Wars have been waged. Arsenals with the value of small states consumed. Hills and valleys built from sweet rolls, ice cream, jawbreakers or cotton candy have been consumed by explosions, stray bullets and mines detonated prematurely. In the desolate fog left over by the residues of bombs, two worms, one on each side, breathe their last after the last napalm charge that dropped, delighting Robert Duvall’s nostrils.
Emile du Boc, the red team’s survivor, presses the transmission button on a walkie-talkie. „Nest? This is Bald Eagle. I’m requesting a BetaBeta Omega at the following coordinates – four tails westbound – twelve worms northern longitude.” On the other side of the map, hidden in a makeshift tunnel, the blue worm, TomatoMan, feels quite safe. His surprise is genuine as the payload dropped from high above digs through the dirt and cement before exploding in his face, leaving behind only a fine, dusty powder of something that once was a living organism, with dreams and hopes of its own.
As countless frat boys, full-time gamers and survivors from the wild times of the 90s will tell you, the story above happened to a million brave worms in private skirmishes around the globe. Not even the lack of opposable thumbs didn’t stop them from wielding more guns than the A-Team. This spectacle is so unpretentious and fun that most of us know about it, regardless of our other videogaming preferences. The rules are simple, the graphics are easy on the eye, and the short length of every round is not demanding enough to scare away quick interest.
Just like the latest Chessmaster titles, Worms Reloaded does nothing more than dress up the same game in a better outfit – an improved PC port of the Xbox Live remake for Worms Armageddon. Same game, with polished looks and tighter screws on the mechanics.
Sure, it’s still a turn-based tactical showdown – with a default move length set to 45 seconds per living Team Member – time in which you do your best to put the hurt on the opposing player’s grunts. If you want your online matches to get ranked, you have to play with a fixed rule set. Which means no active worm choice before your move, which forces you to take more into account and favour wiser decisions.
The Bazooka, Shotgun, Ninja Rope, Teleport or Petrol Bombs are still in play, along with all kinds of other essential warfare ingredients for any proper team of Lumbricus Terrestris. Sure, some of the toys are gone, most of which were redundant or replaced – while the additions make up for them in full, like magnets to attract or repel incoming explosives, rodents following the terrain into tunnels and alcoves and exploding on impact; Buffalo of Lies, disturbingly similar to my uncle Les, the Super Bunker Buster and Worship, a totem which heals and damages its respective allies and enemies.
It couldn’t have been a Worms game had the landscape not been fully destructible, as every explosion eats away at the land. Live fires caused by blown up barrels and crate burn and spread in the wind. The explosion effects – be they poison, cluster or the legendary Holy Hand Grenade (the series’ nod to Monty Python) look a lot better, mostly thanks to the higher resolution capabilities than previous titles in the series.
The team customization has the same functions – a name for every worm, a name for the whole squad and theme voicework (which has all the token sets and then some) which come into play every time you do something worth reacting to. Plus, you can pick headgear now – from goldilocks to Predator masks – graphic symbols which help drunk players not to send their own soldiers to a bottomless pit.
Visual comments are still in the game, as are the awards at the end of a round and the headstones our late warriors leave behind upon losing all their health. I’m sorry to say that some of the trademark flaws haven’t lost their way either – uncomfortable chat and the lobby interface lacks in information, basic functions and efficiency. And considering the only lengthy attraction in this Worms rehash is broadband multiplayer, these seemingly minor issues can really hold the game back. Especially considering the last title (which actually counts, not the 3D fiascos) was Worms World Party and the series hasn’t made any grand leaps in other aspects.
Although I can’t see too many reasons to play the single-player modes, given the quick multiplayer option, you do have a few options you can skim through: a 35-mission campaign that alternates between increasingly difficult skirmishes, timed races and proper weapon use puzzles. If at first you can finish the challenges in one go without breaking a sweat, towards the end you’ll need to really pull it together if you want the slightest of odds at winning. Warzone is a series of skirmish matches with increasing difficulty, a filler without much substance, Body Count is precisely what the name suggests and the Tutorial can explain (in case you forgot) how to hunt down worms using a bazooka.
The map editor is easy to use, but I hear some have complained about wanting to share their masterpieces on the Internets. Well, I’m just glad Worms didn’t turn into Spore and, to be honest, it’s not like every game is supposed to be Facebook-grade in sharing stuff no one really wants. On the other hand, using a picture for automatic terrain editing and design is pretty darn ingenious.
Integrating Steamworks and thus adding friends for a quick match in your lunch break is in itself all Worms really needs to build a cult of casual, but constant players. That said, the changes are all skin-deep, as it’s still the same wacky warfare we fell in love with in the 90s. However, considering how slow, confusing and unappreciated the 3D versions seemed, a lightweight remake for today’s networking capabilities is more than welcome if you’re longing for this stuff.