E3 2011: Serious Sam 3: BFE hands-on preview – old-school mayhem with 16-player co-op

When we walked out of our Serious Sam 3 demo, we thought about Duke Nukem Forever. Duke, whose decade-long legacy of not being released was recently ended by finally going on sale, is an old series. Its newest edition is like a 1999 design doc brought to life on semi-modern tech. Serious Sam feels much the same way, but without the crass, juvenile jokes to bog down its otherwise entertaining madness. SS3 cuts to the core of Serious Sam: Big-ass guns, bigger-ass enemies, and mindless messiness. It’s looking bloody brilliant.

Serious Sam 3’s 16-player co-op is, even in concept, complete chaos. This is absolutely excessive, but it’s in a way that you can’t help but shrug and laugh at. All right, 16 dudes with rocket launchers. Why not? Developer Croteam’s goal isn’t to scatter secrets, design memorable levels, or craft a story that’s anything above forgettable. The enemy encounters and the water cooler stories that come from them are the obvious points of interest on the design side.

We fooled around with Sam 3 for 15 minutes or so. In the process, we smashed bits of the world with Sam’s sledgehammer, shot the shit out of dozens of headless kamikaze goons (whose chain reaction limbsplosions are hilarious), and ripped many an eyeball from the faces of fugly gnaars. Enemies swarm from every direction, like they do, and the fun of fleeing while shooting a chaingun or a shotgun or an RPG is as frantic and fast as it ever was.

It’s odd that this ancient formula still works – only because it’s Serious Sam, to be honest. If anything else tried this, it’d be lambasted for being a senseless, creatively bankrupt FPS. But a history of absurdity is Serious Sam 3’s primary support. The embracing of old design ideas is exactly what’s going to set it apart from the too-serious modern military shooters diluting the market. Others may be flashier or more epic, but this is just freaking fun.

Jun 15, 2011

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