Since Croteam had been allowing other developers to make games with Serious Sam in there in a variety of genres, it only makes sense that they would eventually turn to the modding community for a title. Rather then just making an official update with a community mod made features (dual wielding in Serious Sam 2), Siberian Mayhem is a full on, stand-alone game made by long time Russian Serious Sam modders, with Croteam offering support, writing, and voice work.
Essentially an expansion pack for Serious Sam 4, this chaotic Russian adventure is about half the size of the main game with a fitting twenty dollar price tag. It also manages to go above and beyond with some fun ideas and level design touches you won’t see in an official Croteam developer game. It’s a product of love from long time fans that manages to carve out its own identity in the margins, while matching up well with Croteam’s mainline efforts.
Possibly taking place in yet another timeline (supposedly after Sam’s plane escape in 4), the game has Sam chasing down a traitor to humanity somewhere in Russia, and the usual shenanigans and bits of actual drama ensue. The game feels properly authentic, with the Kyratzes returning from the previous game to get that unique tone just right. The quips are properly clever in a purposefully dumb way, and the few cutscenes feel like they would be right at home in Serious Sam 4, including surprise character appearances. Even the new Russian squad Sam meets up with feel in line with the over the top feel of the AAA squad.
It helps a lot of voice actors return, with John J. Dick putting in another memorable performance. Special mention must be made to Gianni Matragrano as Sam’s biggest fan Ledov, who is just a delight every time he has a line and matches up with Dick in the end game’s more serious beats. Don’t expect a full on story, though. Siberian Mayhem is more an alternate book end for Serious Sam 4, but makes it worth it with memorable little moments on the way.
The changes to the arsenal here are small in number but huge in impact. The assault rifle has been swapped for a Russian equivalent, functionally the same, but the sniper rifle and electricity gun are another story. You now get a ridiculous crossbow that can fire through enemies that does huge headshot damage, making the sniper rifle look like child’s play. The low ammo pool balances out from being easily abused, but it never stops being useful, especially against witch brides.
The “Burner” Raygun is also monstrous, switching out energy shots and lightning bolt style ray alt-fire for the latter but stronger and able to make enemies killed with it explode. That one is saved for the forth of the five levels, but you will get a LOT of use out of it. There’s even a new hoverboard gadget that lets you ride around in first person on a hover craft with a laser turret. It’s a load of fun that changes up the feel of fire fights by speeding you up massively.
The enemy roster additions are minor, with a marsh hopper replacement and a flamethrower enemy with a new burner ray variant, plus one optional boss type and a new final boss. To make up for that, the game makes the most of the vast, vast SS4 roster, throwing off the training gloves by the second level. Don’t let the low level count fool you, the last three are quite large and filled to the brim with monsters to gib, making up the meat of the run time.
There’s plenty of fun set-pieces to mess with, like a new mech section where you get a chainsaw arm, but the game’s real strength is in the weird secrets and dash of old school Serious Sam cruelty. There’s one optional mission that ends with a giant khnum – on the second level. In a small building, It is delightfully mean in a way Croteam has moved on from, and never goes too far in that direction.
The devs knew what they were doing, levels fun funnels of monster blasting chaos with weird surprises on the sides, from newly added retro secret areas, to unexpected lore gags that come right out of nowhere. That’s not even getting into the really bonkers stuff, like one really wild secret revolving around a bonfire. It feels playful, but still keeps the polished feel that Serious Sam 4‘s campaign had in the main line of progression.
This is a delight of a game, a modern Serious Sam with the soul of the older ones, where the developers had a dumb sense of humor about themselves and a mean playfulness that you don’t see even from the B-game scene these days. Still, it’s tempered, so as to not be violently alienating to newcomers, matching well with SS4‘s more forgivable but still challenging gameplay. It’s even well paced, with little moments between fire fights to let you breathe. Hopefully we’ll see more modders on the scene getting their shot at their own official games, because if they’re anything like Siberian Mayhem, with so much attention and care from everyone involved, it could result in some really interesting games in-between long gaps in Croteam’s releases.