Title: Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem
Release Date: January 25, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
The Serious Sam series has ironically never taken itself too seriously, showering players with outdated graphics, hilariously bad dialogue, and half-baked narratives. The original game came out in 2001 and followed protagonist Sam “Serious” Stone in his never-ending battle against intergalactic overlord Mental. Unfortunately, it’s a series that hasn’t quite caught up to date with today’s technical advancements in gaming and maintains a janky old-school shooter vibe. Siberian Mayhem is a standalone expansion to Serious Sam 4 that was initially developed as a mod, co-developed by Timelock Studio, well-known modders of the series, and Croteam, the original team behind Serious Sam.
In this iteration, Sam stumbles upon the frigid wastelands of Russia to catch up with the traitorous General Brand, a major character and antagonist in Serious Sam 4. This expansion includes five chapters that can be completed in under 2 hours, depending on the difficulty level. Unfortunately, the difficulty becomes artificially higher throughout the campaign, unloading unlimited streams of alien monsters at you that will kill you more times than you’d like to retry.
There is replayability, considering each level contains optional side objectives and ends with an arcade-esque point system that promotes retrying for a better score. The game can be played in co-op via multiplayer, so if you and a friend feel like teaming up against hordes of aliens, Siberian Mayhem has got you covered. The “role-playing” element from Serious Sam 4 returns with collectibles that grant points in a skill tree, unlocking abilities such as double wielding and faster reloads.
Siberian Mayhem isn’t afraid to throw swarms of reused enemy types at you ad nauseam, staying true to the classic Serious Sam formula, so much so that you end up mindlessly shooting to progress through the narrative. The expansion introduces four new enemy types, but a few of them are re-skins of existing enemy types from Serious Sam 4.
These endless waves of baddies are often unavoidable because progression is blocked off until you kill every one of them. If you are to die in battle, which will likely happen on higher difficulties, you must start over from wave one, which can get extremely frustrating and mind-numbingly annoying. In addition, some enemies such as suicide bombers also emit ear-splitting noises, and you’ll be seeing this particular enemy type lots.
The game has its fun parts, though, such as dual-wielding mini-guns to mow down monsters, driving a military-grade tank while blasting them to bits, steering a snowmobile across frozen hills, or hijacking a mech through abandoned Russian factories. Siberian Mayhem introduces three new weapons, including a sniper crossbow and an energy ray gun. In addition, certain arenas changed the shooting pace with jumping platforms that reminded me of old-school Quake titles.
The gameplay shines during boss encounters, as each offers unique mechanics that you wouldn’t otherwise see with normal mobs. However, bosses become regularly spawned enemies after defeating them for the first time, adding to the reusability concern. Accessibility options are nice and include switching between the first and third-person point of view. It made me chuckle seeing Sam run and reload his guns awkwardly in the third person. Puzzles also offer a nice change of pace to the shooting but are generally very easy to solve.
It is well known that Serious Sam 4 suffered from serious performance issues at launch, and I’m sad to say Siberian Mayhem follows in the same light. Load times are painstakingly long and take upwards of 1 minute to load into a level. Moreover, the performance in the latter half is atrociously bad. For a shooting game that spawns hundreds if not thousands of enemies at you in all-out carnage, you’d expect the game to keep up technically. Instead, the frame rate dropped significantly, and the game hard-crashed upwards of ten times, to the point where the last chapter was borderline unplayable.
I will say that Siberian Mayhem does look better than Serious Sam 4 in the graphics department. Textures and colors are crisper and more defined, but it doesn’t compare to the standards of video game visuals in today’s day and age. The frozen terrain of Siberian Russia is beautiful and sprawling, but maps end up being wide open space with very little to do and interact with.
Siberian Mayhem introduces a few new gameplay elements and, unfortunately, plays like a snowy re-skin of Serious Sam 4. That’s to be expected, though, considering it is an expansion to the base game. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel of the classic Serious Sam formula, but that’s okay. It can be fun at times if you’re craving some mindless shooting with a buddy or two.
The additional enemy types and weapons are appreciated, but the gameplay is still riddled with bugs and performance issues. Given that it’s a standalone game priced at $20, I expected more content considering the full base game is priced at $40. For the amount of content offered versus the price, I suggest playing Serious Sam 4 first, which has been patched up since launch and is usually on sale. However, if you’re just craving more Serious Sam, well then, this game is for you.
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