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Review: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: M - Mature Audiences
My Rating: Ages 13 and up
Genre: First Person Shooter
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2002
Review Published On: August 19th, 2020
Played on: Both Systems

Available from:

Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Your progress is saved* automatically at the beginning of each level. You can also save* manually, or use quicksaves* if you need to.

You can pause the action by hitting ESC* or by bringing up NETRICSA.

Summary of
Major Issues:

As with most First Person Shooters, there's a lot of graphic violence involved. You can disable the gore or turn it into candy if you want, but you'll still be playing a game where everybody is trying to kill each other.

Screenshots

[view screenshot]
Entering the fray

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Gory aftermath

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Exploring the lava chambers



Game Overview

Serious Sam: The First Encounter gave the world a taste of the silly and violent adventures of Sam "Serious" Stone. But this was only the appetizer: just short of a year later, Serious Sam: The Second Encounter would be released, and we'd have an entirely new reason to blast Mental's extra-dimensional forces into tiny bits. But it's not fair to say that the Second Encounter is the other half of Sam's first outing, as this new game features roughly three times the number of levels to explore.

As you know, after many trials, Serious Sam had succeeded in boarding the Sirian space ship summoned by the Great Pyramid's beacon, and had begun his journey toward Sirian space. But, before the ship left Earth's orbit, things went sideways as the Croteam's brain crate bus accidentally suffers a burnout, collides with Sam's ship, and sends them both hurtling back to Earth in a fiery heap.

Left without a vehicle, Sam is temporarily trapped in Earth's past. But not without hope: if he can get through various time portals, he can hitch a ride on the Sirian's backup space ship and resume his journey to defeat Mental. Each time portal is guarded by a powerful being of some sort, such as an ancient god, a cybernetically enhanced hornet, and a fearsome sorcerer. These are otherwise known as "big thing to shoot", "big bug to shoot", and "dude with a staff who needs shot". Fun for the whole family!

Seriously though, the Second Encounter blows the First Encounter out of the water. Everything you enjoyed about the First Encounter can be found here, including the first game's entire campaign. If you have both games installed, you can (and really should) play the First Encounter's levels using the Second Encounter. Aside from new levels to explore, there are new weapons, many new enemies* to use them on, and a whole lot of Rule of Funny craziness going on.

This is a must-have for fans of First Person Shooters. Importantly, the Second Encounter includes the same censorship features as the first game, so you can turn off the blood and gore if you don't want to see it. Or you can have the monsters explode into lollipops and confetti, as seen in the second screenshot above. After all, this game was not meant to be taken too seriously.

Points of Interest

New weapons
While the Second Encounter includes all of your favorite ways to cause mayhem and destroy Mental's minions, it also introduces a few new options. These include a flamethrower, a chainsaw, and my personal favorite, the sniper rifle. The sniper rifle is best suited for taking out those pesky harpies, but it can also be used to remove the occasional grunt* from a safe distance. On the flip side, the chainsaw will quickly reduce almost anything to gibs*.
Bigger, better battles
To compensate for your increased arsenal, a number of new enemies* have been added to Mental's roster. But what'll really make things interesting are the huge and impressive battles that feature in nearly every chapter. The penultimate battle is utterly epic, with an entire army's worth of enemies* coming after the player as literal fiery hell rains down on the battlefield.
Steam community features
In addition to your standard set of Steam trading cards*, there is a grand total of seventy achievements* to earn while playing. You're going to need to plan ahead and prepare some unusual strategies if you want to earn them all, as several require you to perform some unexpected maneuvers during combat or beat strict speedrunning times. Also, a handful are only available during multiplayer games, so be sure to bring along some friends.
Changes to the remakes
Probably the most disappointing aspect of the HD remakes is that the new engine* they use wasn't able to recreate some of the more unique areas in the Second Encounter. The biggest example of this was a strange gravity room where everyone "stuck" to the walls regardless of their orientation. This was replaced by a similar room with revolving barriers, but this attempt to simulate the weird gravity falls short of replicating it.

Another, potentially bigger, issue is that there's an opening cutscene* in the original game that isn't played at the start of a new game in the HD re-release. This establishes who the big-brained aliens are, where Sam is, and what's with the UFO and "crate bus" wreckage in the first level.
"Legend of the Beast" is Meh
There's a DLC* campaign available known as the "Legend of the Beast". It's not really up to par with the rest of the adventure, as it's basically just a cobbled together collection of scrapped levels with an uninteresting end boss*. I can see someone getting it if they really wanted more Serious Sam fun, but I personally wouldn't recommend it.

Concerns and Issues

Quick Reminder
The Second Encounter literally builds off the First Encounter. Thus, everything that was mentioned in the review for the First Encounter applies to this game as well -- excluding the bug* with the final boss*, which was corrected in this version of the game.
Serious violence
Much like the First Encounter, there is a tremendous amount of violence and carnage in this game. Things have been made a bit bloodier with the introduction of chainsaws; to nobody's surprise, they cleave monsters into evenly sliced chunks. However, just like the first game, you can disable the blood and gore or even change it so that everybody explodes into candy.

On the other hand, there are now situations where the player needs to harm or kill an innocent. The Croteam Heads are a group of non-threatening (yet somewhat annoying) creatures who are big fans of Serious Sam, and they mostly wander about or follow him around. But, if you want to get 100% completion* on a level, then you're required to kill every single monster, including these guys.
Magic and Monsters
Once again, Mental's hordes have magical monsters on their side, including a new flame throwing devil and an evil chainsaw wielding pumpkin man. The Sirian technology is also indistinguishable from magic, though you'll be using that to help you save the world.

There are also sections of the game inspired by Halloween and Christmas, complete with Santa Claus making an appearance. The player can use him for target practice, earning various prizes if they do so.
Sam at Confession
At the very end of the game, Sam enters a confessional inside the grand cathedral. He then uses a phone to "confess" his many actions to the priest, who is understood to be Mental himself. This confession ends with Sam stating in no uncertain terms that he will be coming for Mental soon. Considering the importance of Confession in the lives of our Catholic brothers and sisters, this is probably pushing a boundary that probably shouldn't be crossed.