Serious Sam: The First Encounter

Serious Sam II

Serious Sam II (or Serious Sam 2) is a science fiction first-person shooter video game released for the PC and Xbox and the sequel to the 2001 computer game Serious Sam. It was designed and developed by Croteam and was released on October 11, 2005. The game was published by 2K Games, a Take-Two Interactive subsidiary. While the game was originally released only for Windows and the Xbox, a Linux version of the game client and the game's content editor, Serious Editor 2, was later released and is in beta.

In the single-player campaign, the player assumes the role of hero Sam "Serious" Stone in his adventures against the forces of the extraterrestrial overlord, "Mental", who seeks to destroy humanity. Taking place after the events of Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Sam travels through various different worlds collecting parts of a medallion in an effort to defeat Mental. He is guided by the Sirian Great Council and receives sporadic aid from the natives of the worlds he visits. The multiplayer mode includes online co-op and deathmatch, the latter having been introduced in a patch. A 4.5/5.0 was awarded to Serious Sam by Computer Gaming World, though overall the game received moderate praise from the media, earning an average of 75% on Game Rankings.

Croteam simultaneously developed Serious Engine 2, the successor to their previous game engine, Serious Engine, for use in the game, and the engine is capable of many features of other advanced game engines of the time including high dynamic range rendering and light bloom. The engine supports integration with both Xfire and GameSpy Arcade for multiplayer match finding. Serious Sam II is the only game so far to use the proprietary engine, though the Serious Engine II is available for licensing.

Gameplay

Serious Sam II's gameplay consists almost entirely of the player attempting to defeat hundreds of enemies at a time, and thus is relatively simple. More complicated gameplay mechanics that are often found in other games, such as jumping puzzles, are rare, and when encountered they are fairly simple, usually requiring the player to locate objects in order to unlock doors or advance to the next level. While Serious Sam for Xbox introduced a "lives system" to the series, the game was the first PC game in the series to implement this. The player begins with a certain number of lives that represent the number of times the player is allowed to lose all of his health and re-spawn immediately from the last saved checkpoint. While the simplistic gameplay is similar to that of the previous games in the Serious Sam series, the lives system is radically different from the original games in the series, in which the player is able to resume from checkpoints or saved games an infinite number of times.

Player-controlled vehicles and turrets were introduced to the series in Serious Sam II, and examples include rocket launcher, machine gun, and laser turrets as well as hover bikes and hover saucers. Blood and gore effects have been improved relative to the previous games, and all enemies other than bosses can be gibbed. Living foes can disintegrate into blood and bloody bits, undead entities, excluding Kleer Skeletons, can be reduced to decaying bits and pus, while magical creatures' destruction is marked with sparkle effects and purple gases.

Different chapters feature native "chapter specific" enemies; for example the Kleer World features Flying Kleers and the Oriental setting of Chi Fang features Martial Arts Zombies. Power-ups are scattered throughout the game and can be obtained by destroying certain objects. The player is able to pick up certain objects and manipulate them in a manner similar to the effects of the Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2, though without the necessity of an external device.

A prominent feature in the previous Serious Sam games was cooperative gameplay, in which multiple players could play the single-player campaign together. Serious Sam II focused on this game mode even more than its predecessors, as it was the only multiplayer mode to be included when the game was released, although deathmatch was later added in a patch. The PC version allows up to sixteen people to play together, while the Xbox version allows four players, either via Xbox systemlink or Xbox Live. Unlike the previous games, Serious Sam II does not support split-screen gameplay on the PC nor the Xbox.

Weapons

Weapons in Serious Sam II were largely remodeled versions of the weapons found in the previous games in the Serious Sam series. Most of the weapons from the previous games returned, such as the rocket launcher, grenade launcher, 12-gauge double-barrel sawed-off shotgun and a sniper rifle. The minigun, a staple of the series, also makes a return, and is a weapon of particular significance as it was featured prominently on the cover of the box for many of the previous Serious Sam games. The Serious Bomb also made a return, maintaining its status as the most powerful weapon in the game by being able to eliminate every enemy on the screen. The Serious Bomb is described as a "miniature big bang" and as "Instant Death With a Smile," and the player is only able to carry a maximum of three due to their size. Protecting the player from the immense power of the Serious Bomb is a "Life-Preserving-Quantum-Field(TM)."

Serious Sam II introduced new weapons to the series, including "Clawdovic Cacadoos Vulgaris," a parrot clutching a bomb in its talons that can fly to an enemy to eliminate it, and throwable hand grenades. In addition to dual revolvers, the game also includes an additional sidearm of a brand-new design. The "Hydro-Plasmatic Handgun" can fire small units of energy at a "decent rate of fire," and it can also be fired in a mode that allows the projectile to direct itself towards an enemy. Also introduced to the game are twin automatic Uzis possibly replacing the tommygun from the earlier games of the series).

Synopsis

The game's story establishes the reasons and methods for how the player travels from chapter to chapter. This is a significant change from the previous games in the series in which the story existed merely to transport the player from place to place in order to kill as many enemies as possible in the process, with the plot consisting merely of messages that the player could disregard without consequence. Serious Sam II features the storyline more prominently, but still maintains the focus on killing as many enemies as possible.

Characters

Serious Sam II features 42 types of enemies, non-player characters (NPCs) and bosses throughout the game. There are five different groups of NPCs in the game: The Sirian Great Council, the Simbas, Zixies, Chi Che, and Elvians. The different groups of NPCs help the player throughout the different settings of the game, with each group of NPC corresponding to a different setting in the game. There are seven bosses in the game, although the Xbox version has no final boss. Similar to the friendly NPCs, the bosses also correspond to different in-game settings, and vary from "Kwongo" the giant gorilla, a parody of King Kong, to "Cecil the Dragon," a massive fire breathing dragon.

Plot

The game's story picks up shortly after the end of Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, with the hero of the series, Sam "Serious" Stone, continuing on his goal to defeat the series' nemesis, Mental. The game begins with Serious Sam being summoned before the Sirian Great Council, where the council asks Sam to defeat Mental and provides him with guidance on how to accomplish this feat. The council reveals to Sam that he must collect five pieces of an ancient medallion, each held by various groups on five different worlds, and states that once Sam has the entire medallion, Mental will be vulnerable. The story is developed through the use of cut scenes, which are interspersed throughout the game, especially at the beginning and end of each world.

Serious Engine 2

Serious Engine 2, the game engine for Serious Sam II was developed alongside the development of the game itself, and was a brand new revision of Croteam's prior Serious Engine that was used for their previous games, such as Serious Sam: The First Encounter. The more advanced features of the engine include detailed refraction effects, high-resolution textures, high-dynamic range lighting, and light bloom effects.

Serious Editor 2

Croteam developed their own level editor, Serious Editor 2, and used it for the development of Serious Sam II. The editor has significantly more features than the original Serious Editor that was used for the previous Serious Sam games. Serious Editor 2 allows geometry to be imported and exported to and from third-party 3D programs, such as 3D Studio Max, via an intermediate file format, thus allowing for plugins to be easily created for any 3D modeling program. Two methods of creating particle systems exist in the editor, and they can be created either as procedural particle systems or emitter systems. The editor also features its own interpreted language, similar to C++, which allows for relatively simple mod programming, and a script editor and debugger, enabling the level designer to control gameplay events more directly.

In addition to the standard level editor, there is also a mechanism editor for physics and collision setup, an animation editor for modifying camera paths and animation of objects, a skeleton editor for configuring the skeletal structures of characters, a destruction editor, mesh editor, model editor, and font editor.

One of the most significant and more distinctive features of Serious Editor 2's level editor is that it allows for real-time editing. The level design process for most games often requires the level to be modified in the editor, compiled, saved, and then loaded separately in the game where it can be tested. However, Serious Editor 2 allows for levels to be played and tested within the editor without requiring compilation. While playing the level within the editor, the level designer can directly switch to editing mode, make the desired modifications, and then continue playing, greatly simplifying the final stages of level editing.

Development

Initial development

Development of Serious Sam II began in mid-2003 with the decision to create the game on a new engine. Croteam planned to release the game in the second quarter of 2004, but this was later pushed to the second half of 2004 and finally to fall 2005. For a period of time, Croteam posted weekly updates, but these became bi-monthly, then monthly, and then stopped completely after August 2004, as 2K Games, Croteam's publisher, wanted to handle the release of information from that point forward. In April 2005, the game was officially announced by 2K Games, at which point the release date was set as Fall 2005.

Shortly following the game's official announcement, Serious Sam II was featured as the cover story for the June 2005 issue of Computer Games Magazine, and was later showcased at E3 in May 2005. Shown at the E3 Expo was the official trailer for the game, and an early build of the game was playable on the show floor. A result of the E3 presentation was a 30 minute video preview of the game featuring gameplay footage while a question and answer session took place between fansite Seriously! owner and director Jason Rodzik and Fernando Melo, the game's producer. In the time following the game's official announcement, 2K Games released a steady trickle of screenshots showcasing the vibrant colors and wide-open spaces that characterized the previous games and helping to build up hype as the game neared release. A demo of the PC version was released on September 21, 2005, and a second demo was released on October 17, 2005.

On October 11, 2005, Serious Sam II was released for PC and Xbox, and a patch for the game was released the day before, bringing it up to version 2.064b. Croteam stated that a substantial list of features were cut due to time constraints.

Subsequent releases

On December 16, 2005, two months after the game's release, Croteam released a patch to bring the game up to version 2.066. The most significant change to the game with the patch was the addition of a dedicated server for the game, although the patch included various bug fixes. On March 6, 2006, Croteam released their second patch, adding deathmatch support to the game. The most recent patch for the game was verson 2.070 which was released on April 24, 2006. The patch fixed minor bugs and included Serious Editor 2, the content editor for Serious Engine 2, the game engine used in Serious Sam II. A beta version of the linux client for the game was released on October 26, 2006, and an updated version was released on November 6, 2006.

Reception

Unlike its predecessors, Serious Sam: The First Encounter and Serious Sam:The Second Encounter, the first of which was awarded GameSpot's PC Game of the Year in 2001, Serious Sam II received less praising reviews. The game's average review is a 75% according to Game Rankings. Its highest mark by mainstream media was a 4.5/5.0 from Computer Gaming World, though most reviews were in the 70% or 80% range. Other notable reviews include GamePro rating it 4/5 and GameSpy giving it a 3.5/5 (Good). IGN awarded Serious Sam II an 8.2/10, summing up the sentiments of many of other publications' reviews:

Like its predecessor Serious Sam II caters to a very specific taste. Fans of old school action games that focus exclusively on shooting down wave after wave of enemies will definitely find that this game delivers. Still, the endless fragfest that is Serious Sam II occasionally runs the risk of becoming monotonous. What saves the title is the endless variety of enemies that come your way and the intense challenge that they offer. Throw in an engine that can handle it all with ease and a unique, colorful visual style and it's the perfect game for twitch-happy action junkies.

One of the main criticisms of the game was that it was a lot less "serious" and a lot more "cartoony" than The First Encounter and The Second Encounter. Lighter colors and a more upbeat soundtrack made the atmosphere of the game feel less grounded in reality, contrary to the realistic Egyptian tombs and Mayan pyramids of the earlier games, and players complained that while the weapons of the previous games seemed to be massive and powerful, those in Serious Sam II were less so.

See also

References

External links

Official

General resources

  • SeriousEngine.com - A wiki for documentation on the Serious Engine and its tools
  • Seriously! - Serious Sam news, official forums, downloads and interviews

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