January - Chasm, Black Mesa, Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter, Serious Sam 3: BFE
SS3... I'm going to do a proper write-up on this since I was pretty critical of the previous two games and I feel like this one deserves the added detail. Also, yes I know it's technically February, but I was just stuck on killing the final boss on the 30th before I went back to work and spent a few hours today finishing it up.
Story/Plot - 8/10
I'm scoring this somewhat high simply for the fact that the story on the previous two games were just confusing garbage and this game actually has a story. SS3 is a prequel to the first game so the story revolves around figuring out how the Time Lock works and getting it started so Sam can go back in time and save the Earth. The game is set back in Egypt again so if you were incredibly bored of seeing sprawling deserts then not to worry because CroTeam set you up with even more sprawling deserts but now with added temples!
Visuals/Graphics - 8/10
It looks just like the previous games except prettier. If your favorite colors are brown, tan, and red, then you're going to swoon over how much brown, tan, and red is in this game (because those are pretty much the only colors in this game). There's a few city-scapes, but they're desert city-scapes, so there's that.
Sound/Music - 9/10
Much like Doom 2016, the heavy metal accompanies slaying hordes of enemies rather nicely and while I was going to score this much lower before I had beaten the game, I did bump it up from 7/10 to 9/10 simply because the song during the ending credits is actually really good and I'm a sucker for any game that has an actual song during the credits (Dead Rising, Dishonored, etc.). The main gripe with the music in this game is that is fades in and out when enemies are around, so if you're at the ending stages of the enemy waves, you'll get that heavy metal kicking in really loud the moment an enemy aggros on you, but the moment it dies, the music fades off again. During most of the enemy encounters this becomes more annoying than anything because you'll get just a few seconds of music before it fades out, so it's less of listening to music and more of just listening to an audio cue to know when you've been seen or how to tell if there's an enemy that got stuck behind a wall but they're still aggro'd on you.
Gameplay - 4/10
I had typed a lot of this up before I beat the game. I was about four levels before the final boss when I had all of this sorted and ready to just be copy/pasted back here with some final thoughts and touch-ups regarding the ending, but after enduring what can only be described as gameplay so annoying that even the Geneva Convention would outlaw it, I had to rewrite this entire section. Originally I had written vast swaths of praise about how we have a new melee mechanic that changes depending on if you have a gun or melee weapon in your hand that gives a whole new level to the combat, but that only lasts for about four levels before it goes right back into the same old "here's 400 enemies that will spawn in waves, have fun". I will say that the arenas are a lot more open than previous games which gives you more room to move around on top of being able to cheese a few encounters by jumping on top of structures but with the new enemies being airborne and/or ranged, this tactic only works in the first few levels. They also removed all of the power-ups from the game and ammo is VERY scarce for most of your weapons (pretty sure there's only 12 sniper bullets in the entire game - not joking or exaggerating) so when you get that shiny new rocket launcher, you better save it for the enemies that cannot be hurt by your normal weapons. Health and armor is scattered all over the place but the +100 pickups that push you over the limit are few and far between. No more ammo packs either and from what I could tell, if you don't go searching for the secret areas, you'll never see the Laser or find ammo for it since all of it was gated behind secrets.
So, with the new weapons, new enemies, and new fighting mechanics, why did I score it so low? Very simple. One particular arena battle two levels from the final and the entire final level by itself. I'm not annoyed that this game forces us to kill thousands of enemies in the arena/wave format because that's what this game is, but at least in previous levels the monotony of this format was broken up with sections of story and simply progressing through the level. Previously, the arenas had you mostly confined to one area where you'd mow down hundreds of enemies with whatever weapons were at your disposal but once it was over, you'd continue through the level with a few enemies here and there but the final level is one never-ending arena and the waves will spawn stronger and stronger enemies as you progress towards the end. It does offer rocket/C4 refill boxes as well as plenty of ammo for the rest of your weapons (except two), but during the start of these waves, you're just standing there until your minigun is out of ammo, then until your rocket launcher is out of ammo, then until you're out of C4, and before you know it, there are so many enemies spawning that you've back-pedaled halfway through the level. You do this until the waves start slowing down and then you push forward until the next wave starts at the next ammo refill point. Up until this level, the game was fun. There was action but there was also progression. You would be confined in these arenas in past levels, but only for a few minutes. The final level while playing on Normal took me over three hours to beat simply because of how far you'd get pushed back by the sheer number of enemies that would spawn and each time you'd encounter the next wave, there would just be more. At the final wave alone, I sat in one spot next to a rocket refill box for almost thirty minutes while holding left click until all 50 rockets ran out, then I'd refill and start holding left click again. Thirty goddamn minutes of doing nothing but firing rockets at (not joking) at least 500 Kleers (horse skeleton things) with Werebulls periodically charging through. That's not fun. Nothing about that is fun because it's no longer just slaughtering enemies, it's simply waiting out a timer.
The final boss was pretty fun, though it did take me a while to figure out how to damage him and he'll kill you in one to two hits, so until you figure it out, you'll be seeing the start of that final cutscene a lot. All in all, I'm glad I finally got to experience the Serious Sam games and I can confidently say that no matter how fun SS4 looks, I'll never play these games again. End of rant.