Author(s) : Povilas Kinderis
Game : Serious Sam : The First Encounter
Type : Single Player, Co-op & Versus
Published just 9 days after the release of The Heart of Egypt. This map is most likely intended to be a multiplayer companion to his previous level.
The inexperience shows when you look at the visuals alone. The rooms show a lot less geometric detail than in his other maps, showing blocky brushes, mostly full-bright rooms, CSG holes, blurry textures and hall of mirror effects. This is most evident in the first few areas of the level. I also spotted a couple of instances where the author sticks textures and decals of the Serious Sam logo and his avatar, seemingly at random, taking a bit away from the overall visual experience. There is this one room, right before the level opens up for the first time, while having the merit of having a lot of verticality to it, is the biggest culprit of the dip in visual quality, with no less than two instances of geometric holes being found. Moreover, the level suffers from slowdowns at a couple of points, dipping as low as 45 frames per second during one of the fly-around cutscenes.
Despite those flaws, the overall visual themes are interesting, delivering almost alien-looking otherworldly visuals with custom industrial textures and reflective arches. In fact, as I play through the level, I noticed that the visuals get better and better, up to the quality level similar to what was found in The Heart of Egypt. This leads me to believe that this was the first level he ever started to work on. One thing that I am very thankful for is that the fly-around cutscenes are skippable.
The gameplay itself is significantly better than the other two levels he had produced. Eschewing the in-your-face style of enemy spawning this time around, the battles are large-scale and fluent enough that you can get through it in about 1 hour on Normal difficulty, slaughtering almost 2000 enemies along the way. There is enough enemy variety in the waves thrown at you that it does not feel stale or repetitive. In fact, the only homogeneous waves I have encountered in this level are with Harpies, and the final encounter which is a dump of common Reptiloids. The combat is also a lot more easier than in his other maps, as the author is quite generous with the super health, armor and ammunition pick-ups, but unlike the combat in City of Gold, it still is not a walk in the park, especially in Serious difficulty. Unfortunately, just like with The Forgotten Place, the intensity of the combat peaks at around two-thirds of the way through the level before petering out. The final encounter is a lazy Reptiloid dump. There is absolutely no tension in that fight as they could very easily be dispatched by firing a few cannonballs into the room where they spawn.
Also just like with The Heart of Egypt, the level contains no secrets and the map sprawl is restricted to picking a lane in open areas to fight through. There are a lot of spots in this level which could have been perfect spots for secrets. Another similarity is the complete lack of plot. There are no Netricsa messages and no plot-oriented cutscenes. Flying around the level with cheats enabled, it really seemed like there was a lot more to this map that was originally planned, but never made it to the final stages of production.
The music is quite fitting, it takes from the Sacred Yards level from the core campaign, and it fits well with the more open style of architecture. It very much brings the memories of finding that secret level in co-op for the very first time. How appropriate, this level features support for co-operative play and there is a considerable increase in the amount of enemies to fight if players spread out through the open areas. There are enough co-operative checkpoints that players can freely drop in and out of a game without worrying about getting equipped with the proper weapons.
The readme is in the same format as the readme file from The Heart of Egypt, giving the usual info about the level, the extra assets included, the test machines used, the tester lineup, construction info and copyright info. The selling point of this level, according to the readme file, is the amount of enemies that players fight each playthrough, and it sure did deliver on that. What is odd is that this level seems to have include a versus map (CoolDM) in the package, and yet it is not mentioned anywhere in the readme file. The deathmatch map is a basic cross-shaped, 2-storey indoor complex with spiral stairs connecting the upper and lower floors at the arms and a central hole leading to the pool at the center of the lower level. The visuals of the map are pretty good for what it is and it looks like it could be fun for for 2~5 players to frag each other in.
Overall, it is a pretty good package that includes a co-operative focused slaughterhouse of a map (that is quite playable in single-player) and a versus map. If you are looking for a fresh co-operative experience, this is one of the better ones. I highly recommend that you check it out and play it with your friends!
Overall Score : 72.5% Good
Download : [Link]