Serious Sam Double D XXL | Review
Serious Sam: Double D XXL has a shotgun that shoots robot bees.
In this game, you can stack a grenade launcher that fires man-eating scarabs on top of a tommygun on top of a rocket launcher on top of a flamethrower that fires maple syrup on top of a chainsaw. Yes, Serious Sam Double D XXL is perhaps the best example of sheer excess in a video game. It’s not about communicating a message or engrossing the player in a wonderful story. There are monsters, and you have a load of guns. Maybe some of the guns are on top of other guns. Shoot the monsters with the guns, you idiot.
Despite having the Serious Sam name attached, Double D XXL isn’t a traditional first person shooter. Instead, it’s a dual-stick action game. Way back when I wrote my Shoot Many Robots review, I talked about how the game’s clunky shooting controls were ill suited for that particular genre. Take note, developers, because this is how it’s done: one stick controls Sam, the other controls the reticle. Shooting feels very responsive, and there’s even a bit of lock-on to compensate for the gamepad. Ironically, the tight shooting controls actually fall by the wayside after an hour or so of gameplay.
You’ll eventually reach a point where your weapons are so powerful that merely aiming in the direction of your foes will result in a veritable sea of blood. But I’d still take excellent – if not particularly necessary – shooting controls over unintuitive garbage any day. As is the case with most hyper-violent action games these days, you’ve got to stay moving at all times. Sam jumps with the left trigger, and there’s also a jump pad you can throw out with the left bumper. (Yes, the jump pad sticks to walls). The fidelity of control is helpful when the game slows down for some platforming, which is actually more frequent than one might expect.
Although a big stack of guns might get you through the first three hours of the game, the remaining two or so will require some actual strategy. There was a particularly difficult late-game encounter that had me testing different kinds of gun combinations, reworking my approach, and other things I find myself doing in games like XCOM or FTL after an unsuccessful run. Now, I’m not saying Double D XXL has the depth of a strategy game, but playing on Normal certainly offers a meaty challenge. That challenge does not apply to the final boss, which is actually quite easy. I merely hid in a corner and held down the right trigger, dropping every so often to avoid its one physical attack.
Should you want to play through Double D XXL’s five-hour campaign again, Serious (the ‘hard’ difficulty) unlocks once you’ve finished the game on ‘Chilled’ or ‘Normal’. Or, if fighting your way through harder enemies isn’t enough replay value for you, the game provides leaderboards for amount of enemies killed and fastest level time. Honestly, both of those pale in comparison to what I consider to be the real incentive to play this game again: a new playable character named Huff. This gun-obsessed redneck appears in the couch co-op and local ‘Versus’ mode, but he really shines in the campaign. New dialogue has been written and voiced to include Huff (yes PC gamers, it’s entirely voiced this time), and it’s all worth seeing. You can also replay levels at different speeds, but I don’t know why you’d replay the game at any speed other than 150%. Serious difficulty at that speed is the best possible Double D XXL experience.
Some of you might already know what you think of the game’s humor from the promotional material, but I’m going to bring the uninitiated up to speed. The game’s cast of sociopaths gleefully celebrating imminent slaughter certainly matches the absurdly violent nature of the gameplay, but not every joke works. For example, one of the new monster types is the Vuvuzelator; stacks of pancakes with vuvuzelas poking out that attack you by blasting those horns. If you only just remembered that vuvuzelas were a thing we all laughed at, you’re not the only one. There are also new female kamikaze troopers, who hold their bombs close to their chest. I rolled my eyes pretty much every time I saw those creatures on screen, but considering how dumb everything else is, there’s a very low chance it came from a place of genuine hate. The humor is nice dressing, but even the worst jokes Double D XXL had to offer didn’t break the experience for me.
Instead, my big issue with this game is an inexcusable slowdown when Achievements are unlocked. And I don’t mean thirty FPS to twenty. We’re talking single-digit numbers here for at least ten seconds. In a game where speed is everything, this is a huge issue. Hopefully this is patched out in the future, but considering how much developers need to pay Microsoft for patches, I wouldn’t count on it.
Even without a theoretical patch fixing its only major problem, Serious Sam Double D XXL is a wonderfully absurd ride from start to finish. The controls are tight – a must when you consider the hordes you’re up against – and the gun stacking would make even the most devoted member of the NRA blush. Some dodgy humor and technical issues can’t begin to undo the goodwill earned by every other aspect. If you have an itch for over-the-top action, Double D XXL is an unparalleled back scratcher.