Author(s) : Kristo
Game : Serious Sam : The First Encounter
Type : Single Player & Co-operative
With the release of Serious Sam fresh on the mind of serious gamers and the very real possibility of creating their own mission packs a tempting prospect, some potential mappers had something completely unique and fresh in mind. Kristo, however, saw that the formula is just fine and decided to give the community more of what Serious Sam is all about. This map is exactly that, but let’s talk about the visual aspect first.
While it is true that the setting and architecture is very faithful to that of Serious Sam, it is done in a way that somehow feels fresh and new. There are some new elements of architecture, like the wooden fences that are introduced in this map. They add to the overall visual appeal. Faithfully recreating the atmosphere and setting of the original game, Kristo goes one step further and even manages to make the sewer section look interesting. There are far more prettier areas than this, but I was too busy trying to survive to take a screenshot.
That is not to say that the visual aspect is without its nits. There are a couple of glitches in the architecture and sectoring of the map, but these are minor. Two of the most obvious nits I have found are the constructive solid geometry holes on the lip of the passage to the sewer section and the water sector extending above the water surface texture, giving the funny illusion of your player character swimming on thin air above the water. While it is normally expected of a good mapper to check for these things before releasing their work, it’s perfectly understandable to see it occur in early maps like this since the mapping tool is new to everyone back then.
The gameplay, specifically the combat aspect, is this map’s main strength as it does not mess around at all. When you start the level, you are immediately placed in the line of fire, and that is just the start of it. The fights get quite challenging and intense pretty quickly as you progress through the map. There is not much need to worry though, you are never low on ammunition and weaponry as the enemy hordes always seem to match your overall firepower capability quite adequately. You are also given plenty of health and armor pickups, allowing you to pull yourself from the throes of death whenever you need it. Essentially, there is enough given to you and enough thrown at you to make the fights survivable as long as you keep yourself on your toes. On top of that, the timing of the enemy spawns are pretty nice. There are some fights that are played back to back, with little to no rest inbetween, that require a change in combat strategy, while there are other fights after which you are given an extended break before the next big fight. I like that a lot. In this light, I can easily overlook the couple of fights in this map that involve just one type of enemy. (Not that I really mind, but the best fights are the ones involving combinations of different enemy types.) To add to that, the pacing is great, you never have to walk too far to get anywhere or see some action.
The non-combat aspect of the gameplay is not so strong, but what it has is played well. While the map takes the player strictly through a specific path through the map with no alternate routes or secret shortcuts found, it does reward the player with secret items. One of the secrets involves the use of rocket-jumping to reach, which is pretty creative. There is some interactivity to this map as well, though it mostly involves pushing buttons and blowing up trees. The typical Serious Sam fare, so to speak. It has no puzzles, but considering the perceived design direction of the map, it does not look like it needs any.
This map can be played online, and I personally have encountered no glitches or problems while playing it with friends over the internet. Though it seems that on dated computers, the game would freeze up on connect, so that should be considered.
The choice of music in this map is quite odd. In the outdoor area, the background music used is an amalgation of Suburbs Peace and Alley of the Sphinxes Peace for the peace music and a combination of Suburbs Peace and Alley of the Sphinxes Medium for the medium music. Some people may like it, some people may not. I see it as Kristo trying to be creative with the music with mixed results.
The Netricsa, as well as the readme file included is pretty skimpy and to the point. While it works for the read me, it feels slightly empty for the Netricsa message. Sure it gives information about your current mission in the map, but it gives no background info or narrative. There are also quite a few spelling errors in the Netricsa messages, but considering that English is far from the author’s first language, some leeway is given.
Overall, it is an excellent map for anyone who loves Serious Sam for its core gameplay elements and wants more of it in custom missions. It is definitely a must-have in any Sam-afficionado’s collection. Kristo, the author, has gone on to produce a handful of other maps and I look forward to reviewing them
Overall Score : 80% Good
Download : [Link]