Many gamers look in the rearview mirror to scrutinize the past in 2020. So it’s no wonder we are seeing the return of franchises rooted in that same distant past. Publishers are simply surfing this nostalgic wave, and drawing from their repose sagas and iconic characters able to make our “gamer” hearts vibrate in unison. Sam Stone is back to make the powder talk in Serious Sam 4. But this hero, symbol of an uninhibited vision of the video game in the early 2000s, is he still capable of repelling an alien invasion? Sam Stone aka "Serious Sam" and his band of second knives travel across Europe from Rome to Carcassonne, allowing themselves a stopover in the cities of Prague or Pompeii. These utterly cartoonish figures oppose Mental, an alien entity bent on exterminating the human race, and attempt to repel its invading forces. The scenario, pretext for a succession of carnages in the four corners of the old continent, pays homage to the B series in what it has more recreational and mindless. A hero suckled on diesel and fed on gunpowder, a veritable traveling “Reganian” cliché, draws weapons and punchlines without ever taking a break. One thing is certain Sam Stone is back, and above all true to his reputation.
The humor, which often taps under the belt and lubricates a narrative sent to the point of bordering on indigestion, may put off some of the players. The wits are bold, anachronistic, and bring back memories of a bygone era when the hero in marcel was a symbol of virility. However, the Serious Sam series was never intended to be subtle, let alone tell a thrilling story. The cutscenes only pass the dishes, introduce the antagonists and launch the following chapters ... no more and no less. Serious Sam 4 does honor, if we can say so, to its predecessors, and wants to be faithful to its origins. The Croteam pays homage in its own way to the video game of yesteryear ... a straightforward, rustic, and edgy approach to FPS. The tastes and colors cannot be explained. As for tone and humor, everyone will find what they are looking for ... or almost. It’s difficult in 2020 to be satisfied with such an uninspired pen. Even if it means doing minimalism, we might remove the very notion of scenario in order to favor the discovery of lore as well. Still, Serious Sam 4 only too rarely exploits its universe. But is there really something to be exploited? This is clearly not what series insiders are here for. Everything here is a question of gratuitous violence and bloody carnage.
Just drawn and already obsolete, Serious Sam 4 shows the weight of the years upon its release. From a purely technical point of view, the Croteam title cannot decently compete with the standards imposed by the competition. The textures drool. Glitches are legion. Bugs and crashes do not invite instantly (although they should be corrected with the patch "Day One"). And the artistic direction is struggling to make up the whole, but above all, it oscillates dangerously between two styles ... the realism in all proportions of the environments and the cartoonish design of the characters. The sets are empty and partially destructible, a lesser evil you will tell me. This contributes to the explosiveness of the combat phases ... central to the experience. Playing a Serious Sam is like to come in terms with your primary instincts and sharpen your reflexes with the hope of surviving repeated onslaughts from enemies whose only behavior is to rush at you. Artificial intelligence is sketchy if not nonexistent, like the Beheaded Kamikazes, and guided by one thought ... that of eliminating Sam with as much noise as possible. This fourth episode of the adventures of Sam Stone manages to rediscover at times the “old school” feeling of the ultra nervous and explosive shooter that once made the glory of Fast FPS. However, after a few hours of trudging through the levels, a certain weariness sets in.
Covering the green grass of the plains with blood and dismembering the 12 gauge creature won't be long enough. The fun in this kind of game comes from precise level design, new situations level after level, and tons of guns. Assault rifle, minigun, boomstick, C-4 bread, automatic pump rifle, rocket/grenade launcher… The hero of the day is replicable and has mastered the art of spreading the good word. The feeling of weapons in hand is pleasant and partially saves this FPS from the rout. Gadgets like the Black Hole or the Mini-Nuke as well as unlockable skills add to the adventure for a while, but in the end, nothing helps. Arsenal level, the Croteam sees things in a big way, but for the rest, it will be necessary to be satisfied with the strict minimum.
Serious Sam 4 is ultimately a cyclical redundancy that always pulls the rope of repetitiveness more and more to the point of breaking it. Going through a dozen hours of déjà-vu sequences involving hundreds of enemies to be pulverized is only a little entertaining. Even boss fights are sorely lacking in punch and struggle to surprise with their two or three patterns repeated in a loop until death follows. Some gunfight and speedrun enthusiasts will be able to put their dexterity and patience to the test thanks to the different difficulty levels or even share a "poetic" moment between comrades with the online cooperative mode (which we were unable to test for lack of players). Still, the love of the “High Score” and performance doesn't change that. Wanting to let off steam is one thing, enjoying it is another. Coming out of retirement after years of inactivity isn't always easy, and Sam Stone has learned it the hard way. Serious Sam 4 is a legitimate sequel to the franchise, true to its origins in both substance and form, but that's it, and that’s the point. Video games have evolved. Players and their expectations have changed in 2020. A franchise needs to innovate, like the reboots of Doom and Wolfenstein, or it will be overwhelmed before it even has time to draw. This is clearly not the case with Serious Sam 4, which is mired in a dated vision of the video game.
For more information regarding the game, visit the Serious Sam 4 official website for all details