Author(s) : DI Joe aka Rusutaku
Game : Serious Sam : The Second Encounter
Type : Single Player/Cooperative
First-person shooters have never been popular amongst Japanese gamers, so it may be surprising to learn that there are not only Japanese fans of the Serious Sam franchise, but Japanese mappers and modders as well. In contrast to almost everything else produced for the Serious Sam franchise, maps and mods created by them are radically different. They provide unique themes and gameplay ideas that are not only refreshing, but also incredibly insane. In the case of this level, the overarching idea involves the player in a world of giants (that just happen to use Japanese style architecture) entering the house of one of the citizens and clearing out the infestation of Mental’s forces that have taken hold of the domicile. As you might guess, it takes the idea of the incredibly popular de_rats map for Counter-Strike, and ran with it, making a whole campaign out of it.
Yes, I said “campaign.” To say that this map is large is a massive understatement. It is so big that the author even included a scene-select option that allows you to jump to the halfway point of the map. Also because this level is so big, I am going to divide this review into several parts, looking into each scene one by one.
Scene 1 – Intro
You start off at the exit of subway, on the ramp going up to a plain. The house can be seen in the distance and the objective of this scene is to get to it. The first thing that immediately pleased me about this scene is that players are immediately directed towards the objective after climbing the ramp. It gives a the player a clear unambiguous goal to work towards.
The gameplay in this scene is quite basic, but it ramps up pretty quickly after you approach the front yard of the house. Though it remains strictly focused in combat. The choice of weapons you are given in this scene is pretty odd. You are given the Sniper Rifle right after you exit the ramp. The Tommygun, Double Shotgun and even the Grenade Launcher quickly follow. One would suppose that giving you this much power this early in the map would make the beginning way too easy and leave little room for escalation. However, considering how much the waves actually escalate later on in this level, giving the player powerful weapons this early is pretty important. One funny bit about the scene comes at the end where you are given a pretty nice climax. You start by ringing the doorbell, (Which is suspiciously placed in a spot convenient for Sam to push.) which triggers a fight where the Gnaars come out of the storm drain, and enemies are launched from afar, before the door finally opens and a Reptiloid Highlander miniboss attacks you, flanked by a wave of angry chainsaw freaks. For a scene that is mostly about straight-up combat, it is a nice and easy warm up.
Exploration-wise, there is not much to the scene besides exploring the hills that surround the main play areas. I have found one secret in this scene, and that’s about it. Duplicate weapon pickups are littered about haphazardly in the this area, which is honestly pretty lazy and messy.
Visually, this scene is not very good-looking. The hills are nicely done, but there is not enough detail to make it really stand out. The house itself looks decent enough on the outside, but compared to the interior design, it is quite plain. Unfortunately, there is not much that could be done to improve the visuals of this scene without making the level unplayably laggy. Nothing save for splitting the campaign into several separate levels. Because of the single-level nature of this campaign, so much has been put into the level that, at the beginning, the level dipped below 60 frames per second when looking in the direction of the house. On top of that, I experienced an increase of input lag, up to 22 milliseconds, at that point.
The music is…something else. For this scene, a choral rendition of Polyushko Polye is used for the peaceful music track, and SkaSkaSka and Sazaesan Rap is used for the combat music. As you might imagine, a Russian red army choir song, a Japanese rap song, and a ska song do not fit at all with the gameplay and visuals. Though, in its defense, it does do a good job of making the map feel unique from what usually comes out of the mapping community.
Overall, in its own right, this scene is a decent primer for what’s to come, and it does a good job in preparing the uninitiated for the insanity in the later scenes. However, as a first impression, it is pretty disappointing as far as visuals and exploration go, and some players may be turned off because of it. This is a shame, because the rest of the campaign ups the ante to 11 and beyond, and it is for that reason that I urge any players thinking of quitting the level at this point to keep going, as it gets better in the next few scenes. A lot better!
Scene Score : 61.9% (73/118)
Scene 2 – Unwelcome Guest
Beginning as the player enters the house, in this scene players clear out the main corridor to gain access to the living room, and then find a key item to unlock the piano room. Since you spend most of this scene in the living room, you are introduced for the first time to the japanese style of interior decoration that most of this house will offer.
This time around, there is a lot more to explore, and more secrets to find. Playing through this scene, I got to around secret #6, which is really good. In the storage room adjacent to the living room, there are a lot of nooks and crannies to explore, as well as hidden items and areas that aren’t necessarily secret items, or don’t necessarily contain anything important to gameplay. I like this, as it makes the level feel a lot more organic and less artificial. The visuals, once you enter the house, suddenly get a lot better. A lot more detail is put into the interior of the house, and this extra attention pays off in droves, as you really feel as if you’re in a Japanese style house. (Albeit a giant one.) The combat suffers a lull at the beginning of the second scene, but it quickly picks back up to a level of intensity slightly higher than the climax of the first scene. What is cool is that it introduces some nice gameplay gimmicks like enemies coming at you from under a solid table, circus pyramids of Kleers, Biomechanoids riding on Werebulls and a magic carpet ride on a manga book.
Unfortunately, a lot of the textures look very stretched and blurry. But then again, that is the nature of the beast, as extra textures would incur an extra performance penalty, as well as inflate the overall file size to unreasonable amounts. One of the gameplay gimmicks, where the gravity suddenly switches focus to the lamp, does not work out as well as planned. This is because the trigger for the gravity switching is killing the Bull-riding Red Biomechanoids, triggering the next wave of enemies. This is bad as it often leads to players being in eternal orbit around the lamp, making the fights that followed more annoying than tense to fight through. The fight that occurs right after landing on the hallway is also pretty boring as it is nothing more than a bunch of Gnaars.
The music choice in this scene starts off with Polyushko Polye as the peaceful music, and Sazaesan Rap as the combat music, but as soon as you land on the main hallway, it switches to a more traditional Japanese song for the peaceful music, and Genki for the combat music. This change is welcome as it is more fitting for the mood of the scene.
Overall, it is a lot better than the first scene. There are a couple of speedbumps that hold the experience back, but they are pretty minor and don’t detract much, if any, from it. If you stuck to the campaign up to this point, I would recommend that you keep going, as this scene is just a small taste of what is to come.
Scene Score : 80.5% (95/118)
Scene 3 – “Crasher” 88
The insanity starts off as soon as you enter the piano room. You are immediately accosted by a big group of kamikazes dropping from above, some of them even hopping around like the frogs. You are given the Laser Rifle proper in this room. The goal of this scene is to get the key item to unlock the area where the next scene takes place in, but to do that, you must gain access to another room in this scene that is locked by another key item
The fights in this scene are more easy to get through than the last scene. This is mainly because the gimmicks in this level do not hinder your ability to fight as much as the sudden gravity switch in the last scene. The gimmicks seem to be focused on the nicely-done interactive piano whose keys press down and play an appropriate note as someone steps on them, and an interesting implementation of Darumasan ga Koronda,(だるまさんがころんだ) a Japanese variation of the traditional Statues game. There is even a troupe of frogs that play a piano riff before attacking you. After the section with the Statues game, there is also a section in a cupboard with bouncers littering the place.
Unfortunately, the rooms in this scene are very plain and open, with not many nooks and crannies to explore. I only found 1 secret in this scene. I think the author got a bit lazy with the visuals as well this time around, as I noticed fairly boxy architecture, and simple texture work, with the inside of one of the cabinets completely missing any texture work, using the default Serious Editor texture. A little more effort with the scenery detail is all I am asking.
After completing the scene objectives, another section of the main hallway opens up, granting you access to the next scene. There is a pretty cool fight on the way there which acts as a nice cap to the relatively easy fights from earlier on.
The music used in this scene is the same as the music used in the first scene. SkaSkaSka for the combat music and Polyushko Polye for the peaceful music. Just like with how it is implemented in the first scene, they do not fit very well with the overall mood of the visuals and gameplay. Even worse, this time around, the piano riff that plays out by the frog troupe actually clashes a lot with the music playing.
Overall I would say that while it is a nice breather after the fairly challenging fights in the second scene, the general quality is substantially weaker. This is disappointing as this scene could have been done a lot better with more solid visuals and a different set of music tracks.
Scene Score : 65.3% (77/118)
Scene 4 – Happy Groggy Cooking
As the name implies, this scene takes place in the kitchen. The objective of here is to collect the 3 artifacts located on the stoves, in the microwave and the refrigerator and then place them in milkshake containers.
The gameplay in this scene are much improved over the previous scene, providing more challenging and varied fights. The introduction of the Chainsaw helps add variety, and a lot of small gimmicks spice up the gameplay quite a bit. For example, the sink is caked over with a layer of smilies, (Yes, smilies.) allowing you to cross over to the stoves. Once that happens, Bulls appear and breaks the layer, giving you access to the drain. Once you fall through, you are teleported to the table, and Kamikazes follow right behind. Another gimmick present in this scene is the blender that blends enemies as they teleport in, which is a pretty hilarious sight to behold. Finally, there’s the gimmick in the microwave that allows the player to avoid damage completely. After the objectives are met, you are then presented with another mini-boss fight consisting of several Red and Blue Biomechs and what appears to be a Highlander’s Bride that is only able to attack you with her fireballs.
There’s quite a bit to explore in this scene, there’s a lot of optional areas to discover and find. Still, the architecture of the scene is done well enough that it could accurately be described as a kitchen. Unfortunately, none of the hard-to-access areas yield any rewards or fights that makes the difficulty of accessing them worth it. Also, the teleporter off the edge of the stove that constantly teleports players back on the stove when they fall off is annoying.
The visuals in this scene are a mixed bag. As mentioned before, the architecture is done pretty well, and it really is believable as an actual kitchen. The texture work is also a lot better than in the previous scene. The problem, however, is that instead of finding and using models for the vegetables and meat on the fridge, the author instead opted to use photos of vegetables and meat, which looks hilariously bad. This kind of texture work is also present in the shelf above the stove and sink. This is a stark contrast to the destructible ice cubes that were present in the fridge section.
The music used in this scene is a little bit different. The combat music has been changed to a rendition of Yankee Doodle, which fits in surprisingly well with the scene. The peaceful music is still Polyushko Polye, which still does not fit in very well.
On the whole, the experience with this scene is substantially more solid than the previous one. The fights are more satisfying, the gimmiscks are more fun and memorable, and the scene does not contain a lot of dead space. The mini-boss fight at the end is quite fun. I am guessing that the previous scene was done on purpose to serve as a breather between the second and this scene.
Scene Score : 75.4% (89/118)
Scene 5 – Mach Maze
This scene starts on a high note, throwing you against a cloud of Frogs, a herd of Bulls and then a group of Blue Biomechanoids. After the fight, you are presented with a hole in the wall and are ordered to go in. You are pushed through a tunnel via a series of bouncers that propel you at incredible speeds. So incredible that the Kamikazes that spawn behind you scream at a high enough pitch to alert dogs within a 1 mile radius, thanks to the doppler effect. That is just the start of it. The rest of this scene involves gravity switching in a room, a toilet with no gravity, and a bathroom with a fast-sniping and a soap-tossing gimmick.
The gameplay in this scene is quite varied, you have plenty of different fights that make use of the gimmicks that are set up. Ammo supplies are plentiful, and with the addition of the Minigun to your arsenal, your weapon inventory should be complete by now. Health and armor supplies are somewhat tight, but expected as they’re appropriately handled. You are given enough to survive the fights if you work hard enough. There isn’t as much to explore though, but I can’t fault this scene for that since almost every area is used for combat. There are a couple of alcoves that net nice rewards for the astute, and a secret to unlock if you passed the quick-sniping challenge. The gimmicks used in this scene are well-executed and they enhance the gameplay. You have Bull-towers, midget Bulls, Reptiloids being carried by Harpies, zero-gravity combat, changing gravity combat, the quick-sniping challenge and Bull-riding Cannons. Starting off-high key may seem like a bad idea, but it works in this case.
The visuals in this scene are a mixed bag with plain boxy architecture for the first half, and then fairly detailed areas for the second half once you reach the toilet. The architecture in the first half is confusing as well, as I have no idea what the architecture there is supposed to represent. However, the author did a good job of making a believable and enjoyable toilet and bathroom area to fight in. The overall level of detail in the second half of this scene is a bit higher than the rest of the map so far. For this, the author deserves some praise.
The music used in this scene is pretty familiar. It uses Polyushko Polye for the peaceful music, and Genki for the combat music. The peaceful music does not fit in at all with the scene, like it didn’t for the earlier scenes. However, the fight music fits in a little better in this scene as the weirdness of the song itself fits in with the weirdness of the gimmicks.
Overall, I would say that this scene is a great improvement over the last two, it has great combat and great gimmicks. The visuals are great in the second half. It’s a very satisying experience and is one of the reasons that I chose to replay this map for this review.
Scene Score : 83.1% (98/118)
Scene 6 – After the Bath
This scene starts right after the shower room section of the bathroom. It is far more straightforward than the previous scene, and serves as an intermission between the fifth and seventh scenes. You fight your way out of the batroom, and find that the barrier to the stairs had been lifted. The rest of the scene involves you fighting your way up the stairs. Not as many gimmicks are thrown at you this time, but those that are there are quite interesting.
The combat is just as solid as from the previous ares, throwing large waves of enemies at you. This effect is enhanced simply by the fact that for most of this scene, you’re fighting your way up a massive flight of stairs. Yes, the main attraction here is the uphill battle, that is not to say that the other parts of this scene aren’t fun. However, the giant stairs throw a very effective and fun gimmick at you. As you fight your way up, giant boulders fall from the ceiling and the side walls which roll down the stairs, crushing everything in their way, be it yourself or the enemies. The idea of this gimmick is to dodge the boulders and let them take care of the enemy waves that spawn behind you in addition to the enemies that spawn in front. There is 1 secret that I know of, which could be found by careful platforming and movement. I thought it is worth mentioning since it was pretty cleverly executed. Besides this, there really isn’t much to explore besides the rest of the main hallway and is strictly linear otherwise.
The visuals, because of what the scene is, are pretty plain. There is not much to comment on with regards to the architecture presented to you in this scene. It is plain, and the texturing is on the same level of detail as the rest of the map. Personally speaking, I think that it could stand to be improved a little, especially in the room where the sink is. As far as graphical glitches are concerned, there is a little bit of detail pop-in at the bottom of the stairs as you approach them.
For the music, a traditional Japanese track is used for when there is a rare momentary lull in the fights, and Sazaezan-rap for the rest of the moments when there is combat. It fits in pretty well to the visual and kinaesthetic mood of the scene, surprisingly enough.
Overall, I would say that this scene is a short and sweet interlude between the scenes that take place at the ground floor of the house, and the scenes that will take place at the upper levels. It is pretty combat-heavy with little distractions in the form of side passages or puzzles, and it works out pretty well for what it is. I just wish that there was more to it than an uphill battle with an Indiana Jones gimmick thrown in.
Scene Score : 69.5% (82/118)
Scene 7 – Strange Keys
This scene starts you off in the only room immediately available in the second floor, a messy bedroom surrounded by cardboard boxes. The objective here is, as the name would suggest, to collect 14 strange key items strewn about the room, and then find an alternate exit through the bed and another zero-gravity toilet. What is with the author and zero-G toilets?
The gameplay in this scene is surprisingly easy after you get past the first wave that is thrown your way. Afterwards, every other enemy spawns are triggered by waking through specific paths through the maze of boxes. A Reptiloid Highlander spawns as you approach the table, and he is easily taken out. After you have gotten all of the keys, a ramp made out of a piece of wood lowers that allows you to get on top of the boxes, and on top of the table where a teleport awaits you. You are then taken through a bed with ‘dunes’ made out of the bed-sheets, fighting another enemy tower, then an invading force of Kamikazes, Beheaded Rocketeers and Zorgs, before fighting your way out of another zero-gravity toilet, this time from the cistern.
I like that the box maze section of this scene is non-linear, and that you are free to collect the keys in any order that you desire. It gives players a sense of freedom. It is also nice that ammo items are strewn all over the room, allowing players to refill their ammo reserves as they please. The sand dune like geometry on the bed is another nice touch, since it adds an interesting dynamic of enemies popping above and below the visual horizon. This dynamic is something that I have always found to be suspiciously missing from the Egypt levels from the First Encounter.
I should also take the moment to mention that the keys that were strewn about in this scene are really, really weird. They range from the regular key items that you would normally find, to miniature models of statues and trees, to marker models used in Serious Editor 1. A lot of these key items caused me to do a double-take as I approached them. Because of the random nature of the keys, I found that enabling lens flares for this section helps a lot to spot them.
Unfortunately, the visuals in this scene are pretty plain and blocky. The textures used looks pretty flat from a distance, which makes this scene look pretty rushed and primitive. More so than what is expected out of a level/campaign that is far too big for its own good. The blocky table and pillows certainly didn’t help this impression either, as they don’t really look like they were constructed out of more than a handful of brushes. There really is no getting over how plain and blocky this bedroom looks. Large stain textures really would have helped to give the level a bit more of a visual flair.
Sound-wise, they are just as what you would come to expect by now. A traditional Japanese tune for the peaceful music and Genki for the combat music. They fit just as well as they did in the past few scenes. However, at this point, most would be used to the odd choice of music and accepted it.
Overall, it’s a pretty good scene, but not all that great. The combat is competently designed, and there’s plenty to explore even with the exclusion of secrets. On the other hand, the lazy visuals, and the recycling of the premise of the zero gravity toilet room bumps the experience down somewhat, resulting in a scene that is above average in quality.
Scene score : 72% (85/118)
Scene 8 – Multi Gravity
This next scene takes place in another bedroom. This time much more neatly arranged and a lot more interesting. Almost,every surface of the room has a gravity associated with it, so in effect, you’re fighting as if you are a fly on the wall, and there is a bigger vertical element to the combat. The objective is to simply survive and go into the next area.
You know, it feels pretty strange to go from lukewarm gameplay to intense and chaotic fire-fights as you go from one scene to the next. It’s like the author suddenly decided at this point to fire on all cylinders in his mapping project. The waves are considerably larger, better-scripted and all-round more interesting. At one point, there are large frogs that appear that spawn Serious Damage power-ups to help you deal with the next waves that are about to spawn in. The multi-gravity gimmick can be used to your advantage or to your detriment. Jumping on an adjacent wall can help you evade enemy attacks more easily. However, there are Lagrange points where the gravity zones intersect, trapping you until you are knocked out of it. Moreover, the gravity room in this scene looks a lot better than the box maze bedroom from the last scene. It’s a lot less cluttered with colours.
Which is a shame that the quality of combat and the aesthetics did not extend beyond the multi-gravity room. After you survive the onslaught, you are taken through 2 sections of the patio, which is littered with a couple of small encounters along the way. The transit areas are by no means bad, but it still feels disappointing after the excitement of the previous room. The visual quality of the patio areas are pretty poor, with the lighting making a lot of the geometry look flat. Also, with the extra surface area to run on in the multi-gravity room, exploring and travelling through the area takes longer than one would normally expect. Somehow, “Garden Warfare” isn’t as exciting as “Multi-Gravity Slaughterhouse Madness.” Still, the view from the patio is nice.
The music used in this scene are SkaSkaSka for the combat and the same traditional Japanese tune from the previous other scenes for the peaceful music.
Overall, this is an unexpected spike in quality where the gimmick used compliments and enhances the combat experience. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the author could not keep it up beyond the multi-gravity room. I really would have liked to see more rooms like this in this scene.
Scene score : 74.6% (88/118)
Scene 9 – Dive into Binary
If there is one thing that personifies the experience playing through this scene, it is dead space. There is so much walking involved, it is not even funny. I have no idea what the author was thinking when he made this scene, he had such a good premise for it and yet it is squandered. For this, it definitely is one of the most disappointing scenes I have played so far in this campaign. I think it says something when a room out of a Serious Editor tutorial is what you are given for a virtual reality world.
Okay so the premise of this scene is, as the title implies, diving into a digital world. However, you spend so little time in the virtual world that the title could be anything and it would fit just as well. Not only that, for some reason, you are given a Pistol and a Shotgun pickup there, which makes very little sense. Most of the time spent in this scene involves the final bedroom with an open-top computer setup and a TV, and the backyard of the house. Once you get inside the computer, you are taken into the digital world, which amounted to nothing more than 2 very plain Mayan rooms. After which you are teleported to the backyard, (through an admittedly awesome warp hole) and have to find your way back inside the house. The computer room is massive, and there will be a lot of backtracking because once the mattress flips over to make a ramp to climb into the bed with, there are no teleporters that quickly take you back to the top of the bed, and you will most likely have to drop down unless you know to plug the PC to the wall socket before turning the power strip on. Oh, and guess what! The floor hurts you if you fall from a great height! The backyard is not that much better either, it spans the entire length of the house twice in an L-shape, and you are still the size of an ant. You will therefore be doing a lot of running around for supplies in between waves.
Speaking of supplies, the author went way overboard this time with the ammo, littering the place full of ammo for the Tommygun, Minigun, Laser gun as well as regular backpacks. You are given a lot of Serious Damage and Serious Speed powerups to deal with the large waves. There is so much space to run around though that those powerups are not really needed for survival. So much so that the question is not if you are able to make do with the supplies given, but if you want to bother running for several minutes straight to pick up all the supplies. Given the size of the areas in this scene, you would think that the author would get the idea to make travel faster, so much walking! Strangely enough, this scene is relatively low on armor pickups.
Another issue with this scene is that the hills in the backyard suddenly cuts off where the outer walls are placed, breaking the immersion of the scene, and making the whole campaign feel really rushed. It certainly does not help that there are so little detail props placed in the backyard like pebbles and large grass blades. That makes for very limited options for exploration compared to the computer room. Ironically, there is nothing to be gained from exploring the nooks and crannies there, except having to walk all the way back to the mattress ramp, all while there are secrets, and even a gag to be found in exploring each sparse clump of detail props in the backyard.
It is not all bad though, the fights are enjoyably large and varied, throwing you plenty of enemy combinations, like Cannon enemy carrying Kleers, Cannon weapon and ammo carrying Werebulls, and Bull-riding Biomechs and Kamikazes. There was a moment of tension for me when the Giant Lava Golem boss spawned between me and increasingly-needed supplies. The secrets are pretty clever and funny, including the gag that involves a cardboard cut-out of a Kamikaze popping up in front of you. I will not spoil the punchline for you, you will have to experience this for yourself. Moreover, the computer room is, compared to the visuals of the rest of the campaign, quite detailed. From the crumpled rug in front of the central table, the computer chair, the computer desk and the TV rack. I am willing to bet that this is a reconstruction of the author’s own bedroom.
Also a welcome change from the usual, is the change in combat music to an energetic japanese trance rap tune called “うらのおばあさん” or “Grandmother of Ura” , and we hear the return of “Polyushko Polye”. While they fit just as badly as the other songs used in this campaign, it is very much a welcome change from the use of “Genki” and “SkaSkaSka” for the combat music.
Overall, this scene is a disappointment. There is so much that could be done to tap into the full potential of the premise, and yet, this scene is just fairly decent in execution and nothing more. The virtual world section could have been a bustling cyberpunk downtown section where Mental’s forces are the computer viruses that you have to zap out of existence. It could include a gimmick where the only ammo available is for the Laser gun.
So what could be done to improve this scene? For starters, some teleport points added to the floor level of the computer room that activates once the mattress ramp lowers would be nice. Having to run all the way back just because you fell off the table is just a drag, and it is not anything anyone wants to experience. Then there is the lack of any significant virtual reality sections that could be improved as well. For the backyard section, I would have strewn Serious Speed powerups in a line leading to the arena at the end of the massive corridor. This could give players a choice of fighting every wave one by one slowly and safely, or the dangerous choice of fighting all the enemy waves one after another in reverse order. I would have set up a system of timed triggers that automatically moves pickups and powerups to the final arena once the player reaches that area. I would also scale back the number of ammo pickups, and vary them a little so that it is not all Bullet and Electricity pickups. Finally, I would not have chopped the terrain off at the boundaries of the play area, and would have allowed the hills to extend out a bit before terminating.
Scene Score : 66.1% (78/118)
Scene 10 – Unwelcome Visitor II
Hoo boy, talk about an explosive end to a campaign! This scene introduces no new areas, but it bookends the campaign is a very clever way, by bringing the player back to the front yard from the very first scene. As expected for the end of any Serious Sam campaign, this scene is completely focused on combat. Keeping this in mind, I am throwing the evaluation for the visuals and exploration out the window for this scene’s review score and will focus on the gameplay aspects.
The first thing you will notice after the end of the previous scene is that you are teleported back to the central table of the computer room, and that a ramp is newly formed, allowing you to climb up to the top of the wall of the patio. As you traverse over the patio wall, a space pod containing Mental’s reinforcements appears and slams into the ground, creating a big explosion, lots of noises, lots of shaking, and a crater. Thus the goal of this scene is to get downstairs and wipe out the reinforcements.
The combat this time around starts off in a high note, throwing massive waves of enemies at you as you head downstairs and to the front door. This is where you encounter the first boss of this scene, an easily-exploitable Highlander Bride. After you get past her, the enemy waves only get bigger and bigger, mounting almost insurmountable odds against you as you have to deal with a swarm of Kleers, Bull-Riding Biomechs, and many other enemy types that are fairly good at throwing death your way. On top of that, the second and the final boss appears at the same time. Another Highlander Bride and Ugh Zan III. By then, only your wits and reaction time are able to keep you alive. You have to kill the Highlander Bride quickly to make the home owner “GOK” appear and help you defeat Ugh Zan III. The mechanic is pretty interesting, every 3 minutes, “GOK” would zap Ugh Zan III with an orbital laser cannon, (Fires from the sky, hurts Ugh Zan III much like the spaceship from the First Encounter, only damage is dealt instantly. It is indeed an orbital laser cannon.) dealing massive damage and stunning him for a few seconds. So you just have to survive 3 minutes while the orbital cannon charges up, right? Well, it’s not so simple. Surviving while Ugh Zan III active is a lot harder than it seems, as there is also a massive wave of enemies still on your tail. Opportunities to damage the big bad guy are few and far in between, and you most likely have to wait 6 minutes and 2 orbital laser strikes to finally bring Ugh Zan III to his knees.
Where do I begin with this? Yes, it is massive and epic. I am a big fan of large scale fights like this, it reminds me of the final area of The Grand Cathedral from the Second Encounter. Things happen as you fight and you have to survive insurmountable odds until everything is dead but yourself. The sense of satisfaction of finally beating this campaign is quite an elation to behold. The combat is very very difficult towards the end, no doubt about that, but it is far from unfair or unbalanced. It is quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. You really have to work to avoid as much damage as possible, and to manage your supply of health, armor and ammunition pickups. Massive props to the author for choreographing such a legitimately difficult and enjoyable final fight. This is not something I see very often as most “epic” final fights in custom Serious Sam maps tend towards unfair methods, or an anti-climatic downer of a final encounter. I can understand that many players would simply be unable to beat the final fight, so I included a video for those who want to experience the final encounter without feeling too frustrated by its challenge. Expert players can skip this video and read on.
However, the gameplay in this scene is not without its problems. The first thing that I found really, really, irritating is the doorbell noise that keeps playing as you fight your way towards the front door. It is loud enough to drown out the sounds of everything else that is going on, and it is really obnoxious, not letting up at all through the entire struggle. The relief of when the doorbell finally ends and gives you a sense of relative silence is almost deafening. The second problem occurs when the second and third space pod crashes into the battlefield, heralding the appearance of Ugh Zan III and the second Highlander Bride. When that happens, you better hope that you are not in the middle of the enemy swarm, because it causes an earthquake effect so intense that for the next 5 seconds, it would be impossible to discern what is going on. When you are at the edge of your seat, trying to survive, 5 seconds of confusion can most likely be fatal. I can appreciate what the author is going for, but the quake effect could really be toned down so that players could still be able to fight with perceptive clarity when it happens.
Unfortunately, this is also where the campaign vomits over itself and keels over in a network game. There are so many things to keep track of from the beginning of the campaign, to the absolute mayhem unfolding in the final battle that players are very prone to desyncing at this point, and would be unable to reconnect.
However, these are small problems that only puts a scratch on the solidity of this scene’s gameplay. On top of the intense firefights, this scene features new music. “僧琉” for the peaceful music, “Battle 01” for the fights and “舞踏派” for the final boss. The peaceful and combat music do not gel together very well and all 3 tracks do not fit really well with what is going on. I personally would have switched the combat and final boss music around. That would make more sense since “僧琉” and “舞踏派” are composed by the same artist, and thus more simillar. I am just being picky though, because at this point, I am glad to finally hear something different.
There is one minor issue that I almost forgot to mention, and it has to do with the ending of the campaign, right after beating Ugh Zan III. There is a delay of a few seconds, and then an ending cutscene plays out, showing Sam entering the crashed pod and flying off into space. At least that is what I presumed would happen. You can interrupt the outro sequence by pressing the fire button, and that is what I did because there are still enemies to clear out. You are still railroaded to the predetermined path, so it does not matter anyways. Like I said, it is pretty minor and it does not detract much from the experience. I personally would have scripted all of the enemies to die when Ugh Zan buys the farm, or allow the player to clear out the remaining stragglers and have the space pod itself be the ending cutscene trigger.
On the whole, I would say that this is a very satisfying ending to a pretty good campaign. The fights are very appropriate in volume and intensity, and the mechanic for defeating the final boss is a fresh departure that works very well. I really wish that more fan-made campaigns and map packs are designed with this kind of final encounter in mind. You have no excuse not to play through this scene, be it in single-player or with a friend. Put on God-mode if you must, the final battle is something that must be experienced by every Serious Sam fan. Period.
Scene Score : 82.8% (72/87)
Now that we have reached the end of the campaign, and evaluated all of the scenes individually, what would my final verdict be? Personally speaking, I highly enjoyed playing through all of it. There are so many things that the author did that is unconventional and off the beaten track, that for all of its flaws, trivial, petty or otherwise, it still comes out as a solid piece of mapping work. I really appreciate that he went out of his way to stretch the limits of the engine and the editor tools. This campaign is a testament to his unbridled creativity, and it is a crying shame that he was never able to create and publish more Serious Sam maps since.
You may also notice that the Flamethrower weapon is missing in action all throughout the campaign. This is most likely intentional, as most of the waves would be rendered trivial with its inclusion. However, for the benefit of those who insist on having a Flamethrower, I will include a link to a patch by BD that adds the weapon to the campaign at the Scene Selection level.
There is one thing that I must mention and address, because this is the root of so many of the flaws this campaign has, and it is the fact that everything is in one single level. So many of the issues with the plain and blocky architecture, as well as the poor lighting in some areas could be addressed simply by splitting each scene into its own level, or splitting the campaign into chunks of two or more scenes. This would have also served to improve and tighten the gameplay of the campaign quite a bit as it is a lot easier to edit a small level that is part of a large set than it is to edit a supermassive level. Finally, there are lots of missed opportunities for great secrets, gimmicks and gags that I felt would not have been missed if the author focused on each scene separately as their own levels as opposed to a part of a whole. Not to mention, stuff from past events in the map like boulders at the bottom of the stairs, and revisiting the beginning for the final fight would be hard to replicate in separate levels.
But then again, this fan-offering would not have grabbed my attention if it was not an entire campaign all in one level. I would highly recommend that you play through this campaign from start to finish, and use cheats if you get stuck. This is a great showcase of ideas which sadly could never be replicated in a more modern Serious Sam engine. ( Why did you have to disable directional gravity, Croteam!? That was the best feature of Serious Engine 1! ) After all, this is 2 years and 5 months in the making, if the readme is anything to go by. I think the author deserves some love for that much time and devotion to a single project.
As a bonus, I have created an OCRemix music pack for this campaign that replaces all of the music with music from OCRemix. This is for those who feel that they don’t like to sit through the author’s musical choices for the entire campaign. Links will be at the bottom, as usual.