“Best played co-operatively.” It’s something that’s fairly obvious for some games: Left 4 Dead, Payday 2, Killing Floor, the works. These are the kind of games that are built from the ground up to be played co-op with friends or random players, but can also be played by yourself if you want to. To me, the term also applies to games that have a single player campaign, but is infinitely more fun with a few friends. Like Sven Co-op is for Half-Life. That describes Serious Sam, the chaotic shooter series, to a T.
My friend Cambertian (@cambert123 on Twitter) had requested I played one of the classics, Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, and sure enough, it was the first game where I abandoned the early “wheel” picking system in lieu of a more simpler “Request a game, put it in the queue” system. I had played Serious Sam games in the past, co-oping through The First Encounter HD, Serious Sam 2 and even Serious Sam 3: BFE with a few friends. I had tried to play through the classic games before thanks to the HD remasters, but I never got very far.
The Second Encounter is basically an expansion pack to 2001’s The First Encounter. It adds a few new enemies to its bestiary such as a pumpkinhead looking monsterwith a chainsaw, an Reptiloid Demon that throws homing fireballs, and even alien monsters of the simpler headless foes of First Encounter. There’s a few new weapons in addition to the common arsenal of shotguns, miniguns and rocket launchers, including the sniper rifle – a valuable weapon against middle tier enemies – and the Serious Bomb, the game’s answer to the BFG. There’s a few new locales like the jungle, some temples, even a snowy land, each area defining a certain episode of the game.
Serious Sam is part of a genre I’d call “slaughter FPSes,” as they relate to the Doom community’s “slaughter map” design of straightforward levels and lots and lots of tra enemies to kill. Lots of rooms in The Second Encounter throw loads of enemies in fairly open spaces, which isn’t particularly hard. Until I got partway through the second episode, where Croteam loved putting loads of Kleers – the skeleton monsters – in very cramped corridors, making it difficult to push through without getting stuck and repeatedly hit. I ended up using the flamethrower a lot in that section as it killed them pretty fast.