Review: Serious Sam Classics: Revolution
If you’re keeping count, this is the fourth version of The First and Second Encounters you can get on Steam, after HD, Classic, and Fusion. I’ve talked about the quality of the HD versions, the improvements they got from being included in Fusion, and the interesting differences between them and Classic which keep the originals relevant. So where does that leave Revolution, a fan-touchup of Classic? Well, if you absolutely must play the originals, this is a fine way to do it. You get a few graphical and system improvements, on top of some extra fan-made content. I wouldn’t really consider that last bit much of a draw, honestly, but whether or not you appreciate the new maps and weapons, it’s more of the classic Serious Sam action you know and love.
To be specific, Revolution is a 64-bit sourceport of Serious Engine 1, combining TFE and TSE in one neat little package (and without the reprehensible Legend of the Beast DLC). It seems the aim here was to modernize the original Serious Sam adventures without giving them the full HD makeover, so these versions look and play very similar to Classic, but with modern graphical options and a cleaner UI. After playing the opening bits of both Encounters, I can definitely say this is an improvement over the Classic releases in subtle ways. The most apparent fixes are properly-scaling UI and better textures, of course, but the whole package runs notably better, too. All the strangely-moody atmosphere of TFE and cluttered landscapes of TSE are recreated here in an engine better suited to modern gaming.
However, there are some key differences here from the Classic and also HD versions. You get a whole new fan-made episode called Bright Island to play through, wherein Sam has been Timelocked out of time itself, and landed on some appropriately fanciful islands. These maps have a great deal of style and variety to them, but also tend to be overly massive, to the point of sometimes hitching the game. I also saw a fair bit of lighting weirdness, usually with full-bright or full-dark surfaces, that I didn’t see in the base game so I assume they’re map-making errors. And while the battles have some welcome variety to them, some are just not very well-designed. These devs like to surround the player but don’t always give enough space for that to work, so be prepared for Kleer or kamikazes to spawn in right on top of you at times. I even had a few moments of confusion and frustration when enemies would spawn inside the floor or walls, making them impossible to cross of my kill list.
Revolution doesn’t stop there, though. There are a few new weapons like a plasma gun, which is a lot like the laser cannon except the shots explode and it has a brutal shotgun alt-fire. I found these to be welcome additions in the Bright Island episode, but they also got worked into the original games as secrets. It’s not bad or anything, but if you’re a stickler for the unchanged original experience, this isn’t the version for you. You’ve also got a new survival mode to try out if you just need walls of enemies to mow down, and who doesn’t need that in their Serious Sam? Ultimately though, if you’re not here for the fan episode (and I am not), there’s not much reason to recommend this one. HD is still the best way to experience The First and Second Encounters, and aside from quality-of-life improvements and some random new guns, this isn’t so different from the perfectly okay Classics. But hey, you get this free with the Classics anyway, so why not, right?