Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem Review: Fan Service at Its Finest
When it comes to AA shooters, Serious Sam has been a long-time cult classic for fans of the genre. Where other first-person shooters strive for realism and grittiness, the Serious Sam series has always brought together elements of Doom, Quake, and Duke Nukem to create over-the-top explosive action with a protagonist that is packed with personality.
2020’s Serious Sam 4 marked the first new entry in the franchise in nine years. Sam Stone’s return earned lukewarm reviews, but the explosive action of the franchise was enough to catapult Serious Sam back into the spotlight.
Now, Croteam has teamed up with Timelock Studio — a team of modders and hardcore Serious Sam fans — to expand their passion project and release Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem. This latest entry in the franchise is a “midquel” that fills in the backstory between the penultimate and final levels of Serious Sam 4, giving the most passionate fans a deeper look at the story while delivering on the insane firefights packed with a barrage of bullets, missiles, cannonballs, and several surprises along the way.
Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem Review: Fan Service at Its Finest
After teaming up with General Howard Brand and the Alien Artifact Acquisition Team to find the Holy Grail and turn the tide of the alien war against Mental’s Horde in Serious Sam 4, General Brand betrays humanity and chooses to side with the alien army (turning into a monster figuratively and literally in the process). Now on his way to deliver the Grail to Mental in Tunguska, Sam Stone has to make his way from the Arctic Circle and across Siberia to stop General Brand and protect humanity.
Siberian Mayhem is certainly packed with the hilarious writing and one-liners found elsewhere in the series. Between the classic Serious Sam dialog and a ragtag cast of characters that harp on classic Russian stereotypes, Siberian Mayhem successfully stays true to what fans of the franchise have come to expect: a loose story with fun characters that guide them through intense patches of gunplay.
The additional story beats are a nice touch for hardcore Serious Sam fans, but the franchise’s signature old-school gory gameplay is still the star of the show. As is tradition, you will gradually expand your arsenal packed with everything from a basic handgun to a literal cannon — yes, the type that shoots cannonballs.
Siberian Mayhem introduces three new weapons to the franchise, as well: an electric crossbow, a raygun, and an old-school Russian AK. Combined with classic weapons and dual-wielding, these weapons are right at home and fantastic tools to fight back wave after wave of enemies.
Speaking of enemies, Siberian Mayhem introduces four new enemy variants. The Hopper, Octanian grenadier, and Draconian Burner all add some variety to firefights while still being taken care of with a few blasts of a weapon, but Sentry Towers can bring danger in firefights and take some focused power to bring down. Don’t worry, though: Serious Sam’s iconic Beheaded Kamikazes are still in the mix along with the rest of the franchise’s iconic baddies.
Along with a few new weapons are a pair of new gadgets. An airstrike designator calls in a shower of missile support, defeating powerful aliens with extra health or dozens of weaker enemies in seconds. A portable hoverboard scooter may not bring firepower, but it’s perfect for exploring the wider open areas of the game with ease.
Unlike Serious Sam 4, Siberian Mayhem puts a focus on exploration as you make your way through each level. Secrets and Easter eggs are hidden throughout, along with puzzles that come in a variety of difficulties to keep things fresh and break up the signature gunfights. Optional objectives give you branching options; going directly to the objective can easily get the job done, but taking the scenic route can unlock hidden areas, skill points, and boss fights that really flesh out the experience and add some extra adventure.
This open-world exploration is a welcome change of pace, but Siberian Mayhem brings out the best in Serious Sam with tightly packed gunfights against dozens of enemies in tight warehouses and corridors. Certain rooms are littered with jump pads, health, and ammunition, encouraging you to run and gun your way through the horde to eliminate the threat and unlock the door to the next hallway. These sections create some of the most heart-pounding moments in Siberian Mayhem.
Each level also adds a section with a twist. From tank gameplay to a mech with a chainsaw, Siberian Mayhem does a fantastic job of switching up the gameplay style and giving you the firepower needed to rip through hundreds of enemies in a matter of seconds. It’s this kind of unhinged action that has kept Serious Sam players coming back for more for 20 years, and Siberian Mayhem marks some of the best combat sequences the franchise has to offer.
Croteam has also added “a bunch of general fixes, engine upgrades, tweaks, and updates for existing mechanics” with the release of Siberian Mayhem, along with weapon and enemy balance tweaks. While I noticed some FPS dips during intense battles with dozens of enemies on the screen at once, Siberian Mayhem still performs well even on a mid-range PC. There’s no doubt that future support will also add further optimizations and bug fixes, along with seasonal content that gives players a reason to come back to the game for another romp.
Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem Review — The Bottom Line
- Classic old-school shooter gameplay
- Fantastic level design
- New weapons and enemy varieties
- Lackluster PC optimization
- Enjoyable, but forgettable characters and story
Croteam has teamed up with truly passionate Serious Sam fans to make their vision for the game a reality, and it shows. Siberian Mayhem’s new weapons, enemies, and gameplay variations keep the experience fresh while sticking to the roots of what makes Serious Sam so great: ruthless alien-killing action with plenty of puns along the way.
[Note: Croteam provided the copy of Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem used for this review.]