Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem review (PC): Seriously fun Shenanigans
Siberian Mayhem is the newest standalone addition to the long-running first-person action-adventure shooter series Serious Sam, taking place in Russia during the events of Serious Sam 4, featuring new weapons, more enemies, new vehicles that are great, ridiculous or sometimes both, and of course featuring plenty more of the classic carnage the series is known for – read about what you can expect in our review below.
As you may well expect, spoilers ahead – I’ll be talking about a hell of a lot of the game, and the further down you go the more spoilers you’ll be seeing – though I will largely avoid discussing the story, optional bosses do appear in this review of Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem, alongside discussion and showcasing of new additions to the series.
Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem and Timelock Studios
Siberian Mayhem will launch today, on the 25th of January on Steam, and as you may have noticed from the reveal trailer, there has been a change of staff behind the game for the first time in mainline-series history. Croteam aren’t the only official developers behind the game this time around.
As you can see from the trailer, the newly formed Timelock Studio, based in Russia was involved in the development of the game, making a series first as it has been traditionally Croteam’s show to run.
An interview on technosteria highlights the studio as being newly formed in 2021, from long term Serious Sam fans and modders, with Siberian Mayhem being their first debut project. While it’s not entirely clear of the amount of work split between them and Croteam, the interview states that Croteam “provided assistance in organizing the development process, consulting on technical issues, testing, quality control and supplying the necessary resources.” – in other words, it would seem that Timelock Studio largely developed the game, with Croteam in the background overseeing the project and making sure it met series standards and the like.
The moment to moment gameplay is very much more of Serious Sam 4, so it’ll particularly appeal to anyone who enjoyed that previous entry in the series. The reason for this, in large part, is that it was originally due to a DLC for Serious Sam 4, similar to Jewel of the Nile for Serious Sam 3. Thanks to the amount of sheer work put in by Timelock, however, publisher Devolver was happy enough with the content that they offered to launch it as a standalone game instead – which really makes a good bit of sense, and requires only half the space of Serious Sam 4 may well be a significant plus for some, rather than requiring people to potentially reinstall SS4 and Siberian Mayhem together, which would be taxing on worse connections or with smaller storage devices.
Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem PC Review
As mentioned above, we are very much getting more of Serious Sam 4 here, really – which may be a good or bad thing depending on your personal preferences. Many enemies and guns you already know make a return, alongside the skill system returning in full. Hell, even Dmitry of “I would like to register complaint” audio log fame from the last few missions of SS4 makes a return.
The story kicks off within Serious Sam 4, though reasonably close to the end as opposed to midway through. If you’d like a summary, see the image below – and if you’re new to the series, don’t worry. It does make some more sense with context, though it’ll probably always sound at least a little insane. That’s trademark Serious Sam right there.
The game picks up on that note on a fairly frozen coastline in Russia, with the first level of Siberian Mayhem really aiming to hit the highlights you’ll remember from the other games.
You start off with a knife and a pistol, having to fight through a few small groups of opponents before you acquire the classic single barrel shotgun – the level design also goes for the classic secrets too, featuring a hidden Rocket Launcher and not one, but two single health pill trap secrets.
Definitely appealing to the fanbase with a starter level like that, given that is more or less word for word the setup of the very first level in Serious Sam: The First Encounter, as well as most if not all main series games since – particularly with the secret Rocket Launcher, a long-running trend of the series.
Don’t worry about this being too much of a repeat of Serious Sam 4 though, Timelock didn’t sit around and only recycle pre-existing things. They added plenty of entirely new enemies to brutally murder and new weapons to brutally murder those enemies with, including new guns, vehicles, gadgets.
Of course, I can’t just say that without exploring at least some of them, can I?
For the new enemies, we have a handful – four off the top of my head. The first you’ll meet is the Alduran Microhopper – seemingly a sort of replacement for the older marsh hoppers, fulfilling the same role; swarm the player with low damage melee and ranged attacks while hopping after them. You’ll be meeting them immediately, so you’ll have plenty of time to get used to them. On top of that, there are at least two new Octanian units, the Legionnaire and the Grenadier.
There’s also a new Draconian unit, which I personally did not enjoy dealing with – the Draconian burner, who fires paired laser beams at you – primarily dodged by strafing or leaping over them. Now, I play on Serious, so your experience may vary, but the 70 damage they were tagging me with felt like quite a lot given the beams move pretty fast. The rest of the enemies I have absolutely no issues with, those guys all seemed to fit Mentals evergrowing hordes roster flawlessly and I’m perfectly happy to see them again.
Counterbalancing these new units, we also have new guns, which are always fun. Given Serious Sam rarely if ever adjusts its basic set of weapons, this also typically means new weapons are pretty much always powerful weapons, and that is indeed the case once again, with the new “Perun” Crossbow and XMPR “Burner” Raygun.
While I really do enjoy having the Perun crossbow around for its ability to one-tap plenty of larger or durable units such as bulls or Scrapjacks on headshots even on Serious, the Raygun really takes the prize here. It competes with the XL2 Lasergun for ammo (electricity cells) which is a series classic and mainstay weapon for the endgame of most previous games – and damn does it put up a good fight for that ammo.
It melts down individual targets reasonably quickly and reliably up to about medium-long range, and even makes them implode on kill, making it an excellent answer to larger hordes of enemies, where it melts them down and causes chain reactions through the group – hordes are something the XL2 can manage, but does struggle to do so efficiently given its ammo is often heavily limited – thus resulting in often being saved for priority targets or dire situations where something has to die fast.
Personally, whatever Serious Sam game comes next, I’m hoping the Burner Raygun will be along for the ride because this gun is a blast to play with.
Moving on from those, we have a new bit of equipment and the vehicles, and oh boy, Timelock have absolutely nailed these.
Fast-moving, dual-fast-firing laser chaingun vehicle on demand whenever you have the equipment up – moving and firing both drain the fuel reserve down, so you’ll only get this for a limited time and it’s best dropped in for tricky fights, but oh boy can it be fun when you do. I wouldn’t recommend using it to get around though, given the fuel reserve is best used for its weapons instead. Get up close and then drop it for the best value of this limited resource.
Speaking of vehicles, did I mention the new ones yet? No> You’re in for a fun time with these. Take a brief moment to think what Serious Sam as a series would really suit for a moment. If your answer was an SS4 style mech with a giant chainsaw as a sword, you were right. Here’s an preview of how that looks when it meets some classic series enemies.
Of course, that isn’t everything, and you may even enjoy the next one almost as much. Not that it’s a disappointment, it’s just quite hard to beat chainsaw mech after all.
The Serious Tank is pretty damn close though.
It is pretty rare we get an actual heavy vehicle in Serious Sam after all, barring the SS4 mechs at the very least. Both of these are followed by dedicated rampage segments where you get to really stress test them as well, so there’s plenty of usage of them each.
READ MORE: Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem: Where is the secret rocket launcher in the first level?
And the snowmobile makes a comeback. It has some real janky physics if you hit a solid object, just about any hard collision will have it rocking side to side for a good few seconds. You could probably consider that a bug, but it’s absolutely hilarious, so I have no complaints.
New stuff aside, how is Siberian Mayhem?
You may have noticed I haven’t spoken much about the actual gameplay for a bit – that’s because, as mentioned much further up, it is very much more Serious Sam 4 in that aspect. It’s a very solid, enjoyable action/arcade with horde shooter gameplay, so if you’re looking to gun down a thousand enemies regularly, this is definitely worth considering at the very least.
Siberian Mayhem is described as only including 5 levels on the Steam page, and I can confirm that having finished it.
Each level is pretty hefty though, with the kind of experience you’d expect from a later mission in a traditional Serious Sam title. I’d put the average mission time at around 55 minutes on the in-game clock, but that doesn’t include any time you made progress, died and loaded back.
The estimates for the missions are similar, usually saying 50 minutes to an hour each. I’d probably put the total game time for a full Serious campaign at around 6 to 10 hours in total, depending on if you rush the game, how experienced with Serious Sam gameplay you are, and how much you wander off looking for secrets. In that time there are plenty of fun moments, actually a few too many for me to really talk about without the review being extremely long – it’s already getting a bit like that now after all.
Still, it’d be a waste not to mention at least some of them.
One of them is encountering this boss early on. You’ll find it after following a sidequest – what looks like a standard major Biomech is actually a teleporting missile volleying monster. To make matters more interesting, you only have limited weapons at this point, and can’t escape. You’ll also have kamikaze and Gnaar joining the fight by diving into the pit with you regularly.
You only have a small area to run around a set of four large power generators while it teleports around above you, firing salvo after salvo of rockets. My strategy for this ultimately ended up being sprinting around the arena and forgetting about the basic enemies, instead relying on the big guy to nuke them for me with his AoE damage, then firing off bursts of AR whenever he ended up in front of me.
As players of the series may notice in the image, getting that little bit of media for this review cost me a very kamikaze-related demise. Overall it makes for an entertaining fight using only a small twist or two on series staple enemies and early game guns.
Another optional fight much later in the game occurs when the player explores a portal hidden in an underground base.
That portal takes you somewhere in the arctic, under attack from two giant, frozen Gnaar. Which look visually amazing, frankly – usually enemy designs in Serious Sam don’t stray much from their typical designs, but this reskin paired with a size increase makes for a great effect here.
They’ll also make for a great fight, and unlike the previous example, you actually have plenty of your weapons by this point, giving you plenty more options of how to survive and, of course in series typical fashion, brutally murder them.
The game doesn’t just shine with the boss fights though, there’s plenty of side content that doesn’t contain a boss health bar that makes for a damn good time. You get lured out into an Ice lake by another side quest, only to spend a glorious few minutes sliding around the frozen waters blasting Kleer with a double-barrel shotgun – who have an equally hard time sliding around, resulting in them often flying straight past you and back in again after a delay.
Possibly the most dangerous ice skating you’ll ever see.
The last two highlights I’ll mention, without images this time – at some point throughout the story, you’ll encounter a horde of the hopper enemies acting as a boss, much like a level from the first Serious Sam title, and a later level featuring kamikazes raining from the sky, which plays out about as deranged as it sounds like it should.
Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem review, in summary
All in all, I had a pretty great time with this. I did encounter a handful of non-serious bugs with my pre-release copy, such as some trees not quite loading properly until approached in the first level, some backup flying units got stuck behind an invisible barrier during a specific boss fight that fixed themselves when I walked away or to the side of them – but absolutely zero major or game-breaking issues.
The performance feels similar, though a bit improved from Serious Sam 4. My system has a pretty solid CPU (Ryzen 7 5800X) paired with a pretty damn old GPU entering the second half of its sixth year of service – thanks scalpers for that – and I was hovering at minimum 50FPS with 60fps being constant for the majority on a mix of high settings with some things tuned done slightly in borderless mode.
Credit to the Serious Sam series for once again having an absolute obscene wealth of options available in their setting’s menus, something other games could absolutely learn from, with each submenu having plenty to adjust at will contained within too.
Outside of the performance and settings, the music absolutely slaps throughout the game, with damn flawless placement – not once did a track feel out of place, or like another part of the OST would be better suited for another moment in the game.
The rest of the audio is much of what you’d expect from Serious Sam, guns sound satisfying, enemies make their usual grunts and squelching sounds while they live and die respectively, and the Kamikazes scream at the top of their lungs while running straight at you. All is right with the world.
All in all, as someone who enjoyed Serious Sam 4, and pretty much all of the rest of the main-line series, Siberian Mayhem feels like a bit of a short burst of tightened-up SS4 gameplay with very few downsides to it. The story could probably be better, but Serious Sam is rarely, if ever a series you’ll be playing for the story.
Owners of Serious Sam 4 on Steam will find the game has a bit of a store discount for them as well, which is always a plus.
Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem distils the DNA of the series down into a series of long, brutally chaotic levels backed by an all-time peak of a soundtrack, and I’d recommend it entirely to both returning players wanting more and new players looking into the series for the first time, with the only downside being that there simply isn’t enough of it in a single playthrough. More of this please, Timelock.
On a final note, long-time fans of the series can rest assured that if Croteam ever does step away from the role of managing Serious Sam directly, the series would be in excellent hands with Timelock Studio. And with that, I’ll leave you with my single favourite screen capture of my experience of the game. Serious Sam, as it was meant to be played.
Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem£16.79
- Designed by Enthusiasts, and it shows. Series highlight moments abound
- New weapons and Vehicles are all excellent
- Absolutely series peak soundtrack
- Standalone means no redownloading all of Serious Sam 4
- Gameplay as fun as ever
- The price feels a bit steep for a single playthrough
- The pacing could perhaps be improved if some of the levels were split into two
- The story can take a while to wrap your head around