it pushes the idea of adventure and exploration, but this is held back by its Borderlands shoot and loot mechanics. And then, its action focuses on a Gears of War-influenced arena shooter approach. In theory, a blend of these wonderful franchises should be a winner. Annoyingly, though, this is so far from being a winner as it hasn’t even left the stalls, yet!
Where’s the story?
With so many strong personalities and a much-loved franchise behind it, I expected the story to be excellent. However, the plot plays second fiddle to the madness that unfolds. The aforementioned arena shooter mechanics dominate proceedings. Instead of the story driving you from one area to the next, you simply roll from one battle to another. The unrelenting waves of aliens could have been phenomenal. Instead, it was messy and quickly became tiresome.
Where it falls short is its lack of imagination. The stage designs are disinteresting, the enemies lacklustre, and the weaponry is dull. Furthermore, a limited character progression tree gives you little control over proceedings. I expected there to be a fanfare of wild guns and crazy moments. Instead, it feels dated, well-trodden, and lacking creativity.
There is an array of guns to choose from, but they are very much run-of-the-mill! Moreover, it didn’t matter which you selected as they were all equally devastating. Whether you picked a pistol, shotgun, laser rifle, cannon, or more, they all did the same job. Strangely, though, the combat was insipid even though they mowed through your foes with ease. Consequently, the weaponry lacked panache, felt flat, and this undermines much of the core concept. When a game focuses on a central hero and his band of warriors, it needs to be full of energy. Sadly, however, Serious Sam 4 plateaus quickly and never recovers.
Serious Sam 4 is full of graphical issues.
Graphics don’t make a game, yet they need to be polished and not riddled with bugs. Serious Sam 4 is seriously lacking in finesse and looks dated. The character models belong to the early 2000s and the environment is very basic. Furthermore, there are texture issues, rendering problems, and there were moments where the protagonists lacked faces. As an Xbox Series X title, I expected it to be refined and polished. However, it is rough as hell.
Sadly, the problems continue in the irritating audio. The acting is wooden, droll, and annoying. Unfortunately, the developers loved the use of one-liners, and this becomes tiresome. Luckily, there were the occasional witty statements, but these were often lost in a sea of regurgitated tripe. Fortunately, not all is lost as the music is loud, energetic, and matches the theme. This was a small positive in a long list of negatives and it helped to mask many of the shortcomings. Regrettably, the lacklustre weaponry is compounded by the flat and heartless sound effects. I expected the guns to boom and crack throughout, but the noises were flaccid at best.
Why is it so sensitive?
Though much of the gameplay was below standard, the UI is exceptionally good. Flitting between guns and selecting items was a simple task. Furthermore, the combat is helped by the slick movement controls. Unfortunately, though, it is also unbelievably sensitive, and this makes it fiddly to master. With some minor adjustments, it’s serviceable, but it’s not as user friendly as its peers.
If you fall for its charms, there is considerable replay value and longevity to be had. Each area has secret locations and items to find. Alongside this, each stage is scored and you can return to try and beat it. Moreover, there is also a limited perk tree and different tactical approaches to try out. However, if, like me, you struggle with it, you’ll want to uninstall it ASAP. Sadly, no amount of achievements, collectables, or additional game modes could entice me to keep playing.
Serious Sam 4 falls way short.
Sequels don’t always hit the mark, but Serious Sam 4 falls way short. It is lacking in nearly every department and is the worst title in the franchise. Hardcore fans may disagree with me, but I can’t see many gamers enjoying this. Every element needs an overhaul, and there are simply too many shortcomings to rescue this poor title. I cannot recommend it, but you can see more information here! Can you save the Earth from an alien invasion? Team up with some sassy and wacky characters in this lacklustre sequel.