It has been ten long years since Serious Sam 3: BFE first released on PCs. That game was a prequel to the now 20-year-old original Serious Sam, and developer Croteam is back with another prequel. Yup, Serious Sam 4 is a prequel to the prequel. But is it any good? Find out in our Serious Sam 4 PS5 review.
Serious Sam 4 PS5 Review – Seriously Slow
The PlayStation 5 has a seriously impressive solid state drive, with read speeds of at least 5.5 GB/s. This has, in my experience with the system thus far, resulted in games that load within just a couple of seconds. I saw it with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, where loading the game, with its massive world, from scratch, clocked in at 15 seconds, often much quicker. Serious Sam 4 somehow takes much longer than that game, and Serious Sam’s assets are decidedly simpler than any Assassin’s Creed game. Load times don’t make or break a game, of course, but that’s not all that’s wrong with Serious Sam 4.
The Serious Engine 4 runs Serious Sam 4, and it seems it needs some serious optimization. The game’s environments and character models wouldn’t look out of place as a PS4 launch title, never mind a next-gen console. The engine can handle an impressive number of NPCs, but at a steep cost. Frame rate drops are all too common when a bunch of enemies are on-screen, but then they are also common for no good reason at all when simply walking around an area that is devoid of enemies. There is a graphical option to target either graphics quality or rendering performance – it is highly recommended to play in the performance mode to ensure frame rate drops are less common. Rest assured, though, you will still run into them.
Outside of performance hiccups, Serious Sam 4 is a first-person shooter with some fun callbacks to how games used to be. Sam can carry an arsenal of weapons, beginning with a knife and humble pistol, and he quickly picks up bigger and badder weapons such as rifles, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, miniguns, and more. A skill tree also allows the player to dual-wield weapons, gain health by performing melee kills, or even ride some of the larger enemies. All the while, the game shepherds the player from area to area, using such old tropes as locked doors (which even Sam complains about needing to go find keys for) and health and armor that must be replenished by finding pickups.
Serious Sam 4 PS5 Review – Seriously Annoying
Sometimes, progression is blocked until all enemies in an area are killed. The design is to have you run around a labyrinth-like area and use the terrain to your advantage. The reality is it’s usually simpler to walk in, trigger the enemies to start spawning, then back out from the entrance and have the enemies come to you, in an almost single-file manner, thus removing a lot of the planned challenge of the new area. Now, of course, you don’t have to play the game this way, and in fact several areas lock you in to prevent you from doing this. However, most areas have a chokepoint that can easily be used to employ the same tactic. So, the main challenge in Serious Sam 4 lies in figuring out which area works best to funnel enemies into. Also, and this may be the most subjective part of this review, the Beheaded Kamikaze enemies are the most annoying enemy I have ever encountered. Their screams are funny for the first few seconds, but then become annoying quite quickly. It’s even worse when one can’t seem to route themselves around a corner of a building towards you, and you have to hunt them down just to get the noise to stop.
Much like the action shooters of the ‘90s before it, Serious Sam 4 includes various rendering and other options to have some fun with. Bloody gore can be replaced with fruits and veggies in the “Hippie” mode, or candies in the “Kids” option. Colors can be messed with in presets, or manually adjusted to have trippy visuals to attempt to make the rather bland environments more interesting. Reticles can be removed, damage numbers can be shown, and even the player model can be changed (cutscenes still show Sam, however).
Serious Sam 4 PS5 Review - Seriously Stunted | PlayStation LifeStyle
Serious Sam 4 PS5 Review – Seriously Still Fun
Despite the technical issues mentioned, Serious Sam 4 is still a fun game. It’s got simple, mindless violence paired with an entertaining, simple story with twists most people will see coming from a mile away. But then, this game never pretends to be anything other than a simple, fun time. You’ll be compelled to finish the campaign just to see what overpowered weapon or gadget you’ll unlock next. Trophy hunters will probably be glad to know that there is no difficulty-based trophy to unlock here, either, just one for completing the game on any difficulty. So, if you’re having an issue with a particular segment, feel free to dial back the difficulty. You’ll only pay for it with your pride, and by receiving fewer points at the end of the level.
Serious Sam 4 will take most players 8-16 hours to complete, depending upon if optional side quests are completed, and how many secrets are hunted for. The player is awarded points for each level based on the difficulty selected, number of kills, time taken, saves used, and other metrics. Saving can be done at any time other than while a cutscene is playing, and thankfully doesn’t take nearly as long as loading. Automatic saves are generous, though perhaps a bit too much, as occasionally the game will save right before the player dies. Reloading a save repeatedly results in the game asking the player if they’d rather load an earlier save game. These are nice, modern functions for a shooter to have, and are appreciated.
Serious Sam 4 is good, mindless fun, that is unfortunately mired by performance issues. This is recommended for big fans of the series, or for those looking for a nostalgia fix, for back when games were simpler, linear affairs which could be completed in a weekend. It’s not a particularly great-looking or running game, but it is also only $39.99 at launch. The full campaign doesn’t overstay its welcome, and its many secrets will tempt completionists. Give it a shot if you like your bloody kills combined with quippy one-liners. Just be ready for a bumpy ride.
Serious Sam 4 review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.000.001 reviewed on a PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.