Review: Serious Sam Classic: The Second Encounter

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I made it pretty clear in my review of The First Encounter’s Classic version that there was still a place for the original alongside the HD remake. I expected to come to The Second Encounter Classic only briefly, to confirm the same conclusion. But this one hit different, in ways that I wasn’t expecting. There’s a lot more going on in this one than in the previous, and it’s a lot that’s easy to overlook if you’re just dropping in to smash some Kleers. I think it’s the increased depth, and also the distinctly sillier feel, that makes the HD version of The Second Encounter feel so different from this one. I’d also say it’s much clearer here that HD is the way to go if you want to play the best Serious Sam game, though this certainly isn’t the wrong way to experience it.

Once more, for the folks who’ve been asleep in the back: Sam’s adventures in ancient Egypt ended him up on a non-stop flight aboard a Sirian spaceship to Mental. But Mental wasn’t having that, and shot our boy down over South America. With his (currently) faceless assistant snarkily directing, Sam has to make his way across three antiquated civilizations to reach another relic that can propel him to the final showdown with Mental. There’s just a few thousand foes in the way, several of them colorful newcomers like the pumpkin-headed chainsaw boys. Sam’s got an updated arsenal in response, including some much-needed additions like a sniper rifle and flamethrower.

The very first thing that hit me when I loaded into a level here is how much closer The Second Encounter looked to Serious Sam 2 than I remembered. Unlike The First Encounter, which was mostly drab deserts and moody temples, TSE starts you off in a vibrant jungle. The HD remakes bring these games more in line with the realistic aesthetic of 3 and 4, but I realize now that originally there was a much clearer line between the Encounters and Serious Sam 2 in look and feel. As interesting as that is, though, this first iteration of the Serious Engine was not well-equipped for rendering tons of foliage and detail. The jungle here is much more of a muddled mess than in the HD version, and distant textures get stretched into unrecognizable blobs on mountains and structures. The same issues were present in The First Encounter, of course, but that game was designed more with those limitations in mind, while this one pushed the envelope.

Put simply, the HD version of The Second Encounter is much more of an upgrade over Classic than it was for The First Encounter. It feels more apparent in everything, down to the weapons, enemy models, and UI. Sure, you miss out on some of the visual continuity between this and Serious Sam 2, but is that really so bad? With so much going on in TSE, with battles being bigger, levels being more complex, and having more guns to juggle, the improvements to the graphics and interface make a huge difference here. I would never tell anyone not to play The Second Encounter, no matter what form it takes, but I will say that in this case, the HD remake is the clear winner.

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