Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is the second part of the original game and an FPS that takes Sam on a ride throughout many more time periods. It is bigger, badder and more out of its mind than ever before and in all reality, could just as easily have been the sequel. Right off the bat we are thrown into South America and given a chainsaw to either spite mother nature or against familiar enemy faces that will soon show up. This being Serious Sam, you will rarely ever encounter a few at a time, instead, you will be greeted and expected to take down a legion of foes head on. Few enemies have attacks that are hit-scan so you can dodge and leap around the place, leaving an encounter unscathed if you are skilled enough.
One of the first things that will become very apparent is how large and open the levels now are. You will receive a sniper rifle a few minutes into the game and will become an essential weapon as they have no qualms about placing an enemy that fires a heat seeking projectile at the other side of the map. The First Encounter was difficult but this entry assumes that you have sharpened your skills, pulling no punches and occasionally sucker punching you as well. The devs have a unique sense of humor that will always be at the player’s expense such as picking up a single point of health only to have two of the toughest enemies spawn right in your face or wondering what a lever does and after you activate it get your head punched off by a spring-loaded boxing glove.
It may sound annoying but it really lends the game a whimsical charm to it as well as keeps you on your toes. The closest thing I can compare it to is having a jerk as a dungeon master in a game of D&D. That being said, even without being sucker punched the quick save/load hotkeys will be your best friends here. One wrong move can easily lead to you being chainsawed in half, vaporized, blown up and another number of unpleasant experiences from enemies just waiting for the chance. Not to mention the fact that you will occasionally have to make your way through a trap filled room or a gimmick that changes up the gameplay. For instance, the room’s floor could suddenly become like a trampoline bouncing both yourself and foes all over the place to name one instance.
The Second Encounter has a ton more gimmicky areas that really kick things up to 11 and helps alleviate some of the repetition that The First Encounter had from offering little more than yet another bloodbath. It is still without a doubt Serious Sam however, rare will be the occasion when you are not frantically firing upon an oncoming horde. A new feature introduced is the addition of power-ups scattered about. These can range from greatly increasing the amount of damage you output, making you run extremely fast or making you invincible. Like all good things in life, they do not last forever sadly. They have a time bar associated with them that would be wise to keep an eye on in case you find yourself believing you are still immortal and being promptly introduced to the stratosphere.
Secrets are back and more numerous than ever. From jumping into a burning fire to taking a leap of faith off a ledge, they are always closer than you may imagine and are a ton of fun to find. Armor, weapons and health are usually what you’ll find but in this game, those are indispensable to keep you in top shape for whatever crazy event is coming your way. You do not have to tackle it alone however, there is coop support for up to 15 other players to run around the map causing havoc. In it, you’ll be able to change various factors such as having additional enemies for each extra player or having an infinite amount of respawn points to render death into nothing more than a minor setback. It is a blast though make sure to have some friends ready to go along if you want to try it since the lobbies are a ghost town at the time of this review.
A much-appreciated feature to this game is the Steam workshop support that lets you download more skins and levels at the click of a button. The base title offers three varied episodes that will take around 8 or so hours to complete and if you own The First Encounter all of the original episodes will be available as well. There is a lot more to see this time around instead of a bunch of Egyptian structures. You will be making your way through a live volcano, exploring a creepy goth castle and even chasing down Santa Claus in what I assume to be the North Pole. It completely gives up on having a consistent theme throughout the entire game, instead opting to go out of its mind, throwing whatever seemed fun at the time your way.
If you loved the original there is no doubt you will also adore this entry and for newcomers, this series barely has a story so whichever game you choose to begin with matters little though if you choose this one get ready for one heck of a fight. Speaking of difficult battles, boss fights also make a return and will test your mettle. There is just so much to get giddy over if you are into arena based FPS games. The massive increase in its “because I can” attitude helps alleviate the repetition that comes from shooting stuff nonstop that haunted the first. In addition to the campaign, there is also a survival and multiplayer versus modes. Survival is exactly what it sounds like and will not go easy in the slightest against you while the multiplayer components I did not test due to a dead online community. All in all, if you are looking to get a Serious Sam game, this is the one to go for and will offer plenty of nonstop action.