'Serious Sam VR' Isn’t A First Person Shooter, It’s A First Person Shoot-Em-Up

Croteam is bringing the beloved Serious Sam franchise to virtual reality, but the game might not be what you expect. Unlike the rest of the franchise, Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope is not a free-roaming FPS. Sam “Serious” Stone doesn’t run from a fight, and in VR, neither can you.

You might be thinking, "Ugh! Another VR wave shooter." But Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope isn’t just another cookie-cutter VR wave shooter; it's more like what I imagine Contra in VR would be (someone please make that game). But that’s not a bad thing.

Croteam didn’t try to shoehorn a game designed for the keyboard and mouse into this new medium. The developer wisely chose to build something from the ground up, designed entirely for virtual reality and around the limitations of early VR development. In Serious Sam VR, instead of making you find your enemies, the alien horde will seek you out.

Load Your Weapons And Get Ready To Hold Your Ground. Things Are About To Get Serious!

In Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, you take on the role of General Sam "Serious" Stone of the Earth Defense Force to lead the resistance (read: fight solo) against Mental, an alien overlord hell-bent on destroying the galaxy. You’ll face countless familiar franchise baddies, such as the bomb-toting Headless Kamikazes, the one-eyed gorilla-like Gnaars, and the charging Kleer Skeletons that debuted in the original Serious Sam game. Throughout your crusade, you’ll also encounter the gargantuan Khnum, Major Biomechanoid and its rockets, and the high-flying Witch-Bride of Archriman.

Save The Galaxy One Planet At A Time

When you fire up Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, you’ll find yourself inside Sam’s spaceship, the Battlecruiser Saratoga, looking directly at the mission select menu. At launch, Serious Sam VR includes two planet missions: Earth and Pladeon. The mission selection menu gives a brief description of the planet and its history, as well as a 3D globe map of the planet’s terrain.

Each mission features four separate rounds that take place in unique locations. The Earth mission features four locales from Egypt, which should be familiar to anyone who’s played a Serious Sam game in the past. The Pladeon missions take place near industrial buildings, such as an oil refinery and a derelict satellite dish, and there’s even a level where you ride an industrial lift as you battle your way to the top floor. 

The four levels within each mission gradually build upon the last. Each level features bigger and badder enemies for you to take on, and each mission culminates in a boss battle that will put your skills to the test.

A "Serious" Weapons Cache

Sam "Serious" Stone’s default weapon of choice is an unlimited-ammo laser pistol. In the first round, all that you get to defend yourself with is a couple of those pistols. Upon completing the first level, you’ll be awarded game credits that you can use to upgrade your arsenal, refill your ammo supply, and replenish your health before venturing out again.

As you would expect in a Serious Sam game, you get a wide variety of weapons to choose from. You can buy a laser-sighted pistol, double- and single-barrel shotguns, and a heavy laser gun. If you prefer something automatic, you’ll find an assault rifle, a Tommy gun, and the laser cannon. And who could forget the iconic minigun and Sam’s semi-automatic rocket launcher? Serious Sam VR even offers a comically oversized chainsaw (seriously, it’s yuuuge!) to tear apart your enemies in gory close-quarters combat.

You’re not likely to earn enough credits to unlock the entire battery within a four-level mission, so you’ll have to be strategic in your selection. We advise always picking the minigun as soon as you can, but don’t forget to buy ammo for your other weapons before picking up new ones. You will rue the day you blow your stack on a shiny new weapon only to realize you are low on ammo for everything you’re carrying.

Elements From A Classic Genre

The Serious Sam franchise always eschewed modern FPS mechanics, such as regenerative health and cover systems. To succeed in Serious Sam, you had to master the “run and gun” and keep your eye out for health, armor, and ammo pickups scattered about the map.

Serious Sam VR had to abandon that concept, but it borrowed from another classic game genre, the  Shoot-Em-Up, and adapted some of those mechanics into first-person VR.

For instance, a typical Shoot-Em-Up game will have enemies coming at you from multiple directions at once. The incoming attacks are usually slow enough that you can dodge them or shoot them out of the air, and enemies, particularly flying craft, often fly in predictable formations and patterns. Croteam adopted those characteristics for Serious Sam VR, and we must admit, the idea works well. Serious Sam VR feels more like a first-person Shoot-Em-Up than a first-person shooter.

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?

Serious Sam VR is kind of like roller coaster; it’s a wild rush, but almost as soon as the adrenaline starts pumping, the experience is over. Croteam said Serious Sam VR started off as an experiment that wasn’t intended as a consumer product, but the reaction from people around the Croteam office prompted the developer to share it with the world. The game doesn’t have a story, and there’s only two areas so far, but those limitations don’t detract from the fact that you get to be Serious Sam.

Croteam has good reason for the short nature of the game, although we’re not sure the price suits the current experience. The developer is preparing to launch the game as an early access experience and is asking for user feedback as it builds the title into what the community wants it to be. Croteam is treating Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope as a test bed “to see if [it] can build something on a much larger scale.” We think that’s a good idea, but the $39.99 price tag might be a little too much to swallow for such an experiment. If the game had a few more missions, the cost would be more justifiable, but Croteam's early testers deserve a discount for helping steer the game's future.

Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope hits Steam Early Access on October 17.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years. 

  • oyoy
    If I can't move (walk, run, jump..) and can't use my keyboard+mice while sitting on my comfy chair, I don't get it. Do I really need a big empty room to throw my hands in the air like I just don't care (breaking something)?
  • computerguy72
    OYOY - That is what Chaperone is all about. When you get near your defined edges in the room an electronic wall appears in VR. On the Vive it even has a camera that can overlay the room. As for needing some space yes you generally need at least a 6x8ft area or so. Locomotion is usually done by pointing to a point in your vision and using the controllers to teleport there. They have gotten better and better at VR locomotion. You should really try it before knocking it, VR really can blow you away.
  • MrBonk
    "Croteam didn’t try to shoehorn a game designed for the keyboard and mouse into this new medium."

    But that's all I want. I want to play normal games in VR. Roomscale is stupid, how many people have room to dedicate an entire space free of clutter just for this? Teleporting, or being stuck static is dumb.

    I'd rather play more games like Lucky's Tale than be shoehorned into the artificial limitations of forcing VR games to be in first person.
  • wifiburger
    haha, and you guys thought the wii mote games nightmare was over, back from the dead, rail shooters on VR
  • kcarbotte
    18724863 said:
    If I can't move (walk, run, jump..) and can't use my keyboard+mice while sitting on my comfy chair, I don't get it. Do I really need a big empty room to throw my hands in the air like I just don't care (breaking something)?

    To truly feel like you are serious sam, not just controlling an avatar, yeah, you do need to stand up and move your arms around. You aim the guns like you would a real gun; by pointing in that direction.
    You don't need a big empty room. My space is smaller than the average living room, basement, or office.
  • fireaza
    This game is a little more FPS than most other VR wave shooters. For one, you absolutely need to keep moving and dodging, or you'll get your ass handed to you. And no, you don't need oodles of space, I can make do with my 2m x 2m play area.