We very much enjoyed 2020’s Serious Sam 4, though it wasn’t without its technical issues.
Unfortunately, some of those issues still persist in Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem, a standalone expansion for Serious Sam 4 developed by Timelock Studio. Starting out life as a mod, the work done by Timelock Studio caught the eyes of series creator Croteam, who then stepped in to offer valuable assistance.
Set between the penultimate and final levels of the Serious Sam 4 campaign, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem offers up five levels set across Russian landscapes. It has a story, of course, one that finds Sam desperately trying to make his way to Tunguska to thwart the traitorous General Brand, but chances are you won’t really care about it. This is a Serious Sam game, after all. It’s highly likely the only reason you’re interested in it is because you want to shoot hordes of enemies with big guns while listening to Sam “Serious” Stone pull out funny one-liners.
Being a standalone expansion, and the latest in a series of games that isn’t really known for innovation, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem predictably offers more of the same ridiculously chaotic action as found in Serious Sam 4. The core gameplay is pretty much untouched; as Sam, you make your way through environments, completing objectives and shooting pretty much anything that moves. And there are lot of things that move. Along the way, you’ll sometimes discover side objectives to complete, and those who really take the time to explore can uncover a variety of secrets. The upgrade system returns, too, allowing you to develop Sam as you please. Whether you want to ultimately ride monsters and melee harder or dual wield pretty much any weapon you can lay your hands on is up to you.
There are some new additions to make the action feel a little fresher, however, such as the introduction of some new enemies. Most of which, such as the Hopper whose unorthodox movements may throw you, are very welcome. One of the new enemies, though, which is essentially a sentry tower, feels a little out of place and isn’t that much fun to fight. Thankfully there aren’t that many of them. There are some new weapons to collect, too, including a powerful energy crossbow that deals huge damage.
The levels themselves may all be set in Siberia, but they each provide their own distinct look and feel. It’s just a shame that Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem doesn’t make a good first impression by starting the action in a facility of sorts. Its tight corridors stymie the action, while its boring décor is just, well… boring. Give it a chance, though, and soon you’ll find that the levels both open up and get more interesting. Before you know it, you’re battling your way through snowy fields, haunting abandoned villages that have a bit of a Resident Evil vibe, and more. Some levels even contain what are essentially arenas equipped with boost pads. They may feel a little out of place, but they allow for some fast-paced fights that really get the adrenaline pumping.
While you’ll be on-foot for the most-part, you do get to take control of a numerous vehicles including a snow-ski to cover vast distances that little bit quicker. You’ll also get to pilot a gargantuan mech equipped with a chainsaw arm, and a tank, allowing you to decimate entire armies of enemies as you make your way to the next objective.
Some of the battles here are truly exhilarating, throwing and outlandish number of enemies at you. Starting with just a pistol, yet again, additional weapons are picked up at a fairly decent pace. And thankfully, by the time Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem really starts challenging you, you have a veritable arsenal. Still, it would have been nice to have access to more, if not most, of the weapons from the outset.
As alluded to at the start of this review, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem has its fair share of technical issues. With battles getting so hectic in the later stages, it can be hard to find a comfortable balance between eye-candy and performance. You might think you’re happy with your settings, only to get into an epic battle and see the framerate tank as a hundred or so enemies swarm you. Texture pop-in also rears its ugly head during cutscenes. Some players might be really put-off by how rough around the edges Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem appears at times, but those who can look past it and don’t mind doing a bit of tinkering will be rewarded with the type of action that just can’t be found anywhere else.
Inevitably, Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem doesn’t do much to attract newcomers to the series. It is what it is: an expansion designed to offer Serious Sam 4 fans more hair-raising combat encounters, with a sprinkling of new enemies and weapons. It’s disappointing that some of the technical issues that have plagued Serious Sam 4 since launch still persist, but if the idea of having an entire army of Headless Kamikazes running your way yet again gets you hot under the collar, it’s well worth the investment.
Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem Review – GameSpew’s Score