Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter is a remade version of the original 2002 PC title of the same name, minus the HD part, of course. Taking over from its predecessor with rescaled graphics, a new game engine and additional competitive online and offline game modes, Serious Sam is revitalized. The big question with a remake of a classic first-person shooter though, is whether or not the game itself actually holds up to today's standards.
Of course, visuals are one of the biggest jumps when it comes to Serious Sam. All of the maps, textures, and character models have been re-worked to provide a fresh new game presentation without trying to spoil the throwback value of the game. Some of these visuals are nice and do bring the game to a little more of a modern level, but they still have an odd, outdated look in terms of the overall appearance. Essentially, a lot of the up-scaled graphics smooth out the game, but much of the game feels like a mod that's been placed on top of the source material. Granted, the game does still run very smoothly on any PC with a moderately proficient graphics card - so that's commendable.
One other thing that is very prevalent in the game is sound. The sound is probably one of the most dated parts of Serious Sam. Being an over-the-top action shooter, there are of course a lot of monsters of all types ready to be blown to pieces by Sam and his arsenal of oversized weapons. Unfortunately, these monsters and weapons all sound like they came straight out of the original, including the ridiculously loud explosions and screams of headless suicide bombers. Sure, the bombers yelling and then abruptly exploding is a little humorous at first, but the charm wears off very quickly. The sound almost becomes unbearable at points when hundreds of monsters are screaming and flailing and exploding all at once while Sam spits out one-liners reminiscent of Duke Nukem. This is definitely not one game to play around other people, since many can become very annoyed at the sound blasting out of the speakers.
Now, this remake does retain its original single player campaign, which is fine for nostalgic fans of the series, but this is probably the single most dated feature of the whole game. Many classic problems with first-person shooters of the time period stick out like a sore thumb. For example, when running through the game, it's imperative to use quick saves as there is no sign of checkpoints or other restart points. The game ends when Serious Sam dies, and reloads from whatever point the player cared to save last. This leaves most people stopping to press the quick save key every single time they beat a room of monsters or clear a difficult jumping stage. If there is no save available, the game just sets back to the beginning of the very long level. Some may also appreciate the difficulty and throwback of this system, but not having a regular checkpoint system in place really shows the game's age.
One thing that is all new to the Serious Sam HD version of The Second Encounter, is the multiplayer modes accessible in the game. There are new modes ranging everywhere from the classic deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, to co-operative modes like survival. The multiplayer is probably the place to have the most genuine, silly fun in the whole game. There is one mode in particular, titled 'Beast Hunt', where players fight for a top score from killing frequently spawned enemies, as well as each other, before the timer runs out. This new online mode is great for hopping in and having some quick, classic shooter action without having to worry about customizing layouts, or even getting overly tactical. It's a really fine run-and-gun sort of game that seems to be absent from most online shooters as of late.
The only major problem is that it is difficult to tell how long the multiplayer of Serious Sam HD will last. It's really going to depend on how well the community embraces it, as it's best when there are more people available. If there are always plenty of games available, the game will definitely have some legs, but without the multiplayer aspect the game doesn't have much replay value.
All in all, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter does provide some nostalgia for those who enjoyed the first, but many will probably come back a little disappointed since the last eight years haven't really been all to kind to the dated single player formula. The big catch really does lie in the multiplayer, which can be great for some quick fun. That is, as long as the multiplayer community can build and sustain itself in the near future.