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Serum Preview: With Just Minutes to Live

Image: Serum
Image: Game Island/Toplitz

Could you live minute to minute? Would you be able to inject yourself with a serum in order to prolong your life expectancy by just a few minutes? That’s what upcoming first-person survival game Serum asks, and it wants to find out by throwing you right in the thick of it.

It seems the world of Serum wasn’t always so bad. Your character, Adam, was something of a test subject, working with a company to test their medicine. He was due to return home to his son and wife – but something goes drastically wrong. He finds himself in a strange environment with nobody else around except a voice on the other end of a walkie-talkie. It seems this voice – a man called Richard – can help him escape. But only if he can do what he says. Can you?

Serum starts with a series of simple objectives. Nearby your location you’ll find an abandoned safehouse of sorts: in there, you’ll find a machine filled with serum, with which you can freely inject yourself. Each time you’ll get ten minutes. There’s a timer on your arm, so you’re going to want to keep a close eye on it.

Image: Serum
Image: Game Island/Toplitz

The previous resident left some notes around, and reading those will give you a better idea of what’s going on. He’s also left instructions on how to make serum of your own: you’ll need to gather the three materials, all growing naturally nearby. Those doses will only give you another five minutes, but in a pinch you’re going to need them.

It’s not long before your new friend, Richard, guides you away from the security of the safehouse and out into the wild. It’s here you’ll encounter your first wild animals: large bugs, which can be splattered with just one hit; and big cats, which take a few more swings. You’ll have crafted an axe just before you set out, and it’s a good job too. Combat’s a bit scrappy, although with a block function to be used between swings, it’s robust enough once you get used to it. Melee fighting in the first-person perspective always tends to have a visceral, crude feeling to it, and that’s no different here.

It helps that Serum is a great-looking game. The outdoor areas are luscious and filled with greenery, and beautiful sunbeams hit the ground through gaps in the treetops. You won’t want to spend too much time simply admiring your surroundings though: you’re going to need to keep your wits about you. We’ve only encountered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to threats – there’s so much more waiting for us. Wolves, boars, mutated humans, and who knows what else.

Being a survival game, crafting plays a large role in Serum. Killing animals will net you various materials, and you can scavenge the surrounding areas to find items to turn into tools and traps. Eventually, you’ll be able to expand your safe zone, creating sustainable sources of Serum amongst other resources to keep yourself fighting fit.

The ultimate goal here? To escape the mysterious lands you find yourself in, of course, and make your way back to your family. Will Adam make it? We’ve no idea: the demo we’ve played is just the very beginning, and there’s a long way to go – and a lot more to see. It’s provided us a great introduction, though, and it’s left us excited to see more.

The demo’s early, however. It doesn’t fully support a controller yet, so unless you’re confident using a keyboard and mouse to play, you might want to give this a wide berth for now. There’s the odd performance hiccup, too, but nothing too off-putting. If you can forgo a controller it’s a promising demo indeed, and it’s well worth taking a dive into.

Serum’s demo will be available for everyone to play on 5th February. It’s set to launch into early access on Steam in Q1 2024.

Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.