Croatian developer Croteam has been helming the Serious Sam series (say that five times fast) since 2001, delivering the type of action hero fantasy that could arguably surpass Duke Nukem in both quality and humor. And with the upcoming Serious Sam VR, you get to be in the heat of the moment more than ever, even if it's not what you've come to expect from the games.
See, the Serious Sam games are known for three things: snappy speed, an expansive arsenal of impossible weapons, and a countless sea of wild, weird creatures to destroy. Serious Sam VR does not have one of these things. Instead of flying through levels like I'm running at 50 miles per hour, my feet are rooted firmly in place. I'm not to leave the glowing blue circle on the ground below me. So, with one of its key elements gone, can Serious Sam VR feel like a Serious Sam game? The answer to that depends on how you feel about wave-based shooting galleries.
When I first slip on the HTC Vive to try on the Serious Sam VR demo, I'm shown a Star Wars-like text crawl giving me an exposition of the situation. Aliens are invading, and only I, Sam The Most Serious, can stop them. With that pesky story out of the way, it's time to lock and load.
Enemies spawn in the distance, or from behind a pillar, or inside a temple, and rush you or shoot at you with fireballs or rockets. With the Vive's wand-like controllers (or Oculus Touch controllers, or PlayStation VR's Move controllers), you aim your guns at the grotesque hordes and open fire. Let too many get past or fail to shoot down incoming projectiles and you'll take damage. Succeed and you'll earn credits to buy bigger and better guns and restock on ammo. So yeah: Serious Sam VR is a shooting gallery.
It's a very well-made shooting gallery mind you, with all your favorite Serious Sam enemies plus some new faces, and the sense of each gun in my hands was varied enough to be interesting and fun. As silly as it sounds, it felt believable when I was dual-wielding laser cannons, like I was the star in a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick. I'm not ashamed to say I was cackling maniacally as mowed down a swarm of harpies.
Really, there's no doubt that Serious Sam VR is fun. The challenge will lie in keeping the game interesting beyond the 15-minute window that a press demo affords. Even by the end of my three-level tour, I was wondering what else the game could throw at me to keep me from feeling worn out. Croteam promises a story and robust progression system to keep players invested, and will be releasing on Early Access this summer to gather more player feedback.
But for now, the game is a conceptual piece. It asks, "Does Serious Sam work in VR?" The answer is a resounding "kinda!"