Review: Serious Sam Fusion 2017 (beta)
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One of the biggest questions I had when embarking on my runback of the Serious Sam series was, which versions of all these games do I play? There are no fewer than four releases of The First and Second Encounters on Steam, split between Classic and HD renditions and different wrappers. I spent most of my time with the stand-alone HD releases, but I was intent on seeing what all these other versions had going for them. Ultimately, I’m glad I did, because I would not have otherwise discovered that Fusion is your best bet for replaying the original Serious Sams. Besides being a moderate step up in quality over the HD versions, the wealth of gameplay, graphics, and accessibility options offered by Fusion, as well as centralized access to content and mods, makes this the preferred experience for the titles contained therein.
For context, Serious Sam Fusion was a project launched by Croteam in 2017 to unify all of the Serious Sam games on one platform. With the HD remakes of TFE and TSE made on the same engine as Serious Sam 3, it made sense to get them all under a single roof so that continued patching and modding would benefit all of them. However, development of the Fusion platform ended in 2018 as the team moved to focus on Serious Sam 4 as its own title. Additionally, there was never any effort to bring Serious Sam 2 under the same umbrella, though whether you’d actually hold that against Fusion is really a matter of taste. Despite the end of development for Fusion, though, these versions of TFE, TSE, SS3, and their associated DLC are the most stable and feature-rich versions you can find, having been continuously worked on long past their individual releases.
I’m not the guy to ask about the crunchy, techy details of games, but there’s a handy bullet-point list of features on the store page that breaks all that down for you. Fusion’s main benefit is a host of modern amenities and performance improvements, ranging from split-screen and controller support to 64-bit executables and texture streaming. The performance features in particular have a very tangible effect on the games, making them run smoother, look cleaner, and play better, all in subtle ways. Even Serious Sam 3, my least favorite of the main games, feels more appealing when running in Fusion. Textures load faster, quicksaving is seamless, and the movement has a more natural pace.
Add to this a workshop full of hundreds of mods, maps, and other content, and the value of Fusion as a platform should be quite clear. Just from the most basic user experience perspective, it’s really nice to load into one game and be able to jump straight to any point in TFE, TSE, SS3, or their DLC. I don’t have to unify my control or graphics settings across different versions, because it’s all right there. I’ve said before that I consider The Second Encounter to be the pinnacle of the Serious Sam series, and now I’m ready to say that this is the way that you should experience it.