Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope recently came out of early access, where it’s been for almost a year. Even back then, early indicators pointed to this one being a winner, and Croteam continued to tweak, polish and add new planets and features to this classic PC shooter base over the course of the past 12 months. I will say that I’m personally getting a little burnt out on VR wave shooters, but The Last Hope is fast-paced, charming, twisted, fun and ultimately a wave shooter I’ve found myself going back to over and over again during the past week or so just to see if I can conquer the next level.
The core game consists of 20 levels: four missions on five planets. Although you’re mostly planted in place and can even play from a seated position, The Last Hope is built for room scale so you can move around a bit within each environment. There are even some levels that take place on a moving platform — both vertical and horizontal — adding a little variety and sense of mobility to the experience. Depending on how well you do and what difficulty level you’re playing on, you’ll gain weapon upgrades, skills and power-ups like double damage, massive orbital weapons and slowing down time. You can also play random-spawn Endless Wave and Arena modes with 8 planets apiece as well as Daily Challenges, but there aren’t many consistent players, so the leaderboards are littered with all the same names.
To say Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope is frantic is a vast understatement. When I first jumped in ready to do some John Woo-style dual wielding action I started on Normal difficulty, but with access to just the basic laser pistols, that became a futile and punishing journey. After popping down to Easy for my first few sessions, it allowed me to upgrade my weapons and skills, and also helped me remember the enemy spawn and movement patterns.
The pace and stratagem of Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope are some of my favorite aspects of the game. Waves generally start out slow, but ramp up quickly, give you a little breather in the middle, then rise again to a grand crescendo, often with a mega-sized boss staring you down. Sure, ultimately this is a wave shooter, but it’s more strategic than most, and getting through the wave comes down to less about just shooting constantly and instead thinking about what weapons to use, when to use your shield, what enemies to prioritize and when to use your super weapons, skills and power-ups.
While most levels have no-goodniks coming at you in a 180-degree half-circle, Serious Sam VR does a great job of mixing up the elevation with a number of different types of running, rolling, crawling and flying foes. My head was constantly rotating and pitching as I tried to spot enemies to the left, right, up and down — and in one stage — behind. The patterns became rhythmic and my movements became dancelike as I played more and let my muscle memory take over. It became a very Zen-like experience where my brain relaxed and my body just went with it. I’m also pretty sure I caught myself vocalizing “Pew! Pew! Pew!” on more than one occasion because I was getting into it so much.
Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope features a wide variety of guns from single-shot pistols and shotguns and a rocket launcher to more rapid-fire fare like automatic rifles, a chaingun and laser cannon. There are a couple of melee weapons, and while I found the chainsaw neat and satisfying to use as enemies closed in around me, it wasn’t very practical because if you let the creatures get that close, chances are you’re going down pretty fast. The power sword offers a good mix of both melee and range combat as it produces a huge energy wave that sweeps through hordes of enemies, but that also makes it overpowered and a bit cheap, although it was very handy at higher difficulty levels.
As I said before, the delta between difficulty levels is quite extreme, and while the jump from Easy to Normal wasn’t that crazy, going from Normal to Hard was just pure pain, and Serious level was like trying to dodge raindrops in a hurricane.
You can play the missions cooperatively, but I found co-op matching very inconsistent, with numerous server errors. It’s also hard to find a co-op game at all because there aren’t many people currently playing. Another drawback I had while playing was an annoying yet rare firing bug where one of my guns would just stop responding. I had to break the safety boundary with the gun to get the trigger to start responding again.
Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope combines frenetic action, testosterone-laden humor and beautiful graphics into a solid VR package that kept me coming back for more punishment. It has few minor blemishes and may not have lasting power for some gamers, but ultimately it’s one of the best VR wave shooters you can play. Now where did I put that rocket launcher?