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Game review: Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem (PC)

The ever-expanding Serious Sam first-person shooter franchise gets another entry with Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem.

For well over a decade Croteam's snarky protagonist, Serious Sam has been punching above his weight. Nonsensical plots have served to justify “Serious” Sam Stone blasting away at aggressive ugly aliens charging at him. This forces the player to quickly attack, strafing or running backwards to attack opponents. Finding yourself running backwards in a Serious Sam game is such a troupe that Croteam helped develop, with Devolver Digital and Binx Interactive, a spin-off in the Serious Sam universe called I Hate Running Backwards.

No stranger to collaboration, Croteam teamed up with modders Timelock Studio to turn their Serious Sam 4 mod into a fully-fledged standalone expansion, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem.

The chilling Siberian winter makes for a great setting for blasting away at alien invaders. Plot-wise, Sam is tracking down a General, but who cares? This game, like other Serious Sam titles, doesn't bog itself down with superfluous details, like a plot. It's all about shooting, blowing stuff up and surviving an ever-approaching horde of menacing monstrosities.

As with previous games, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem asks very little of the player. There is a simple upgradable skill tree and weapons to be collected in the field. But there's no fidgeting with load-outs and inventory. Armour, ammo and medikits litter the levels. But mainly the game is about shooting aliens.

The aliens come in all shapes and sizes and will be familiar to fans of Serious Sam games. My old favourites (which still make me jump), the beheaded kamikazes will come screaming at you whilst chunky Gnaars will try to pound you. All the while combat drones fire from above. The battles range from enemies advancing down a corridor to massive open arenas of carnage.

Whilst combat can get challenging, I get the feeling that the game doesn't want you to be defeated, but instead strives to encourage you to win in the most outrageous way. With a shotgun and grenade launcher attachment, I was able to run headlong into skirmishes which gave me a 50/50 survival rate. If I died, it was time to try again, but if I succeeded, it was bloody awesome.

Don't expect subtle messaging or hidden meanings in this game. Leave your conscience at the door and pull the trigger. As the game progresses, the intense battles get more and more outlandish, due to both the volume of enemies on the field and the increasingly destructive arsenal made available to Sam. From the relatively humble AK-47 to guided missiles, huge swaths of enemies are dispatched during encounters that leave you absolutely breathless.

I wouldn't say that Serious Sam games are renowned for their graphical prowess but, being based on Serious Sam 4, Siberian Mayhem does look rather nice. On PC, running at 4K with an RTX 3090 graphics card, it was chucking out about 90 frames per second with all the knobs and whistles cranked up to the max. The game supports Direct X 11 and Vulcan, with both performing about the same.

Like Serious Sam 4, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem is the first-person shooter in its purest form. Other developers may have moved on with “meaningful” plots, complex skill trees and forced role-playing game elements, but Sam's misadventures are still all about shooting, killing and blowing stuff up, all wrapped up in a wafer-thin plot with intentionally corny dialogue.

If you are a fan of Serious Sam, you'll love Siberian Mayhem. If you love a good shooter, you'll also want to check it out as well as Serious Sam 4.

Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem is out now on Windows PC. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.

Verdict: 8/10

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