Serious Sam Double D XXL Preview: Guns. Lots of Guns.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since the release of Serious Sam Double D, the 2-D side-scrolling version of the shooter franchise, on PC. Since that time, an Xbox Live Arcade version has been in the works, but it’s been slow-going.

So rather than just port the same game from one platform to another, Serious Sam Double D XXL — the Xbox version of the title — has been seriously, crazily expanded: The “XXL” part isn’t for nothing. In fact, it seems there’s so much more to enjoy about XXL that one hopes this version eventually finds its way back to PC.

I got a chance to play the first six levels of Serious Sam Double D XXL on Xbox Live Arcade ahead of the title’s release later this month, and from what I can tell, shooter fans are going to be very happy. There are more guns, more gun upgrades and more secrets to enjoy, plus one spectacular addition: couch co-op. Even if you’re an owner of the original XXL is a game to be excited about snagging.

The opening act of the game focuses on Ancient Egypt, where Sam has traveled through time in order to defeat the forces of nemesis Mental. Immediately, the shooting begins, with Sam mowing down monsters, headless gunwielding baddies, suicide bombers and more: basically, all the enemies you’d expect from the Serious Sam franchise. But it doesn’t take long to start procuring additional guns with which to annihilate your adversaries, or to start coming across baddies that require a little more firepower than what your standard shotgun or Tommy gun can deliver on its own.

That’s where Double D’s “gun-stacking” mechanic comes into play. By finding certain items, you can stack guns on top of other guns to creates huge super-guns six weapons high. It quickly can turn your weapons into powerhouses, adding shotguns to machine guns to grenade launchers to flame throwers to chainsaws.

You can stack as many as six guns together as you find additional stacker components to link them, resulting in some serious death machines. Exploring can help you find additional weapons and stacking components to make more than one weapon, which is where Double D XXL starts to get cool. The more guns you acquire, the more weapons you can make, but while the first stack you can create during the opening levels of the game is cool, as you start to unlock new things, you’ll realize that just piling weapons together for the sake of it isn’t nearly as effective as picking the right guns for the job.

This is compounded by what’s probably the biggest non-co-op new feature about XXL: upgradeable weapons. You’ll visit a shopkeeper a number of times through the game — in the preview I saw him at least once a level. Earning money from killing monsters allows you to buy new upgrades for your guns, which you can install on your weapons and toggle on and off. The have various benefits, too, some of which help outside of combat. The Air Buffer I bought for my machine pistol, for example, allowed Sam to glide across the air for as long as the gun was being fired, and that was a serious help for finding secrets and circumventing major enemy attacks.

Among the other upgrades I found in the preview was a shotgun enhancement that slowed down enemies I shot with it, a Tommy gun upgrade that made projectiles bounce off surfaces, and a grenade launcher upgrade that made it spit out insects that would slowly chew up any enemies they came across. Switching on and off various upgrades can make them useful in different ways and at different times, and if you’re willing to look around, you’ll find multiple versions of the same gun, allowing you to key them for specific situations. I didn’t get a chance to build more than one gun stack, really, but it’s easy to imagine the ability to queue up different uber-weapons for different situations.

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