Review: Serious Sam 4 – PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Not so serious
Review: Serious Sam 4 - PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Serious Sam 4

Not so serious

Serious Sam 4 is nuts. The opening scene throws you into a huge battle with hundreds – maybe even thousands – of crackhead-looking monsters before eventually downing you and pulling the classic “4 days earlier” trope, leaving you wondering just how Sam comes to face off against the army of evil.

Rewind the clock some 90-something hours and we find Sam in Italy, armed with just his pistol, Matrix shades, and some cringe-worthy one-liners. It’s like the past 20 years never happened…

Game Information
Release Date: December 7th, 2021 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S)
Developer: Croteam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Availability: PSN, Microsoft Store, Steam


To be honest, I’m not all that familiar with Serious Sam. I had a brief play of the originals back in the day, but I was just a kid when Sam was gracing the covers of gaming magazines – remember them? Yes, I know there’s the Serious Sam Collection that’s on consoles now, but I’ve not had the time to really go through them. But from what little I’ve played of them, Serious Sam 4 definitely feels like a modern extension of the franchise, but without bagging itself down by reinventing itself for modern audiences. It’s still a fast-paced, mental stop-and-you-die shooter, and the humour is still hit and miss. Some jokes stick the landing, others had me wincing from the cringe.

Serious Sam 4 takes the titular hero on an action-packed romp through 15 missions that won’t blow your socks off for story content, but they’ll have your controller shaking uncontrollably due to the constant barrage of mental alien baddies. My hands were number after an hour, and it felt good.

Serious Sam 4 doesn’t let its story get in the way of its chaotic gameplay. Sure, there is a story and a cast worth watching in the cut-scenes, but nobody is analysing Sam’s character arc here, right? It’s all about piling through large arenas, firing rocket launchers at 30ft lizard monsters, and trying not to get unalived by the suicidal nutjobs with bombs for hands. And that’s what Serious Sam 4 does brilliantly.

Things start a little slow, though, and the first hour was a bit of a slog. Armed with just a pistol, I definitely felt a bit weak to begin with. This is deliberate – the game drops new weapons of destruction as you progress, and it helps feed that action-reward cycle. You can, however, get extra goodies and upgrades by taking on optional side missions. These serve to extend the playtime a little as well as giving you some cool extras, and being that most of them are typically quick, easy, and not too far off the story beats, they don’t feel like worthless add-ons for the sake of being worthless add-ons.

Serious Sam 4 has a couple of modes to choose from. You have the story mode that’ll take you on a 10-ish hour bullet fest, and then there’s the survival mode, which you can play alone or online. In my time testing, I couldn’t actually get to play online, which is a shame, because alone, I often struggled to get through more than five or six waves. It’s mental stuff, and a mate would have helped.

The other modes to choose from are Performance mode and Graphics mode, and here’s where you need to make the right choices. I started my playthrough on Graphics mode because I like pretty things. What I don’t like is inconsistency, and the frame rate was really inconsistent in Graphics mode. With hundreds of flailing monsters and their projectiles bombing around the screen, the game struggled to stay constant and it felt really janky. This improved a lot by changing over to Performance mode, and honestly, the difference in visuals wasn’t that stark; Serious Sam 4 isn’t exactly a next-gen showcase anyway.

Speaking of, there are some other inconsistencies throughout, such as cut-scenes with late-to-load textures. They only really show up in the cut-scenes and not during play, so it doesn’t affect the moment-to-moment action, but it does make it a little easier to skip the jarring cinematics, unfortunately.

Serious Sam 4 is a little on the rough side but it feels in keeping with its heritage. That’s not to say it feels dated in a bad way, but certain aspects feel deliberately dated to keep the feel that veteran players expect.

All said, Serious Sam 4 is a fantastic throwback to an era of first-person shooters that is slowly fading out of existence. Think Doom but with more colour and you have Serious Sam 4.

This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.

Primary version tested: PS5.

Serious Sam 4 Review

Serious Sam 4
80 100 0 1
Serious Sam 4 lives up to its previous entries while adding some modern touches, though without going so far as to alienate the established fanbase.
Serious Sam 4 lives up to its previous entries while adding some modern touches, though without going so far as to alienate the established fanbase.
80/100
Total Score

    The Good

    • Fast-paced shooter action that feels familiar but fresh
    • Sound design - play this with a decent pair of headphones!
    • The humour is more hit than miss and the cast carries the B-movie story well
    • You can change the difficulty on the fly if you're struggling

    The Bad

    • Graphics mode is not the ideal way to play if you like consistent frame rates
    • Cinematics are jarring with the late loading textures
    Total
    2
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