Die, like the worm you are!
With over 20 different Worms games released since 1995, developers Team17 have introduced numerous changes to the popular franchise. Some games ventured into the 3D realm while others added a single-player, story-based campaign, but they all retained the popular turn-based strategy formula. I'm really happy to see the hilarious franchise return to its 2D roots with the release of Worms W.M.D, and the new features add a welcome bit of variety to the wanton destruction.
Just like the cute creatures themselves, only gamers who live under a rock haven't heard about Worms. For the uninitiated, Worms is a turn-based strategy franchise where players control a small platoon of worms and use modern weaponry to eliminate opposing teams. Players take turns controlling each member of their team as they navigate the deformable terrain and attack the enemy. While there isn't a story-based campaign in this version, players can still enjoy a single-player mode filled with numerous levels as well as several challenge levels and online multiplayer.
Each two-dimensional level looks similar to an ant farm, but the dirt is replaced by “realistic-looking” environments. Worms W.M.D has a variety of levels filled with buildings, bridges, girders, trees, plants, ruins, and other structures that look like they were made for worms to use. Not only does this look cool, but it also lets the developers introduce the ability to go inside buildings. With this new feature, players can use alternate routes and take cover from bombardments. However, I miss the novelty of past levels that were littered with over-sized objects that were proportionate to the worms themselves.
Technically, these worms are invertebrates, but they certainly don't lack a backbone when it comes to engaging in deadly combat. Fans expect standard weapons like grenades and the rocket launcher in each game, but some of my returning favorites include the shotgun, sticky grenade, carpet bomb, fire punch, and the sheep launcher. There are plenty of new weapons too: bazooka pie, super flatulence sheep, angry concrete donkey, and the holy mine grenade (three is the number thou shall count, and the counting of the number shall be three...). More destructive weapons means players have additional chances to create total mayhem onscreen!
Completely new to the series is the ability to craft weaponry while on the battlefield. Players obtain crafting ingredients from item crates littered on the battlefield and also from dismantling weapons they currently own. One item can be crafted per worm during each turn, and it becomes ready on the next turn. Crafting is a great addition because it lets players obtain weapons that they may not have been able to grab from weapon crates due to random worm placement at the start of each battle. I also like customizing my weapon loadout by breaking down weapons I don't need and crafting useful weapons and items.
Another new feature is the ability to use vehicles in combat, though some are far better than others. For example, the helicopter is great for quickly moving around each level, but its spray-and-pray mini-gun doesn't do much damage. The armored tank is much more useful as it can fire a volley of destructive cannon shells on each turn, but its mobility is limited by the terrain. Combine the mobility of the helicopter with the power the tank, and the result is the mighty mech. This agile vehicle can jump and glide over chasms and holes and also perform a powerful ground slam to send enemies flying through the air.
While the single-player campaign and challenges are fun, they're really just practice for playing Worms W.M.D online. This is mostly due to the A.I. in single-player mode that makes odd decisions like shooting shotguns at enemies across the screen, firing rockets into walls, and simply not taking a turn and jumping rope instead. Human opponents are much more unpredictable, and there are some truly skilled players out there that can perform amazingly accurate shots and use strategies I've never seen before. Another advantage to online play is that there's plenty of time to talk smack while waiting for your turn.
Even though this is one of my favorite Worms titles to date, it has its share of problems. For starters, there's frequent and random framerate stuttering, which is odd because the game is not graphically intensive. Also, some of the A.I. rocket launcher shots are insanely accurate and seem nearly impossible for human players to make. Another gripe I have is the way the camera re-centers itself after the first shot in the tank volley. This makes it very difficult to aim consecutive shots unless the camera is completely zoomed out.
Last, I'm not crazy about the way anyone can steal a vehicle from another player simply by jumping into it. This results in round-robin games where opponents take turns hopping into the same vehicle and blasting each other until one worm is dead or the vehicle is destroyed. I think the game would benefit from a more difficult way to steal an enemy's vehicle, like using a turn to destroy the hatch before it can be hijacked.
Minor gripes aside, Worms W.M.D is a great addition to the long-running series! Combining new features like vehicles and crafting with the original 2D design is a great way to update the series while still keeping the old-school flavor. As a result, Worms WMD is sure to satisfy fans of the series and hopefully lure in a new generation of players.