Serious Sam 2 is a First Person Shooter and often seen by many fans of the series as the black sheep of the franchise due to how massively different it is from prior games. In the first three minutes alone you’ll see a village of Smurfs, proceed to fight space marines right out of Halo and then mount a rideable dinosaur to spit fire at a lone chicken playing soccer. The series has been getting progressively wackier with each entry, but this one feels like Croteam were perpetually higher than a kite throughout development and based most of the game off of the Saturday morning cartoons they were no doubt watching. It is definitely a love it or hate it change of tone for the series with myself being the former and massively enjoying the insanity on offer here.
All the weapons will be brand new additions to your arsenal minus the chaingun, cannon and dual pistols. We start off with an energy pistol that can overcharge its projectiles and only get crazier from there until the point where we strap a bomb to a parrot then send it flying towards an enemy. A neat new feature is the ability to pick up objects and throw them around. This is only every necessary at the very start of the game and is never used again though it is a ton of fun to mess with the physics or snatch all of a Native’s possessions from their house. Doing so is completely pointless, yet it never gets old to do so and promptly blow up their houses with a well-placed grenade. They can not die from your hand and can not be aggro’d making it a slightly less terrible thing to do.
Natives range from those blue Smurf looking people named ‘Simba Child’, Gnomes and Asians to name a few. Aside from their appearance they all behave exactly the same and have the same voice clips to greet you whenever you stand near one. They are a peaceful and cheery bunch though are occasionally known to make use of their second amendment rights to fight off Mental’s minions. You have no control over them, and they will quickly die if you don’t intervene in the battle but are useful nonetheless. Another new introduction are vehicles which range from a stationary turret, a UFO, helicopter, and a giant spiked hamster ball to run down your enemies. It is just as awesome as it sounds with all of them controlling very well.
Your typical enemy will be the Master Chief look alike and helicopters though you will soon encounter many, many more. Pretty soon you’ll have witches flying around on their brooms, the scariest unicycle riding clowns you will ever see and zombie ninjas. They are really varied with the only returning enemy being the Kleer and technically the Kamikaze in a heavily modified form. The rest are original, and due to the random nature of this game, you will never have any idea what you’ll be facing next. Whatever it is you can bet that gunning them down will feel amazing since the gib effect in Serious Sam 2 is top notch. There are thankfully no more enemies that have a hit-scan attack, every foe here will either charge right at you or have a projectile that you can avoid. This allows you to dance around the battlefield and not take any damage which helps the gameplay feel fun.
Unfortunately, not all is well on that front. The enemy placement is simply brutal, and you’ll be facing a ton of both ground & air units that typically spawn in a way to instantly surround you. Your movement speed is simply not fast enough to easily handle these type of situations, and it doesn’t help that the helicopter takes far too much damage and that your rocket launcher is underwhelming. Not unmanageable by any means, just be prepared to bring your A-game. The thing that gets me more than anything is how bloody often this game takes away all your guns. It will constantly leave you with the bare minimum and then spread out all the other weapons throughout a few levels, right before taking them away again. It is a cycle that gets old fast and makes reserving ammo or finding secrets nigh meaningless.
This is also the first game in the series to introduce a life system oddly enough. I guess it is more of a feature for the console version of this title since we can simply quick save and quick load when things go south. It is a bizarre gameplay addition that doesn’t really add nor detract from anything. Levels themselves are more colorful than they have ever been and have an extreme amount of variety from one to the next. You’ll be fighting in hell, be shrunk down to the size of an ant and be forced to take on insects in your miniature form, join a game show and so much more. If there is one thing you can count on is that you’ll never know what comes next. Most feature cool gimmicks though some are plain terrible such as needing to find cover every couple of seconds to avoid freezing to death or waiting for a slowly moving platform to finish taking you where you need to go.
It is far more linear as well with invisible walls all over the place to keep you on the set path. It is a stark contrast to the wide open landscapes of SS: The Second Encounter. Losing the ability to rocket jump your way out of a level and finding all sorts of hidden stuff does take some charm out of it. There are still cool secrets to be found though because of the constrained level design they are much easier to find. When the theme of the stages is about to change you will come face to face with a boss fight. As you may expect, they are equally as crazy as the rest of the game with most beings a ton of fun to fight. Each typically has their own weaknesses to take advantage of making each fight more than just simple shooting. If you are playing the game via coop, defeating them does not trigger a cutscene making your victory sudden and anticlimactic. It is something that is present in all other games of the series, so that is not a problem unique to this title.
True to its namesake, rare is the moment where you will not be firing against an overwhelming amount of enemies with your arsenal of weapons. The amount of chaos onscreen at any one time is as high as ever without a hiccup to be found that interrupts the flow. At the time of this review, the game is nearly 12 years old and is the only game in the franchise not to receive an HD rerelease, but its graphics hold up really well regardless. With Serious Sam 2 having such a vastly different tone as well as having nearly entirely new guns and enemies, it is easy to see why many fans do not like it. Truth be told, it does have its fair share of flaws and very well could have been a new IP with a few tweaks. That by no means makes this a bad game. It is one heck of a wild, unpredictable ride from start to finish and features the longest campaign yet, even with so much variety to everything. It’s by no means the best game of the franchise but give it a fair shot, and you’ll find plenty to love about Serious Sam 2.