Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem is a standalone expansion in Croteam’s long-running arena shooter series. Made in partnership with Timelock Studio, a small team of Russian Serious Sam modders, Siberian Mayhem offers a five-hour ballad of blood-soaked action. The question is – are those five extra hours of Serious Sam 4 worth the $20 asking price?
Going into Siberian Mayhem, I had high hopes. Serious Sam is as eccentric as it is electric, getting your blood pumping across a wide variety of encounters stuffed full of crazy enemies. And Siberian Mayhem achieves this more often than not, especially in the first half of the campaign.
In the opening hours, Siberian Mayhem evokes the wide-linear environments of Half-Life 2: Episode Two. It regularly rewards exploration and puzzle-solving, with secrets aplenty. There’s even a remarkably tough horror-themed Easter egg side quest. The new flamethrower giants, snowmobile, and crossbow are delightful additions to the Serious Sam sandbox. Unfortunately, the high quality starts to falter around the end of Chapter Three.
On one hand, visual performance was great, running at 4K without dipping below 30 FPS or making my GPU fans blare. On the other, there were several critical technical issues, including the game violently crashing whenever any recording software was even just sitting idle. For some reason, my latest saves also stopped working, requiring me to retrace my steps partway through the game.
Each level of Siberian Mayhem takes its own unique spin on the core gameplay. They might emphasize narrative, scale, or a specific set of weapons. However, it’s not all fully baked. Where once you had flowing level design, you now alternate between absurdly vast spaces and layouts so narrow it’s like a shooter from 2012. You don’t alternate between these two options, but instead have purely one or the other for a long stretch of time.
A particular key side quest rewards you with two extremely powerful gadgets but is such a frustrating nightmare that even the game’s AI struggled to line up shots within the confines of an elevator ride. This comes on the heels of a hallway where the level just spams the same charging enemy at you for over a minute straight with no fun wrinkle to the odd design choices. It feels like the theme for these penultimate sections was simply to make the player miserable.
As if meekly acknowledging this misstep, Siberian Mayhem thereafter briefly gives you AI companions who, while effective, feel out of place. Their primary benefit is distracting more annoying enemies, particularly the vampire lords that can cast ghoulish jump-scares at you that blur your vision.
I wanted to spend this review extolling the game’s beautiful environmental design, cathartic all-out battles, and Sam’s delightfully absurd one-liners, but the latter half of the game really lets down the stellar opening. While there is a co-op mode, the sour aftertaste of the finale may leave you less than enthusiastic about it. At this point, it may be up to other modders to properly harness the best ideas buried in Siberian Mayhem.
Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem is available now on Steam for $19.99.
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