Serious sam is a long-running series of fast-paced, old-fashioned first-person shooters from Croatian developer Croteam. Almost ten years after the first release of Serious Sam 3, Croteam and Devolver Digital finally released Serious Sam 4 on PC in 2020. A year later, an Xbox Series S | X version suddenly launched on Xbox Game Pass alongside the PlayStation 5. While it’s great that console gamers can now enjoy the latest installment in one of my all-time favorite FPS series, major technical issues add a lot of unwanted frustration to the game. console experience.
Serious Sam 4 takes place between Serious sam 2 and 3, not that the timeline matters a lot. The game begins on our home planet in the midst of an alien invasion. During the ensuing chaos, “Serious” Sam Stone and his team of allies must investigate a series of mysterious relics and archaeological dig sites that hold the key to thwarting the invasion. The series has never been particularly story-loaded, but this installment is making significant progress. The story comes to life with plenty of fully voiced cutscenes involving Sam and an array of supporting characters. It’s mostly an improvement, but too many of Sam’s buddies fridge as the game progresses.
These games are all about exploring overly massive levels, searching for gear and secrets, and blowing up hordes of bizarre enemies along the way. Serious Sam 4 doesn’t deviate from the formula, but it does have some new gear and mechanics to freshen things up a bit. Players can switch between first-person and third-person perspectives at any time; the third person works surprisingly well. There are 15 weapons in total to wield, including all pillars plus an experimental pistol that shoots with a chainsaw. Several weapons can now be upgraded to add secondary functions. Gadgets are limited-use items that provide instant health bonuses, decoys to distract enemies, and other effects.
A new, customizable skill tree allows players to focus on developing ranged or melee attacks. Skill points are acquired by finding SAM Eggs hidden in weapon holsters throughout the levels. Melee attacks (clearly inspired by Loss) vary depending on the enemy. Only smaller enemies can be melee at first, but upgrades allow melee against medium-sized enemies. Players can even ride enemy bulls – when properly leveled! Speaking of things to drive, vehicles like an ATV, combine harvester, and robot give Sam and his friends a chance to stand up. The game generally provides vehicles for all four cooperative players, but not always. Vehicles could control better. The motorcycle is particularly painful to drive, but it plays heavily in one of the levels.
This game consists of 15 levels and multiple difficulties. Achievements are not based on difficulty, so anyone can choose to have an experience as easy or as difficult as they want. The Xbox game launches with 54 achievements, about a third of which involve specific types of killings with certain weapons. Another third of the achievements come from the achievement of secondary objectives. Each level now has an optional objective, clearly marked with a blue indicator when they become available. These work as side quests, adding to the story and generally providing players with weapons or upgrades.
Serious Sam 4 supports 4 player online co-op on consoles and PC. This is a big step forward from the 16 player cooperative of the Serious Sam Collection and previous installments on PC, but 4 player co-op is still a lot of fun. To select cooperative characters from the generous assortment of 33, players must visit the Options menu before joining a game, select Game Options, then scroll down to Player Model. It’s a clunky and unintuitive place to put away an option that should really pop up when you join a game.
Joining games is one area where console ports fall short of their Steam sibling. Unlike the Steam version, there is no matchmaking on Xbox or PlayStation. To play co-op online, you need to manually arrange to play with friends and then invite them or have them choose to join your game through the Friends UI on the console. Pairing is a fundamental and established feature of modern video games; it doesn’t make sense for the gimp porting team Serious Sam 4 on the consoles, leaving it aside. The availability of the game’s launch on Xbox Game Pass currently provides a decent potential player base, but that still involves issues and does not help PlayStation gamers.
Technical issues abound on PlayStation, although I can only report issues that I encountered while playing on Xbox Series X. Load times are clearly not optimized with levels taking up to a minute to load, even on the rugged, SSD-equipped X series. Graphics can be quite buggy – textures usually don’t appear or appear late during cutscenes and gameplay (see screenshot above). The weapon wheel, the primary way to select weapons, sometimes refuses to work, causing the player to not be able to select or wield anything (using a gadget sometimes causes it to work again). Vehicles often crash the game or simply start co-op players out of the session. There are some levels that are vehicle-focused specifically, which makes them incredibly frustrating and essentially unplayable in co-op. The game even refuses to let players join or join parties at times for no obvious rhyme or reason.
The console versions of Serious Sam 4 were clearly released in an unfinished state. It seems the publisher was hoping that the willingness to offer the game through Xbox Game Pass would offset the negativity of the buggy and unoptimized port. I deeply hope that Devolver Digital will do the right thing and release updates to improve game stability and add matchmaking. Beneath the mountain of tech glitches lies a wonderfully cheesy, action-packed, old-fashioned shooter. The Steam version looks and performs much better than the Xbox game, so add a point to each of our scores for the PC version.
The Xbox and PC exam codes have been provided by the publisher for this exam.
The cooperative experience: Destroy the action-packed campaign with your friends in 4 player online co-op mode! Take on exciting main missions and exciting side quests in modified difficulties for added challenge.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graph represents that experience as well as an average score for the game as a whole. For an explanation of our scores, please see our Guide to Explaining Review Scores.