Sam's latest adventures revive the classic franchise while setting the standard for VR games to come.

Over the past year, we've had hundreds of interesting virtual reality experiences, each with their own differing approaches to the technology. With the norms still being established by the prominent releases, the way we consume VR experiences will continue to change going forward.

However, among the wave-based archery games, on-rails shooters and a range of other more restrictive experiences, VR has been criticized for its lack of appeal to core gamers. Failing to offer the depth and complexities we expect from a shooter, both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have a way to go before seeing a widespread appeal.

Released toward the end of 2016, Serious Sam: The Last Hope perfectly highlighted the shortcomings of many virtual reality games. Sure, you might be getting an enjoyable FPS experience, but a lack of any player locomotion hugely changed the flow of the franchise's well-established gameplay. Now with the release of two succeeding titles, "Serious Sam VR: The First Encounter" and "Serious Sam VR: The Second Encounter", the franchise has seen a successful shift to overcome its shortcomings.

The classic shooter returns

Unlike most of the best-selling virtual reality shooters, Serious Sam hasn't actually been built from the ground up with these platforms in mind. In fact, the game actually released over fifteen years ago as a much simpler first-person shooter on desktop PCs. In an attempt to revive the classic feel of the series, both "The First Encounter" and "The Second Encounter" have been built off their desktop counterparts which originally shipped back in the early 2000s.

With gaming being more accessible than ever before, Serious Sam stood out at the time for pushing an interesting attitude alongside its gameplay. During what some often refer to as the "golden age" for shooters, its fluid gameplay and unique humor were both appealing traits to the average gamer.

You won't get a more cohesive VR shooter experience than this

During the transition to virtual reality, Serious Sam still retains the classic feel of the original titles. With the authentic map design and enemy behavior still present from the first game, the only notable shift is the new take on player locomotion and gunplay.

Using both motion controllers of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, players get the ability to use two weapons simultaneously in Serious Sam. With natural controls to use and switch between weapons, touchpad navigation around the world doesn't detract hugely from the action components of gameplay. Retaining the classic feel of weapons is admirable in Serious Sam VR and means gameplay isn't hugely detached from that of the original vision.

The biggest change from the first Serious Sam VR experience is the new take on movement, which allows players to fully explore the game's world via the touchpad. By holding down the pad players can freely teleport across the map, with the capability to quickly strafe through quick taps of the pad in any direction. Although this makes for an entirely different flow of gameplay from the original, this still fits the existing Serious Sam formula in most scenarios.

Setting the bar for VR shooters

While Serious Sam's transition to VR isn't exactly seamless, the game is an example of one of the most cohesive FPS experiences available to date. With both its single-player and multiplayer modes kept intact from the original, the game sets a great example for virtual reality games going forward.

While it might not have been built for VR from the outset, it's surprising to see how well the Serious Sam formula has transferred over to VR without any major overhauls. These longer and deeper shooter experiences are exactly what both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift need to stay afloat in today's market and stand out from their competitors for all the right reasons.

After a number of shallow experiences already on existing platforms, the styling of Serious Same is exactly what's needed from VR going forward. With resources having been previously invested in the game's weapons, level design and an overarching world, it clearly pays off if executed well in an immersive VR title. With a wide variety of content perfect for any franchise fan or newcomer, the game provides great value in what it offers. While there could undoubtedly be some improvements to its motion-controlled mechanics, you won't get a more cohesive VR shooter experience than this.

Incredible

4/5

Pros:

  • Retains the classic feel of Serious Sam
  • Free player movement hugely improves the experience
  • Huge amount of content to explore

Cons:

  • Free movement in VR sometimes hurts the game's flow