While the games industry isn't exactly known for being rooted in reality, Worms is a game that takes the biscuit. After all, God only knows what Yorkshire developer, Team 17 were on when they came up with the idea for Worms. Pitting one team of slimy soil dwellers against another in an all out annelid war, its not the most obvious of concepts for a game - and when these worms also have hands, are armed with weapons ranging from a bazooka to an exploding pensioner, and hurl insults with a cockney accent, whilst cape wearing sheep are soaring overhead, you know youve got a recipe for something thats completely bonkers but also rather special. And, for 17 years, Worms has been just that.
Worms Revolution, then, is the latest instalment in the worm warfare game. A turn based... we hesitate to say strategy game, because thats not really what its all about - perhaps blowing up game would be better suited - the game stays fairly true to the series past, with the idea being to dish out as much damage to the worms of the opposing team as possible, as you pick them off, one by one. Your pink pals still squeak helium-induced insults as they squelch around each course, cracking one liners as they decimate their opponents. Theres still support for four player, same console multiplayer, which has you playing into the early hours. And, of course, youve still got a variety of crazy weapons with which to inflict death on your pink, squishy opponents.
With tongue firmly in cheek, the range of weapons on offer here is nothing if not impressive. Along with the standard bazookas, shotguns, and machine guns, comes a few more unusual additions. Concrete Donkeys plummet from the sky with a deafening EEH HAWWW, squishing everything below, Super Sheep sprout a cape and fly, before exploding on contact with, well, pretty much anything, and the Old Woman dodders along the ground, mumbling something to herself about a young man, before promptly detonating at the press of a button. Its bonkers. Its worms.
But as the title may suggest, Worms Revolution brings with it a few changes, some of which are welcome, others less so. For starters, the game features nice, 3D environments and characters, yet the gameplay is still 2D you can only move left and right, making movement, and aiming your weapons a lot easier than when the series chose to dabble in 3D. Theres also a new class system for the Worms, letting you stock your team with your choice of four types of worms Scientists, who, despite their giant noggin, are fairly weak, but let your team regenerate health for each round they survive; Heavies, who, as the name may suggest, may have eaten one too many dirt pies and can absorb plenty of damage, but cant really jump all that well. Meanwhile, the weedy, yet incredibly fast Scout can zip around the map, leaping huge distances, but pretty much combusts as soon as it sees a weapon, whilst the soldier is your normal, average, everyday worm (at least in the context of the games). While we were initially worried the classes would make things feel disjointed, or unbalanced, in truth, you're never met with a load out that can always win and the randomness of Worms ensures theres rarely ever a guaranteed winner anyway. Luckily, if the ideas of classes really makes you feel uncomfortable, theres no need to use them, either youre in charge of creating your own team, so if youd rather play with a team of classic worms against another, you can set it up yourself.
In fact, the fact you can customise your teams so much is one of the best parts about the game, as you can really make your team your own, choosing an accessory (handlebar moustaches, eyepatches, pirate hats), victory dance ("the worm", natch), gravestone (although sadly, no flowers), and, best of all, a voicebank, full of comments and insults your worms will hurl at your enemies while youre playing the game. Whilst sadly missing some of the series classics (it used to be very heavy on regional accents Scouse versus Geordie worms made for an entertaining evening), a new voicebank called Memes quickly became our teams favourite. Having your worm march into battle with a Challenge Accepted, or Hide your kids, hide your wife, before missing with a grenade and lamenting Son, I am disappoint, never fails to raise a smile. At least, if you live on the internet.
Meanwhile, the other major change here comes courtesy of the physics engine. The biggest change, at least on the surface, is the addition of water that can actually be used as a weapon and worms that dont instantly drown when submerged. Scattered across most levels, youll find random holes in the map full of water. Find a way to blow a hole in the side of said water bubble, and youll unleash a torrent across the map, sweeping up any worms that happen to be in its way which is especially useful when combined with a slope. Or some mines. New weapons help you make the most of this, too a Water Pistol, which works more like a hosepipe, and squirts a waterfalls worth at your enemies (hopefully sweeping them away), a Water Balloon, which is similar to the Water Pistol, only a little bit harder to aim, and Water Strike, which causes a plane to fly over that drops five or six Water Balloons on an unsuspecting enemy.
However, as useful as the new water physics may be, they've come at a price to the game, as the entire physics engine's had to be redone. While it may sound like technobabble, what it actually means in practice is that when it comes to anything that involves gravity, be it a jet pack, or a weapon that you throw, like a grenade, things all feel different, more realistic - and therefore harder to use.
In Worms, weapons are generally split into two types those that you drop, that you use by simply pressing A, and those that you charge, to say how much power you want to put behind it whether youre throwing a grenade, or, say, firing a bazooka. And it's the bazooka that's had the biggest change. The default weapon, and the standard weapon of choice, Bazookas have been altered quite drastically, and are now a lot harder to aim. While before, your shell was as light as the air, and aiming at an enemy could be as easy as pointing directly at him and holding the button, now, your weapons a heavy, weighty object, that needs a large amount of power behind it to even get beyond the barrel of the gun. It makes aiming a lot trickier, as with so much extra weight behind it, it's a lot harder to gauge where your projectiles going to go. But as well as making things trickier for novices to get to grips with, the new physics also rob the game of a lot of its fun. Making it a lot trickier to take pot-shots at each other from opposing sides of the map (after all, if your bazooka wont even reach the half way point, how are you meant to shoot each other), its crazy how much something so small makes such a huge difference to the overall feel of the game. And its odd, because bar the bazooka, there are few other weapons that feel quite as different, or awkward in any way. But its the other weapon that causes the biggest problem. The ninja rope.
Thats right. If youve ever played a Worms game before, the chances are youll be familiar with the ninja ropes. Less rope, and more pole vault, the ninja rope was the Worms players transport of choice. Firing it into the roof of a level, you could swing across the map like Tarzan in the space of a few seconds but more importantly, the ninja rope was your ticket to other, harder to reach areas. Because the rope was oddly stiff, it was possible to use it to actually move upwards. Fire the rope into something opposite you, then reel yourself in, and your worm would start to vibrate, almost choose to reel yourself out again at just the right time, and you could actually propel your worm vertically upwards. Glitchy? Yeah. An affront to physics? Certainly. But it was fun, and it was a main part of what made Worms as hilarious as it was. But for Worms Revolution, thats all changed.
Rather than being starched so much youd expect it to snap, the ninja rope is now a limp excuse for its former self. You cant swing across the levels as easily as before, you cant use it to travel vertically upwards, and in fact, its a lot trickier to use it to get upwards at all. Hook the ninja rope right on the edge of a ledge, then pull yourself in, and your worm may automatically jump up for you but thats about it. And thats depressing.
Further turmoil comes from the single player mode, which have always felt like something of a tacked on extra, and for Revolution, are a tale of two halves. While the puzzle mode challenges you to make intelligent use of a weapon or two to defeat specifically placed worms, asking you to think through your every move, the single player "campaign" is quickly frustrating, thanks to the computer player's pixel perfect accuracy. Able to hit you from the other side of the level, no matter where you're standing, thanks to a trajectory calculated with such accuracy they'd put most engineers to shame, taking on a computer controlled team in the single player is a rather one sided battle - you'll quickly be blown up, no matter where you stand, and, thanks to the new physics, you'll rarely be able to register a reply.
While on their own, these problem may not sound like much, when combined, they become something much greater than the sum of their parts. Worms was always about long range weaponry, and above all else, the fun chucking something at your opponents, and hoping that the wind was on your side (literally), was the way so many games were decided. Now, with the redesigned physics, its not only much harder (and nigh on impossible) to use the bazooka, which used to be the weapon of choice, its also harder to get around the map, and a lot more po faced than before. No matter how many memes your worms spout, no matter how many daft hair cuts they have, it was the gameplay that made Worms shine. But Worms Revolution has changed it that little bit too much.
While its a given that any series has to change if its going to survive, Worms Revolutions sadly chosen to tweak the wrong parts. While the new weapons are nice additions, and the water works pretty well, the tweaked physics rob the game of the fun its predecessors had. With the right group of friends, you can still have fun here, playing the four player multiplayer but its obvious theres something missing. Seemingly, that something is broken physics. As someone never said, if it's broke, but it's still working, dont fix it.
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360