Worms Battlegrounds (PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])
Released: May 27, 2014
Instead of going with the piecemeal approach of adding in new features and promptly taking them out with the next iteration, Battlegrounds feels like a natural evolution from recent entries. It has the clans from Clan Wars. It has the classes from Worms Revolution. And it features the same old turn-based gameplay it had in 1995.
Just like Clan Wars there's a tiny setup involved, once again featuring a magical artifact called the Stone Carrot, and a thieving villain. It's not exactly Pullitzer material, but it's a better effort than churning out game after game with zero cohesive thematic elements, so it's much appreciated. Here, the setting is a museum.
So does it look like a current-gen game? Not really. It's a decent middle-ground in terms of a downloadable title, but the 3D effects and the backgrounds can often get in the way (concealing key objects and platforms) more than they will awe you. In short, it looks like a very high quality game from the Xbox Live Arcade era. I would love it if Team17 could go back to the hand-drawn look, and make it stand out as much as the new Rayman games.
Gameplay is still the same, for better or worse. You'll get an arsenal of weapons at your disposal (now it's up to 65 tools), and you'll blow the other team to smithereens. Sometimes there's stuff in the way that you have to traverse by way of jetpacks, drills, and ropes, but most of your time will be spent blasting away with rockets and strategically placing mines. The new tools (Aqua Packs, Winged Monkey minions, and the Mega Mortar) are all fun in their own way, but you'll likely want to limit their use in multiplayer.
Just as always the controls can be finicky if you aren't used to them, and back-flipping or rolling down a hill to your death can be pretty common. As a turn-based game it doesn't necessarily need a fully twitch action system, but more precision would be appreciated in future iterations. Still, even if it's just for a while, watching a worm back-flip to his death from 100 feet up (comparatively) is pretty funny.
The aforementioned classes help add a tiny bit of strategy to the proceedings, and the Soldier, Scout, Heavy, and Scientists return. All of them play out just like you'd imagine (well-rounded, fast, resilient, and resourceful), and even though you'll likely just play them relatively the same way, it helps that there's a little variety involved, especially in the customization process.
Story mode is very short, with 25 levels (that go by very quickly), and 10 "Spec Ops" missions that don't amount to much more than training exercises. Like its predecessors, Battlegrounds' real worth is in its multiplayer -- so you'll want to grab some friends immediately, or try to find some online with the included matchmaking tools. Four players are supported to be exact, with a scant two modes -- Deathmatch, and Forts, which is basically just Deathmatch with teams starting in their own structures.
The customization elements are the bulk of the game's content, including the power to design a clan and bring it online, as well as create an emblem and send trash talk clan-to-clan. Actual worm customization returns, and you can play dress-up as well as change your team's voices to say, pirate lingo. It's a ton of fun just flipping through all the different voices and finding your favorite. There's also a level editor, which is highly functional from a console standpoint (since the feature hardly makes it there), but relatively bare-bones if you're coming from the perspective of a PC gamer.
Like most Worms games, you'll need other people to play with or risk monotony. Enemy AI still isn't the sharpest tool in the shed even this far in the game, and they can take far too long between turns, leading to boredom. Given the price tag of $25, it's perfect for those of you who haven't played a Worms game in years and have the itch. But if you've been playing along for the past few years, you might be able to skip this slightly upgraded collective of recent entries -- unless you're a fanatic, of course.
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