In these heady days of Skyrim, Portal 2, Batman: Arkham City, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, have we overlooked a hidden gem in Serious Sam 3: BFE? Commenter DocSeuss seems to think so, and he'll tell you all about it in today's Speak Up on Kotaku.
Is Serious Sam 3: BFE a perfect game?
I'm inclined to think so. I've been playing it a lot lately and... writing and voice acting aside, I'm not sure I have anything to complain about. Sure, it's got flat levels and simplistic AI, but... well...
Okay, first, I'm going to be harsh, just to get that out of the way:
Shut up about Dark Souls. Are we supposed to be impressed that a game uses its difficulty to teach you to be a better player? If you were a real gamer, you'd be familiar with this sort of gameplay. Two of them that really stick in my mind are the STALKER and Serious Sam games. Take your pick: either this concept is native to shooters or the PC. The only reason Dark Souls is special to you is because, for whatever reason, you haven't been exploring either PC games or shooters as much as you ought. You should get on that. I'll be happy to set you up with plenty of great games that do this.
Serious Sam 3: BFE is a fantastic example. It's tough. It's really tough. Even on Normal difficulty, which I'm playing, it's a challenge.
Part of the reason for this is that it uses health packs instead of regenerating health. Where Resistance 3 (a nice game with great art that you should pick up for $30 or less!) was a game that demonstrated a complete failure to understand why health packs exist, and this year's Halo/Deus Ex games made a compelling argument for regenerating health, Serious Sam 3 uses its health systems to enhance the gameplay experience.
It's brutal when you're down at ten health and you find just six +1 health bottles, but that can lead to an exhilarating victory. There was this one level where I was trapped, in the dark, with spider monsters that could crawl on the floors, the walls, and the ceilings. I started out with 25 armor and 100 health, and ended up with just six health. I slowed down, cautiously making my way through the museum's basement with nothing but my own fists, a sledgehammer, and a pistol. It was a truly amazing experience, and one that wouldn't have been impossible had I been supplied with regenerating health or some other gameplay crutch.
Instead, health packs helped shape my experience in a way that helped me become a better player.
The game does it in other ways, as well.
I've put, what, three hundred hours into Dragon Age: Origins? It's a great game. One of the reasons it's so great is that I've only ever beaten it with one class—the rogue. Each time I replay it, I discover a new way of playing the character that I didn't know before. For all its apparent simplicity, the game has an incredibly deep set of systems that can drastically affect your play experience. I love the depth of its tactics (similar, but apparently far more complex than Final Fantasy XII's gambit (?) system, according to people I know who've played both) system. I've customized it so well, that in some cases, I can beat entire bosses without actually playing the game.
...and... Serious Sam requires more of me, as a gamer. I put more intelligence and thought into that game. I've always disagreed with the absurd idea that shooters are dumb games that rely solely on reflexes, and Serious Sam, a game which seems dumb, is a fantastic example of what I'm arguing about (STALKER is another great one—I've never experienced gameplay more intellectual stimulating than STALKER's, and I would have a hard time believing such a thing exists).
If you believe in the theory of multiple intelligences, you should be familiar with the concept of spatial intelligence. Shooters—good ones—rely on your ability to utilize your spatial intelligence. Serious Sam's huge maps (regularly, monsters the size of skyscrapers appear at distances that make them seem the size of your thumb) and constant onslaught of enemies requires you to think about where you are, where your enemies are, and where they (and you) are going.
I've never played a game that forced me to play mental gymnastics.
Of course, there's more to it than that. Sam regularly vomits hundreds of different enemies at you. They all have various ways of attacking, too: you've got rocket-spraying tank creatures, zombies with shotguns, suicidal/headless exploding dudes, Syrian werebulls that will send you FLYING if they ram you...
You get the idea.
On top of this, you've got a ton of different weapons—easily double the number of weapons in an Unreal or Half-Life game—and they each behave in radically different ways that make them suitable for dealing with different enemies and at different ranges. The double-barreled shotgun's a great way to make short work of a Gnaar, but not great for taking on a gaggle of Kleers.
Oh, and it's also got the addition of sprinting and iron sights, which adds even more variety to the combat.
So, um... yeah. I think it might be a perfect video game. The only reason you should play this is if you are a baby. It may cause unquenchable bloodlust in infants.
If you're a console snob, one of those idiots who thinks FPSes are dumb, or one of those people who wishes that shooters would be great again, shut up, sit down, and play Serious Sam 3: BFE.
About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That's why we have a forum on Kotaku called Speak Up. That's the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Every weekday we'll pull one of the best Speak Up posts we can find and highlight it here.