Let slip the worms of war
One cannot help but wonder, after so many years of senseless violence and bloodshed, what is it that makes worms so murderous? I guess that if you lived in the dirt, looked a bit gross, and were so often at the mercy of a trowel or a spade, you’d probably be a bit angry too.
The endless cycle of wormicide continues in Worms Revolution — a misnomer if ever I’ve heard one. Yes, it’s pretty much still the same old Worms, but in the best way possible. Honestly, I’m glad. We don’t really need another Worms 3D.
Worms Revolution (PC [reviewed], PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Team 17 Software Ltd.
Publisher: Team 17 Software Ltd.
Release: October 10, 2012
If you love Worms and you’re just looking to sink your teeth into another colorful artillery game then stop reading, and go and buy the bloody thing. The core gameplay is, despite the new engine, nearly identical to the rest of the 2D installments; which means it’s still pretty great.
Two teams of battle-hardened worm warriors meet on destructible battlefields and use a highly customizable variety of weapons, from the mundane, like shotgun and bazookas, to the absolutely bonkers, like explosive grannies and holy hand grenades (if it’s not from Antioch, you’ve been ripped off), just to name a few.
If you’re like me, however, and you’ve played the countless iterations, and they’ve all started to blend together, then you’re probably wondering if it’s worth picking up yet again. Do you like water, physics, and the consistently hilarious Matt Berry of IT Crowd and Mighty Boosh fame? If you don’t, then you should probably just go back to playing Worms 2: Armageddon (or Worms Reloaded on the PC) which, up until now, was the most polished and content-heavy title in the series.
For those of you still with me, you answered correctly. All three of those things are awesome, and two of them are awesome in Worms Revolution. You get a gold star.
Water has been pushed as one of the defining features that sets this version apart from its predecessors. Water bombs, water pistols, pools — it’s like summer time. Unfortunately, it’s actually October, so there’s always the risk of pneumonia, too. Water-based weaponry makes up a small part of your wormy arsenal, while also featuring prominently as dangerous environmental hazards.
A water bomb or pistol can be employed to make enemy worms slide down slopes, and presumably to their doom, or just get them soggy and even more gross. Nobody likes a soggy worm. Similarly, a pool of water above some unsuspecting worms can be blown up, showering the worms below. It might push them down a hill, or it might create another pool that slowly drowns the little soldiers. The water acts more like runny jelly than good old H2O, and that’s cool with me — jelly is a lot more funny than water.
It’s just another reason to pay close attention to the environment, and murdering foes in such a way is immensely satisfying. It’s one of the most welcome additions to the series, and in the likely event we continue to get more Worms installments, I hope it becomes a mainstay.
The physics shenanigans are a little less impressive, sadly. Large objects are scattered throughout levels — the refuse of humans. Worms are actually scaled appropriately, so mobile phones, zippo lighters, and water bottles are all significantly larger than the suicidal wee beasties. Telepathy and UFOs can move and drop these objects, some of which explode and drench the area in flames, and they are also susceptible to weapons fire, which can dislodge them or blow them up.
Much of the time, interacting with these objects is just a lot of hassle. Using telepathy to move objects is incredibly imprecise, and very rarely does it feel like you’ve achieved anything by doing so. Whether or not an object is damaged when you fire upon it also seems rather arbitrary. Directly hitting a bottle with a rocket might do no damage whatsoever, wasting a turn, whereas using the same tactics with a zippo might actually blow it up, or it might not. It feels random, and thus isn’t a particularly solid tactic when there are actual explosives like mines or barrels, or pockets of water that will definitely unleash a torrent if struck.
Team 17 haa tried to mix up the dynamics of one’s squad of worms by introducing classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The giant cranium of the Scientist allows them to make better turrets, for instance, and their knowledge of medicine means that every worm on their team regenerates a small amount of health each turn. The sneaky Scout is smaller and faster than his fellows, and can get into wee nooks and crannies that larger worms can only dream about (they are worms, so chances are they have weird dreams). The Heavy is a slow, ponderous behemoth; soaking up damage and smacking people around is his business. And finally, there’s the basic Soldier — the all-rounder, if you will.
I tended to favor the Soldier over the other classes, but the inclusion of such a feature definitely changed the way I played the game, even if it was only marginally. I’d frequently ignore easy kills so I could take the healing Scientist out quickly, or hunt down a Scout before he managed to worm his way into a tiny hole.
Worms Revolution comes with a surprisingly robust single-player campaign, along with a puzzle mode. I honestly don’t see the appeal of playing Worms by one’s self, but if I did, I would be all over this. There are some ingenious — one could even say devious — maps which are genuinely enjoyable to play through, even if it is against AI opponents. The campaign, and to a greater extent the puzzle mode, teaches players slightly more advanced tactics, encouraging players to think outside the box. Matt Berry narrates the whole thing in typical loin-melting fashion, and between the jokes and mockery he usually gives a hint (and often outright instruction) on how to tackle particular levels.
If you want to brush up on your worm-slaying skills without embarrassing yourself in front of friends and strangers on the Internet, then you can’t really go wrong with the single-player shenanigans. The fact that you’ll laugh your arse off thanks to Mr. Berry is just the icing on the cake. Really delicious icing. None of the cheap crap.
Multiplayer is where the action is, however, and not simply because it’s fun to destroy the hopes and dreams of a human opponent; although, that is certainly a factor. The joy of the multiplayer is in tailoring it for your own perfect battle experience. The PC version comes with a level editor, so of course there’s the whole act of designing your battlefield, but there’s so much more. Confession time: I’m nutty about menus. I could scroll through menus tweaking a game until it perfectly fits my specifications all day long. Unfortunately, the menus of Worms Revolution are fairly awful, but if you can get past how badly laid out they are, you may very well find yourself in customization Nirvana.
You can customize each mode (Classic, Deathmatch, and Forts), and alter how many times you can use the ninja rope, how frequently you encounter mines, how much health worms have, if they take damage from falling, if dynamic water will be used, how often crates are dropped, the length of the fuse on sticks of dynamite… needless to say, it’s rather in-depth.
The modes themselves aren’t particularly surprising, but even before you start tinkering with them, they are more than serviceable. Classic removes the new features like water, Deathmatch doesn’t, and Forts places the teams on two opposing land masses. More variety would have been welcome, but the customization options covers that if you’re willing to play about with the settings for a bit.
Worms Revolution is as good as the franchise has ever been. It’s good old psychotic fun, and that’s all I really wanted. Yet, after 17 years, it’s still very much the same game. Those looking for a refreshing take on the basic formula might be a tad disappointed, but in the face of watching suicidal grannies take out wriggly cannon fodder, or self-destructing moles, I think that disappointment will be short-lived.