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GameSpot's 2001 Game of the Year

1. Serious Sam: The First Encounter

Publisher: GodGames
Developer: Croteam
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Are we serious? You better believe it. Our list of Top 10 PC Games of 2001 stands as a testament to the fact that this was a great year in gaming. In fact, our list of top games could have easily been twice as long. Still, there was certainly no single obvious choice for Game of the Year--most every game released in 2001 was catered to specific tastes. But we award our highest honor to the one game with the most impact, the most appeal, and the most influence. We needed a game that all of us could agree on--the most satisfying, most successfully designed original game each year. Given the nature of this award, perhaps our choice was clear-cut all along.

Serious Sam is the closest thing to a perfect PC gaming experience we've seen all year. Developed by the previously unknown Croteam, Serious Sam is an unpretentious, no-nonsense arcade-style shooter. There's no denying and no debating what it is--even the cover of the box makes it perfectly obvious that Serious Sam is all about action, and that action turns out to be immensely satisfying no matter how you play it.

The action is visceral and completely relentless--and yet there's a real elegance to it. The game's stunning 3D engine lets the game render literally hundreds of enemies onscreen, allowing for single-player levels of unprecedented intensity. If anything, Serious Sam's levels have more in common with arcade classics like Robotron 2084 or Defender than with other first-person shooters.

Serious Sam features the most gigantic battles found in any shooter to date, and the single-player campaign culminates in what's easily the greatest boss battle featured in any shooter ever. You square off against a 10-story monstrosity that's truly a sight to behold. Throughout the single-player game, Sam cracks some genuinely funny one-liners, and together with the game's bizarre cast of monsters--featuring such instant classics as the kleer skeleton and the beheaded kamikaze--the game's lighthearted tone is constantly uplifting. Serious Sam is pretty gory--but even those who are squeamish can enjoy the game by toggling on green blood or even "hippie" blood, which is shown as fruit and flowers and other happy stuff gushing from the bad guys whenever you blast them. If that isn't an ingenious feature, we don't know what is.

Despite the quality of its single-player levels, Serious Sam truly shines in its outstanding cooperative multiplayer mode, in which you can face the hordes of monsters with a group of friends--or with complete strangers. Crank the difficulty up and have at it--the action may be repetitive, but it never grows dull. Serious Sam may not have the production values of outstanding single-player shooters like Max Payne or definitive multiplayer shooters like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but it's the most complete action game of the year. And it's a total steal at just $20.

The price is right, but the bottom line is this: More than any other PC game developer this year, Croteam seemed more acutely aware of what PC games are all about in designing Serious Sam--they're about fun. And for your money (or for twice your money), you'd be hard-pressed to find more fun in a single PC game than you could in Serious Sam.

GameSpot is very proud of its track record for its Game of the Year award, which is now in its sixth year. In 1996, we selected Blizzard's hugely popular action RPG, Diablo. In 1997, we chose the innovative, yet unsurpassed, real-time strategy game, Total Annihilation. In 1998, against all odds we selected LucasArts' beautiful adventure game, Grim Fandango. In 1999, we awarded EverQuest with our highest honor, and the game remains prominent to this day. Last year, our Game of the Year award went to The Sims, Maxis' incredibly successful and brilliantly designed real-life strategy game. And now, we honor Serious Sam--the very first shooter to earn our Game of the Year award and certainly the best choice for the award of all the games that were published this year.

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