Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem is a horde first-person shooter and standalone expansion to Serious Sam 4 by Timelock Studio and Croteam. Timelock is mainly comprised of Serious Sam modders, and the passion shows in this game. While Siberian Mayhem won’t turn over anyone who isn’t down with the running backward gameplay the series is known for, if you love that kind of stuff, this game is a juicy treat. In terms of quality-level design and combat encounters, Siberian Mayhem is the best in the series since The Second Encounter.
Story – Sam In The Multiverse of Madness
Siberian Mayhem’s story, on the surface, seems like a simple interlude taking place between the last two chapters of Serious Sam 4. Sam explores Russia to exact revenge on General Brand, who betrayed his team after defeating Lord Achriman. He eventually encounters several new characters along the way, like One-Eyed Olga and Ledov’s squad. Olga was actually mentioned in Sam 4 by Bill Corwin. Speaking of which, Bill Corwin, who gave a lot of the narrative in Sam 4, is not the game, sadly, because his voice actor passed away in 2021.
The new characters are highly enjoyable, and Sam himself is still funny. He’s starting to become more self-aware, similar to what Duke Nukem originally was in Duke 3D. Sam saying, “yeah, sure, no ambush here,” when coming into a large arena clearly meant for an ambush, gives off that old Duke vibe. It’s like Duke saying, “where is it?” when spamming to open a secret area in Duke 3D. The main issue of the story is the continuation and heightening of this time travel and multiple dimension shenanigans. Serious Sam is not the kind of game series that people will analyze and try to find out the exact placement of events and how everything fits. Keep it simple. These are horde shooters, not a Remedy title trying to challenge you with its story.
Gameplay – Just The Way You Like It
The gameplay in Siberian Mayhem is mostly the same as other Sam titles, but there are various tweaks to refine the formula for the better. First off, this title is much shorter than Serious Sam 4, with only 5 chapters instead of the core game’s 15. Despite this, the chapters are quite long. If played on the hardest setting, each chapter will take over an hour to finish, and you get into the intense action far quicker.
Normally in the core Sam games, it takes quite a few levels to get into the really intense horde shooting because it still wants you to get acquainted. This can frustrate the veteran players, though, since they want to get to the horde shooting right away. In Siberian Mayhem, you get to the intense horde combat about a quarter into the first level, so this won’t be an issue.
The level design and combat encounters are the most well-done in the series for a while. Several encounters have an actual focus on movement in an arena space instead of the usual walk-backward gameplay. The designers often mix up the encounters, and most of them feel very unique. Like the hard-as-nails elevator ride and the battle on ice in the side quests. Siberian Mayhem also feels much more classic in its traps. Almost every alone plus 1 health pill will come with a trap, unlike Sam 4, which I recall only did that once outside of secrets.
Speaking of secrets, they’re great and more similar to the classic games’ easter egg feel rather than 3 or 4. More deadly traps are rampant in the secrets than in Sam 4. There are also little to no parkour secrets, which is a relief because some of those in Sam 4 got really frustrating. Some of the secrets take you to sections from the classic games, complete with their original secrets, too. It felt awesome to remember the secret at the end of the Citadel, where you shoot a barrel with a rocket to reveal armor and have the same thing happen in Siberian Mayhem.
There is one notable part of the game that’s severely lacking, and that’s the tank section. At least, on a controller, the tank is so stiff and completely opposite to the design philosophy of the series. Its limited movement will likely make you just hang back and shoot the horde of enemies from a distance. If that sounds boring, that’s because it is. The repair stations also aren’t active on normal or higher, making it more tempting to play that way.
Additional Content and Console Oversights
While the campaign’s short several other aspects actually have more content than Sam 4. Survival mode is much beefer this time around with 6 maps. Some of them are remakes of older ones like Kleer Fortress (Kleer Base) and Monkey Canyon (Triple Trouble), and their quite fun to play.
There’s also a far wider variety of player skins, making it more fun to dress up this time around. Many fan-favorite skins like Kleer Kurt and Serious Sammy, who weren’t in Sam 4, are back in Siberian Mayhem. Like the core game, there are no leaderboards, resulting in achieving high scores being less encouraged. In the console versions, there’s one big oversight that is unacceptable.
The achievement/trophy list is exactly the same as the Steam version. However, one of them entails playing co-op on serious mode with the enemy multiplier set to at least x2. The issue is that the enemy multiplier feature isn’t in the console versions making completion impossible at the moment. It’s one thing to have glitched achievements, but this is straight-up asking the player to do something that you can’t do. In all my years of achievement hunting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation like this.
Graphics & Sound – Not As Bad As You May Expect
Considering this is an expansion to Serious Sam 4, a game that was heavily criticized for its graphics and performance, you might expect Siberian Mayhem to be the same. You’d be half-right. Graphics have the same issue of often not being rendered all the way, but all the environments do look quite good. Character models are also superior to Sam 4 and don’t look as much off. The gore effects are still satisfying as well. Performance is solid on Xbox Series X, as long as you kill all the enemies.
If you run past them to get to the end of a level as fast as possible, the performance will be crippled. Enemies never despawn, so if you play this way, you will be punished. The soundtrack is, unfortunately, not as good as Sam 4, but it still does its job. There are no hard bangers this time, but they all fit the Russian setting the game takes place. The sound effects are what they should be for a horde FPS game, with the various enemies having their own sound cues to help players. Nothing in the sound design is mind-blowing, but it fits perfectly for the type of game Serious Sam is.
Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem was reviewed on Xbox Series X.