Serious Sam 4 PlayStation 5 Review

If you're a hardcore fan of Serious Sam then this new installment will deliver the same experience that you love but outside the fanbase, Serious Sam 4 is just a massive horde mode single-player adventure.

By Grayshadow, Posted 13 Dec 2021

Serious Sam 4 is all about cheesy one-liners as you blast your way through hordes of aliens. It doesn't try to be profound and focuses on Sam and his friend plowing through hundreds of enemies using an array of guns. Despite running on a PS5 the game can lag when too many enemies are on screen, death locks are possible, and graphical and technical issues are abundant. It's your basic first-person shooter but it can become incredibly challenging especially during the final levels. Unless you're a hardcore fan of the series many other titles such as DOOM EternalIon Maiden, and Dusk deliver more than Sam can offer. Serious Sam 4 comes with the bare minimum and leaves without much of a bang.

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Players take control of Sam Stone, a harden soldier known for snappy 1-liners and killing aliens. Along with his close allies, Sam leads the attack against an alien force led by Mental. The game doesn't attempt to get newcomers up to speed but it's not necessary as the primary focus is just to save Earth. Sometimes the characters will call back to earlier experiences but the narrative mostly remains focused on what's happening now. The developers do attempt to create some comradery and somber moments but due to that lackluster connection doesn't hit especially given the tone of the game.

The voice work for each of the characters is decent with each one having distinguishable personalities. Sam is the leader and is a single-minded individual focused on his goal and wanting nothing more than the save Earth. Kenneth is a newbie to war but wants to impress Sam, Rodriguez is a veteran soldier similar to Sam, Fiona Starr also known as Hellfire is equal to Sam in combat and quirks even serving as his love interest, and many more join the fray. Some fight alongside you and are capable fighters but the game balances this by sending more enemies your way. Thankfully you don't have to babysit anyone since they do not have health bars.

The game does attempt to showcase how the war has altered the planet and civilization with adequate collectables. These provide insight into how people are helping the war or annoyed by the shift. These are totally optional and mostly placed in easy to reach areas with full voice-acting.

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The core of Serious Sam 4 is blasting through aliens and the game provides lots of enemies. There is a decent selection of alien targets with most looking like they came from DOOM with each one having specific attacks. Despite this being the core of Serious Sam 4 if too many enemies are present the game will slow down and during narrative fights, it's not uncommon to see enemy models overlap one another.

Getting to the end of each stage will require a great deal of mettle as the game is not easy. Often you'll face a combination of enemies that can feel one-sided. You're given mostly enough ammo to deal with targets but the enemies have near-perfect accuracy with all weapons and attacks. This coupled with trees often hiding enemies and things can become rage-inducing. During the final levels, it can become frustrating due to this system as enemies can spam attacks such as AOE fire, missiles, and mini-guns with no cover for Sam and little health. The boss fights are grand affairs against intense opponents. These include multiple phases often with ads peppered in that require the player to manage between both. 

Fights are isolated into arenas and since Sam lacks any mobility pass running the developers would need to craft some unique areas to keep things dynamic but they don't. Often these areas are large pieces of flat and occasionally sloped land with a handful of assets plop around for environmental variety. Despite some of these areas not being gated the game will punish you for leaving by having the enemies chase you even into other areas. Sometimes there are so many enemies they get caught in the environment, forcing me to look for this 1 enemy so I can progress. Checkpoints are plentiful and you can reload saves within stages if you die too much. This is made possible due to death locking being possible. If you happen to die in a problematic location when respawning means death again the game will offer you the chance to reload to an earlier save or reduce the difficulty.

Difficulty in video games is a fickle topic due to varying levels of skill but Serious Sam 4 had a hard time finding that nice balance. At first, the game feels acceptable, with lots of enemies but as long as you manage them effectively you'll come out victorious. It's during the final set of levels is where the game tends to become one-sided as Sam's weapons are removed and you have to recollect everything including gadgets the serve as lifelines such as boosting health or clearing enemies. The sheer number of enemies can become obtuse in the final stage especially when dealing with large amounts of Sirian Werebulls which just charge your position instantly without building up any momentum. Friendly fire is possible which makes things a bit fairer but the lack of health drops and ammo pickups seem unbalanced compared to the large quantities of enemies. If you do die respawning is very quick.

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Secrets and side missions are often labeled as optional but not doing them can lead to more difficulty in the future. This is because these areas often house gadgets that give Sam temporary boosts, health, or enemy cleaning weapons. During the finale, they become paramount to the point that trying to complete the final stage without these all finished will likely lead to death. The side missions often take you to a different part of the stage and often have you helping some random person in exchange for more supplies.

You can shift between third-person and first-person but it's clear the game was not meant for third-person. It's a lot easier to remain aware of your environment in third-person but Sam's character model has an awkward gait like he's sliding across the field instead of running. You'll also see Sam clip through the environment when going up slopes and more graphical errors occur in this perspective such as textures not loading in the environment. There are also weird animations such as when gathering skill point orbs, which do not negate enemy attacks when in animation, or performing close-range kills. It's a matter of choice and switching between both is instant. To add some insanity you can choose from an array of character models that include alternate costumes for Sam and other featured characters within the game.

Shooting is effective with a large selection of weapons such as shotguns, rifles, a minigun, and more. Swapping between weapons is problematic since you have to pause between running in order to switch guns, especially guns in the same tier. This can destroy momentum during hectic fights where you have to constantly move. If you're holding a direction when swapping weapons Sam will not switch weapons. You're given skill points that allow for dual-wielding weapons, improved melee options, and reducing splash damage but a lot of these skills should be part of Sam's set from the start. Since there are only 10 you cannot get everything and if you miss one you can be at a serious disadvantage by the end of the game. You do have a melee option but the targeting for melee has to be exact, same for interacting with objects and it only works for stronger enemies when you've upgraded and the enemy is a specific stance after massive constant damage is done. Making it more a novelty than an effective combat option.

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Graphically Serious Sam 4 is average-looking but the lighting can be incredibly weird. Shadows, in particular, seem off everywhere, with character models having inconsistent lighting in comparison to the environment. Pop-in for assets is noticeable as trees, grass, and even the lines on the road pop in when Sam is close enough. This is likely due to the high enemy count but during the game's open-world sections it becomes noticeably bad. Often trees would respawn mid-battle constantly, resulting in me shooting the tree again and missing the enemy I was targeting.

The most notable issue with Serious Sam 4 is the load times. Despite having instant respawning the game's load times between stages on the PS5 are way too long. Considering that Sony's top marketing slogan was near-instant loading times Serious Sam 4 does the opposite. It can take up to 55 seconds to load a level and in this age of gaming that's an eternity.

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Serious Sam 4 is a bare-bones first-person shooter that has its moments. The epic boss encounters and comedic writing does have some appeal but gameplay-wise the title feels archaic. Even titles that utilize classic systems have some appeal to them to help stand out but Serious Sam 4 doesn't have anything truly unique or exciting about it. And with the many graphical problems, it's hard to see Serious Sam 4 competing with more stable and fleshed-out FPS games. If you're a hardcore fan of Serious Sam then this new installment will deliver the same experience that you love but outside the fanbase, Serious Sam 4 is just a massive horde mode single-player adventure.

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Serious Sam 4


Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Croteam
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: Adventure, Fantasy Shooter
Release Date: 2021-12-07

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