Serious Sam 3: BFE is a sequel that restored a series back to the modern day without any major modifications to appease the shooter crowds of today. Yes, we’ve established that Serious Sam 3 passed the test of nostalgia, and now the Jewel of the Nile DLC has to push the momentum through another three chapters of sands and screams. Where the biggest part of Serious Sam 3: BFE is introducing weapons and enemies while retaining a well-paced lid atop it all, Jewel of the Nile is for those seasoned Sam players seeking more Serious Sam campaign content. Much like how Serious Sam 3 did little to change its ways, the DLC furthers the formula.
Jewel of the Nile’s 3-4 hour trek works as a sort of deleted scene from the main meat of BFE. In between one of the many helicopter rescues/crashes, Sam gets called in to find a third time-lock generator after receiving a call from his intel provider Quinn. The story of Jewel of the Nile basically drives the action, and that’s it. Sorry, no deep self-reflective journey for our numb-from-the-neck-up hero in Jewel of the Nile. Sam heads to the Island of Philae, with most of the fighting taking place in expansive areas, giving plenty of room to circle-strafe, evade, and retreat.
Jewel of the Nile goes back to the “cut content” theory and mirrors BFE in every way, except it’s presented as if you’ve already become familiar with every monster and weapon giving a straight shooting, testing your capability of handling every vicious alien thrown at you. Foreign space travelers like the fireball-throwing Khnum, demented nocturnal Monkeys, and the always amusing and volatile headless kamikazes all have their minor appearances, make it nightmarish halfway in the DLC. One addition to the cast is the Reptiloids. The new enemy of Jewel of the Nile fires homing slime spheres at you as another mammoth-sized long range threat, though it won’t be enough to justify this DLC as “new.”
The first chapter hands you all the ammo and armor you’ll ever need to max out, across various sheds on the island. Soon after, it’ll kick back too long for the mentality of of old-school conservation, in order to help your future self. The next stage starts off linear and becomes a well-designed array of enemy placement, forcing you to be on your toes if you weren’t already. Jewel of the Nile finishes the second chapter with tempered, manageable puzzles revolving around timed platforming and switch-pushing to cool the tension. The third allows you to have a jetpack…that’s a good stopping point for this exposition.
The concept of run-and-gun games is bland and unimaginative, but games like the Serious Sam series make the mindless action tactics into memorable moments. Waves of enemies come at you in mixed assortments and keep you attentive throughout, not knowing what to expect what group of grotesque monsters appear. Well-orchestrated placement of were-bulls emerging from throngs of one-eyed Gnarrs and skeletal Kleer make a panicked backtracking the only option. Sure, your bullets still hit the target within the reticule, and apprehension of overall lack of ammunition isn’t a concern, but it’s still a challenging and wide-eyed experience.
Being a game about ripping hearts out of aliens and bashing them with a sledgehammer, the focus isn’t on “sprawling vistas.” Croteam painted on their Serious Engine 3.5. The graphics aren’t special, and neither is the scenery. Once again, Sam’s quest is out in the ocean of sand, deserted towns, and ancient architecture of Egypt. Environmental and textural pop-ups occur frequently: as you’re sprinting into the next trap, Jewel of the Nile will suddenly realize to render a tree, details and ridges of an enemy, and crates. A couple of strange recurring pop-ups were invisible pieces of the environment: as a team of Gnarr charged, one in the distance was doing their canned running animation but showing no progression. I walked nearer to the questionable action of the Gnarr, only to see a stack of crates in its way.
Last year, Serious Sam 3 came out on PC at $40, with both the BFE campaign and multiplayer features. Whereas other PC games ported onto the 360 with all of their content readily availed upon purchase, Croteam created a split in content. This division on the 360 makes the base game of BFE $15 for the straight single-player campaign, then $15 for the Jewel of the Nile and multiplayer (co-op/versus). As of now, the PC version of the DLC is priced at $10 out the gate. PC games, especially on Steam, tend to drastically fluctuate in price, but currently the 360’s $30 offering is a better deal compared to PC’s $50.
Diablo 3 may have won the trophy for “most clicks per second,” but closing in on second is Serious Sam’s brand of chaotic index finger stress. Being able to apply slight pressure on the right trigger on our 360 controllers improves the experience by easing our finger fatigue. Mentally, it’s a whole other question. With the chapters’ extended time frame ranging from 50 to 70 minutes, it’s certainly tiring to rush through. Not to say it’s a fault, but when you’re always on edge it becomes grating without some form of a break.
Controls on the 360 can be switched to preset mapped buttons, shifting from your traditional console FPS to bizarre unconventional combinations; however, there’s no glaring flaw that exposes it as a PC port besides the graphical downgrade. Co-op is strictly capped at four players, which is odd compared to other jaw-dropping, “I’m so curious how the heck it will work” 16-player co-op modes. Difficulty is then scaled to match the number of Sams in a game, along with a generous lives system to breeze by the campaigns.
I’m not a stickler for content, but three to four hours going solo is a bit much to ask. The prior pricing of both platforms, although a bit confusing, is a nice gesture to divide the single players not looking to hop online, but shorts out upon acquiring Jewel of the Nile by itself. Jewel of the Nile is nothing revolutionary or straying from BFE’s template. Take it or leave it, you’re still in Egypt, with three chapters of mayhem without the lengthy “getting to know” of each of the opposition, and thrown into the fray with a medley of cyclopes, chaingun scorpions, bipedal bulls, and mess of others to retain the tactical tension.