Difficult, yet rewarding, Serious Sam offers deep customization to suit your playstyle.
Serious Sam: The Last Hope, from Croteam and Devolver Digital, is a wave shooter based on the popular “Serious” franchise. Serious Sam is defined by the absolutely incredible amount of enemies the game expects you to dispatch with no cover. The PC version is intense, to say the least, and this VR version does a great job translating that sense of overwhelming urgency.
If you want an idea of pacing, try and imagine frantically pumping rockets into a 50-story tall mummy rapidly approaching you, while its minions literally rise from the sands to attack dozens at a time.
Oh, and they also throw stuff so we hope you’re nice and limber!
If this sounds like your kind of jam, and you don’t mind a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence, then read on for a review of The Last Hope.
I track every workout with my trusty Charge 2, and Serious Sam is relatively simple to jump in and play. You’re confronted with a lot of options when you first boot up, but gameplay takes place in either one of the game’s planets, an arena, or the endless mode. I suggest starting with the planets, specifically on Earth. Also, volume warning. The way Sam screams “EARTH” that first time can be a little jarring.
I would advise players to begin with Earth because arena mode is too overwhelming when you first boot the game up. Not simply due to mechanics, but your weapons need upgrades to stand up to the hordes. The story provides weapon upgrades that drastically improve stopping power, so it’s a good idea to earn those stars.
For this review, I did Arena levels 5 and most of 6 (I lost), and then I did three rounds of Endless Mode. I’m deeper into the game, so my weapons have had some decent upgrades. The game is very good about letting you know when you’ve reached the maximum difficulty you’re capable of handling by killing you almost instantly.
The main takeaway is this: Serious Sam gets very difficult quickly, it’s not just you. This game makes it extremely challenging to try and punch above your weight.
Serious Sam is light to moderate intensity, keeping most of us in the weight management or heart healthy heart rate of somewhere between 90 and 100. Here are the results from my workout:
- Max Heart Rate: 106
- Average Heart Rate: 92
In between rounds, you can high step in place if you want to drive intensity. As you can see, I walked a third of a mile in my session. One fitness protip: try playing the game one handed to both increase difficulty and improve workout potential. You will need to stay lighter on your feet when you only have one hand doing all the work.
Frantically pulling the triggers as enemies bear down upon you feels extremely intense. There’s also a strategy to all of this carnage, which I leave to you to discover. Suffice to say certain weapons, and destroying certain enemies first, tend to work better than indiscriminately firing even your most powerful guns. Look (and listen) for beheaded kamikazes. Trust me, you’ll know them when you see them. Those guys are your keys to mowing through what often seems like overwhelming odds.
Surprisingly, this game includes melee and archery weapons. Arrows can be explosive, or basic iron tips. The bow is quite powerful, but you need to fire faster than basically any archery game I’ve played so far in VR if you want to survive. Think Holopoint, but sped up to twice its normal speed.
Explosive arrows can help cut down swathes of enemies, but what fun is that? We’re here to get fit! Besides, you’re limited in the number of explosive arrows you have each round.
Later missions grant access to lightning swords too. Swords and bows combined will leave your arms feeling dead after about 30 minutes of play. And honestly, the swords are way too fun. You feel godlike cutting down waves of enemies with massive blasts of energy.
Even without the medieval weaponry, the game works your arms rather well. You don’t get a lot of breathing time in a session, so those arms will be up the whole time. Natural resistance works well for Serious Sam, so feel free to add some arm or wrist weights.
I like to play this game in conjunction with other games, so perhaps a few rounds of my favorite boxing title and then some Serious Sam. I’m often unable to lift my arms at the end of these sessions.
I don’t feel like this game wants to test my legs as much, but I clock a significant number of steps playing it. It does seem ironic for me as a long time Serious Sam fan that this game doesn’t work your legs harder. The old versions consist of walking backward and firing at anything that isn’t you.
You can play the entire Serious Sam series in VR if you want to get up and move, but my experience with part 3 induced motion sickness. I might be a locomotion newb though.
Core and Balance 2/10
You will get a full body session from playing Serious Sam, but without specific attacks aimed at forcing you to squat or dodge, there isn’t much targeting your core or balance here. A few levels on floating platforms can feel disorienting when there isn’t much action, so I did find it helpful to move a bit during those sections.
They are very short, though.
Serious Sam is a difficult game, and time can feel slow when you’re replaying the same level for the fourth time. If you’re too frustrated, switch over to Endless or Arena and earn more upgrades. You get some goodie for beating anything new, so conquer as many new levels, missions, and wave deployments as you can.
Decrease the difficulty and try and master the enemy waves. Learning which enemies appear when helps you focus on who to target and where to aim. With practice, every level is beatable. The developer says every level is beatable without upgrades. I think they are crazy, but I will say performing well at lower difficulties creates skills that carry over
Between rounds and missions, there are also lengthy breaks while you choose your weapons or find your next objective. Use this time to inject some fitness hacks into your game.
I constantly return to Serious Sam. It’s my favorite wave shooter in VR, and an excellent way to end any workout. I find that it has a lot of replayability and depth, with each wave feeling unique. There’s a lot of content in this game, but it’s packaged in a repetitive looking box. You will see the same backgrounds and encounter the same enemies, just in varying levels of intensity. For me, this isn’t a bad thing. There’s plenty of diversity, and the game does a great job rewarding you for replaying levels you’ve already beaten.
It can be a little bit of a grind, but some of the more difficult missions really throw an onslaught at you. Overcoming that legion of demons and monsters feels great.
Serious Sam is a fun experience to dip in and out of, but not one to build muscle. This will help you lose weight while you game by staying active.
You will get the most benefit from this game if you enjoy the gameplay. Think wave shooter, then up the intensity beyond anything you’ve heard of. Space Pirate Trainer’s later levels come close to the volume of enemies you’re dealing with, but somehow Serious Sam is even more intense. I think most people, in shape or not, can work up a sweat to this game if played long enough.
Coop multiplayer would give casual players a fighting chance at extreme difficulties. Although matches are hard to find, it’s worth trying at least once. However, you don’t always have control over the map selection. If you’re achievement hunting, or trying to complete a specific level or wave, this can be an annoyance.
Awards do carry over into your singleplayer game, so feel free to try out multiplayer if you’re completely stuck on a single section. That said, it might be more effective to swap Steam names in the comment section, or arrange for games through the Steam forums.
VRFI Final Score 8/10
The Good: A romping good time with archery, swordplay, gigantic miniguns, rocket launchers, cannons and more. There’s something for everyone here, and it’s got that 90s FPS feel of nostalgia and cheesy dialogue. It’s tasteful but still a little cringy.
Lots of unlockables will keep hardcore players coming back
Powerups never feel too powerful. Shields offer a brief respite and a nice twist on the core gameplay, but nothing feels like game-breaking levels of destruction. Not even the dual cannonballs. Yes, they have those.
Solid wave shooter, probably one of the best ones out there. Players still stand in place, but The Last Hope offers excellent challenges and a decent workout.
The Bad: You might not realize your weapon selection for a given chapter is bad until the very last levels when your cash is very limited. That kind of mistake will force you to restart your game. In the early levels, I suggest finding a weapon set you like and focusing your upgrades on that set. I started with the laser pistol and went up from there.
This game is super hard. Did we mention that? That’s not for everyone.
The price tag is a little high compared to most VR games. In my personal opinion, compared to other games in this price range, I feel it’s worth the full price cost. However, plenty of sales include Serious Sam so waiting isn’t horribly painful.
This game can be violent/bloody, but some of the gore reduction options can be fun. My favorite is Kids, where enemies explode into hearts, stars, lollipops, and rainbows, or Halloween, where enemies gib into pumpkins.