Serious Sam is back, and this time with technology that promises thousands of enemies on screen! Giving you serious action and severe carnage. It serves as a prequel of sorts to Serious Sam 3, once again pitting Sam against Extra-Terrestrial Invaders. Whilst it has got a cult following, Serious Sam has always been a mellow sort of franchise, where it was not as great as games like DOOM but was not the worst either. It has always been in that sort of middle-ground. If you were hoping it would punch above its tier this time around, such is sadly not the case.

One of the issues I have always had with Serious Sam, and more so with Serious Sam 4 is that it has a weird view of difficulty, usually just throwing multiple enemies at you before calling it a day. This time around it is even more frustrating since they have limited crucial mechanics and buffs around an odd Skill-Tree system.

Some of the skills you can unlock like health on melee finishers feel like they should have been something you already start with, as then it would have been a thoughtful balance against the high number of enemies. Even with it unlocked, there is sadly not much of an extrinsic motivation to use these as they barely give a decent amount of buff. I’d expect something like this to bring me back from the brink of death, not just keep me latching on as long as I keep pulling the same move. A more significant buff would not have gone amiss, especially since like the classic Serious Sam games, you do not regenerate health. 

I was also hoping that they would give different weapons more meaningful perks this time around, that would have you switching between different guns based on your scenario. However, the progression for the guns feels a bit weird. For example, I unlocked this assault rifle through a side-mission, but as soon as I emptied it, I did not see any more ammo for it for a while. It almost felt like they were juggling rewards around, and forgot to account for it with the ammo drop system, or traditional placement. This was mainly an issue with weapons acquired through side-missions, as other unlocks actually gave more than enough ammo for you to decently try out the weapons.

Still, the gunplay does feel better this time around and feels much more responsive and fun when compared with the old games. The enemies look much nicer too, and the gore system is still one of the best, making every shot satisfying and juicy. They have introduced more elaborate finishers this time around as well, where like DOOM; you can finish off enemies at a press of a button with a scripted gory takedown. What prevents it from being as good as mentioned before, is that it barely gives you a decent advantage like DOOM does with health drop, and the Serious Sam jank is prevalent here, making it sometimes not sync as well with the enemy positions.

It is a spectacle to see thousands of enemies on screen, something that you are introduced to quite quickly in the game. From the trailers and previews, as well as the eight-core recommendation, I thought it would be really demanding on computers that are a few years old. However, I played on a relatively high setting with a 4 Core CPU and was mostly able to hit the 60 FPS spot. It looks and works well and is something that can really bring the series to new heights if used more meaningfully in the next game or so.

Serious Sam stories have always been a guilty pleasure of mine, which is why I was so glad to hear that this game would have even more storytelling with a lot more cut-scenes and characters. This is more Fast and Furious than Mission Impossible: Fallout, but is still enjoyable as it’s self-aware and knows what it is trying to be. The stereotypical action-hero characters are always memorable with Serious Sam, and such is still the case.

Overall, my experience with Serious Sam 4 was a mixed affair, where I loved the basic gunplay, but the frustration and broken progression design hindered my overall experience. Croteam has yet to release any mod tools for it but has been actively patching the game. My recommendation is to wait for a sale if you are unsure about it, as by the time you do get it, hopefully, the modding tools and more gameplay options will be available.