REVIEW: ‘Serious Sam 4’ Has Some Serious Issues (XSX)

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Serious Sam 4 Review

The Serious Sam series has long had a niche in the FPS genre that is near all its own. Now, Serious Sam 4, developed by Croteam and published by Devolver Digital, attempts to bring that niche back for another round. While the newest entry has the bones of the series to satisfy longtime fans, the title’s presentation and more janky elements will likely keep them from leaving older releases behind for this new one. 

The Serious Sam series has always been about over-the-top scale, stereotyped characters, and a tongue-in-cheek tone. As enemies swarm the player they have to cycle through an arsenal of weapons while backpedaling to thin them out and avoid the hail of different projectiles and melee attacks sent their way.

Serious Sam 4 implements this formula rather well. There is an impressive variety of enemies and the sheer scale of fights throughout the game is undeniably impressive. The battles can have a lot of excitement to them, but there are also a number of issues that bog the experience down. 

One big issue comes from the design of enemies. While many of the enemies are well designed with a lot of character and identifiable silhouettes in the chaos of combat, some are very much less so. One in particular that stands out is the Kleer Skeletons. The amount of negative space in their models makes them meld with the backgrounds while their ranged attacks are bulky enough to block the screen and obscure one’s view in an annoying way rather than a challenging one. The sounds of their footsteps also curiously sound like the hooves of horses, which doesn’t match their models at all and tends to be distracting. 

The encounters throughout the game are also tarnished by weird mechanical issues like melee kills only being able to be performed on an enemy’s front. Even running in performance mode on Xbox Series X there were also occasional frame drops and screen tearing while the graphical mode was nearly unplayable due to how much it chugged once a high number of enemies appeared. 

However, the most detracting part of Serious Sam 4 is undoubtedly its presentation. The series has never wanted to have a serious storyline or to be high art, but previous entries were at least entertaining. In Serious Sam 4, however, cutscenes and character dialogue tend to be more annoying than anything else. 

The narrative takes place on an Earth besieged by alien invaders. Players control the titular Sam as he teams up with a variety of characters to try and put an end to it once and for all. There is a lot of variety in the cast, from super serious military officers to rambling priests and action-hero wannabes. However, none of them seem to get along at all. 

Nearly every line throughout the game is received by the other characters with an air of annoyance. Every character is the but of the joke and everybody involved seems tired of having to run through the motions. None of the characters in the game seem to be having any fun with one another, so it doesn’t make sense that the player is expected to have any fun with them either. 

Serious Sam 4 Beheaded Suicide Bomber

This stems from much of the comedy stemming from old-school banter that feels ripped right out of the worst Duke Nukem scenes. From Sam’s gravelly voice grumbling about alien douchebags to veteran soldiers mocking a rookie for not making a good enough one-liner, it all is eye-rolling at best and painful at worst. 

To make it even worse, the cutscenes are just ugly. Of course, it is unreasonable to expect them to reach the visual fidelity and presentation of modern AAA titles, but there are many issues present that could have been avoided even with the title’s smaller funding. Cutscenes are often awkward thanks to a lack of music and stilted dialogue pacing while their framing if it can even be called that, feels as though it was an afterthought or just completely forgotten. There is no life to any of the lighting, environments, or action in the cutscenes at all. This is all made much much worse by how textures have to constantly pop in during cutscenes as well, leaving players watching mushy lumps of smeared colors at the start of every individual shot. 

It is a shame that Serious Sam 4 is not able to live up to the series’ legacy. While the franchise has never been associated with particularly groundbreaking or polished titles it has previously been able to offer enjoyable experiences with its own identity and fun gameplay. Serious Sam 4 is too bogged down by questionable design and poor presentation to manage that, and instead feels like a title quickly thrown together with an overnight script than a cohesive product. 

Serious Sam 4 is available now on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S. 


Serious Sam 4
4/10

TL;DR

It is a shame that Serious Sam 4 is not able to live up to the series’ legacy. While the franchise has never been associated with particularly groundbreaking or polished titles it has previously been able to offer enjoyable experiences with its own identity and fun gameplay. Serious Sam 4 is too bogged down by questionable design and poor presentation to manage that, and instead feels like a title quickly thrown together with an overnight script than a cohesive product.