Worms WMD: (Xbox One) Review
Not So Much?
Worms WMD launches itself into the mainstream again with a dedication to their glory days of Worms Armageddon. Everything is put together very well and fans of the franchise will cherish it. It seems built specifically for large multiplayer battles, but the pacing and wait time hinders the enjoyment of the very environment it is designed for.
It’s the 21st birthday of Worms and here to celebrate is Worms WMD, a title that refers to about 10 different initials, including Wonderful Multiplayer Destruction; We’ve Massive Discounts; We Make Devastation; We’ll Make ya Dangerous; Worms. Must. Die; Well, that’s Me Dead (pushing it a little there, Worms), Worms in Many Destinations or Walking Mechanised Destruction. I don’t remember ‘weapons of mass destruction’ coming up, but I’m sure it’s implied. IGN once put the Worms franchise on a list of games that have jumped the shark – feedback Team 17 listened to as their new title(s) is essentially Worms Armageddon in a rad new skin. Credit where it’s due: they did a pretty good job recreating it.
For those unfamiliar with the Worms IP, it’s a turn-based strategy game with a cartoonish attitude. Flesh-coloured shapes debatably resembling worms spread out over a randomly generated 2D level and proceed to blow seven s**ts out of each other with a collection of comedy weapons. It’s a wonderfully simple concept that Team 17 have never stopped trying to improve on – since 1995, there have only been three non-consecutive years that didn’t have Worms release of some kind. Ventures into 3D, golf variations, and space escapades haven’t done much to improve the franchise, so it’s instead decided to go back to its roots, but with a bit more current-gen polish. For better or for worse, the experience doesn’t feel especially new.
There’s a campaign mode for challenges and tutorials if you want them, but Worms has always been best played with friends (or online). You could say that’s probably true with all things, but Worms makes it almost a necessity, since playing against AI offers limited entertainment. A highlight of single player for me was winning the game when the AI decided to leap off a ledge, open a parachute and artfully glide its way to a very difficult-to-reach patch of bottomless ocean. That said, when I played with a real, human friend, it took five minutes of gameplay for them to ask ‘Why don’t they make this as an app?’ Team 17 did, of course, Worms 4 was released for smartphones last year for the 20th anniversary of Worms. But it’s still a good question.
So what differentiates this console version from the (seemingly much better suited) phone app version? Well, there’s much more focus on the single-player campaign, although it’s more like a series of challenges to master. I confess we had some fun attempting to take out eight worms with one flight of a helicopter. It’s pretty satisfying, although can get a little repetitive even with the vehicle options. Speaking of, another new factor is the vehicles and these really mix things up for those used to the hiking and ninja-roping strategy. Each vehicle has its own advantages – helicopters fly with a downward facing machine gun while tanks roll along with a six-shooter mortar cannon – with the exception of the mech suit that is debatably useless (at least compared to its promise). You can remove an enemy worm from a vehicle with one button so the battles never feel particularly unfair or one-sided. The other big boast Team 17 is raving about is building interiors, which to me sounds like painter boasting about discovering how to set up an easel, but whatever. Worms can now go inside structures for a strategic advantage because they can’t be seen by anyone outside. That’s it.
Before each round, users are offered customization of their multiplayer rounds, including the environment theme. The theme options look fantastic and are all hand-painted and, while the shape of the terrain is random, expect all the levels to look like Cthulu merged with Sim City. Not that the terrain shape matters much when everything you do blows huge chunks out of the destructible environment. The animation is all relatively simple, but it’s the subtle touches to the design that make it all fit very well and great pains have been taken to emulate the physics of Worms Armageddon. The idle and death animations and reliably entertaining, but most impressive for me is the writing. With no story to care about, the script amounts to filler comments and character-based quips, of which there is an incredible number. One of the challenges in single player involved taking on an AI team of rapper worms; it took about thirty minutes of constant rapping from about six worms for a line to be repeated. On a more sour note, the round took over thirty minutes.
Yes, while everything on paper looks and sounds great, the practical implementation doesn’t quite hold up. It doesn’t matter that the music is rad and hits the Worms tone on the nose, or that Team 17 have used a brand new engine to copy the Worms Armageddon physics, or even that the expansion pack has loads of fun extras, like a goat weapon inspired by Goat Simulator – it’s not very interesting when you have roughly one minute of play for every ten minutes of game time. It’s a very slow-paced game that works just fine for a 90s PC game when we were swapping chairs to get to the computer to play, but not for me and my friend, eager to blow each other up with concrete donkeys. Worse still are the loading times that take roughly the same amount of time as Battlefield 4, and a preview level button that takes just the right amount of time to make you want to not bother. These gripes might sound a little too subjective to you – in which case, by all means, buy Worms WMD, you’ll probably love it – but it was a dealbreaker for me.
For what it’s worth, the Worms concept is formatted in a way that is probably the best version of itself it can be. It’s not like many other games you can get for your console and puts a lot of effort into making what it does very effective. Vehicles and interiors create new dimensions (not literally, it’s still all 2D) in both strategy and chaos, so thumbs up for the inclusion. It should be an ideal game to play locally with your friends but, honestly, it’s hard to imagine Team 17 finding new audiences with this one. If you’re a fan of Worms: Armageddon then this is a great tribute to it, but I can’t see why you wouldn’t just get the App for £17 cheaper.