Ah, Worms. With a simple but bizarre concept, the turn-based Worm blower-upper game has been a staple of multiplayer game sessions for decades (both local and online), with friends, family and other halves lining up to blow each other to smithereens via an errant exploding sheep. From the apparently slightly eccentric minds of the folks up at Yorkshire based Team 17, who've managed to churn out a steady stream of new versions of the game for the past 21 years, it's arguably still up there with the best multiplayer games ever.
However, as the years have gone by, the team have felt pressure to bring Worms "up to date", and the transition hasn't always gone that smoothly. Adding more "accurate" physics to the game, Worms got given a 3D makeover, and a distinctly more realistic tone (at least, as realistic as a game about Worms blowing each other up with bazookas can be) - the only problem being, it lost a lot of the insane fun that made the game so great in the first place.
With 2016 marking Team 17's 25th anniversary, it'd almost be rude if they didn't release a new Worms game to celebrate - and, brilliantly, Worms WMD can be seen as something of a return to their roots. Gone are the realistic physics, gone are the 3D graphics, and gone are the character classes, as Worms WMD is a pure, 2D, madcap game of destruction that'll capture the imagination of a whole new generation of players - and that everyone can pick up and play.
For those who've never had the chance to swing a baseball bat as a creature without opposable thumbs (or limbs, for that matter), Worms is a team-based "strategy" game about causing as much destruction as you can, with a myriad of odd-ball weapons. Best played with friends, each player takes over control of a different squad of worms, taking it in turns to attack each other, with the aim of the game being to eradicate your opponents' teams while minimising damage to your own.
Of course, that's usually easier said than done, given that Worms' weapons tend to be rather… explosive, and often with a mind of their own. With everything from the traditional bazookas and grenades to the more oddball Concrete Donkeys, which squash anything in their path, and wondering, nagging Old Women too, who explode in a shower of pensioner-related angst after a time, your average game of Worms is part strategy and part trying not to get too distracted by the more exotic weapons, as you always have that niggling feeling that if you try anything too fancy, it'll just blow up in your face. Yet even in the midst of an all out war, truces and friendships can be found - like when you gang up on that one friend who repeatedly bunkers themselves into a corner under enough girders to build a large car park, in an attempt to avoid the worst of the fighting. A plummeting Concrete Donkey, dropped on their bonces from above, should show them the error of their ways...
Fans of games gone by will be pleased to hear that Worms WMD is a no nonsense return to the series' roots - in fact, the folks at Team 17 have even gone back and reused some code from Worms: Armageddon, the game which many see as the pinnacle of worm-led destruction. In practice, this means your bazookas bazooka, grenades grenade, and homing missiles hit anything but the thing you're aiming for, exactly as you'd expect - in an arcadey, pick up and play, accessible manner, that won't leave you having to sketch your shot's trajectory on the back of a napkin. And for those of you who can work the ninja rope, you'll also be pleased to know it's back to its old, gravity-defying ways, in that it works more like a pole than a real rope, letting you get from one end of the map to the other in the most physically-impossible way possible - or, if you're more like us, sending you swinging into the nearest pool of water to meet a watery fate, and vowing to just go by jet pack next time. But you know you never will.
But that's not to say nothing has changed on the Worms WMD front either - but thankfully, they're nothing as drastic as Team 17's previous experiments. For starters, the usual flat, 2D levels now come with buildings you can hide your worms in, perfect for the aforementioned Girder bunker obsessives, except with a bit of a difference. Once someone's worm disappears inside a house or whatever, they're effectively hidden from view by the other players, adding a bit of guesswork for your opponent's attacks - or we suppose they could just nuke the whole building instead. While this likely won't add quite the same amount of strategy offline and with your friends within punching distance, at least when you're online, you'll be able to hide your worm out of harm's way...
That aside, Team 17's second addition is something that'll work equally well in whatever configuration you happen to play in, adding the one thing that we think always makes games more fun - vehicles. Scattered around the maps, you'll find tanks, and even helicopters that your worm can slide up to and drive off, often with hilarious consequences. Effectively working like another weapon choice, you basically have a turns-worth of time in which to do maximum destruction, whether it's raining down bullets over a large area in a helicopter, or travelling from A to B in a tank, firing pot shots at any worms you come across along the way. Of course, with such powerful vehicles as options, balancing them with the more traditional worms warfare is paramount - and something the team have thought long and hard about. Tanks and helicopters both have a limit to the number of shots they can fire each turn, and sitting in such vehicles does turn your worm into a bigger target for well-placed bazooka shots and cheeky sticks of dynamite.
While the vehicles may be nice additions, and the buildings are pretty cool, the biggest draw for us is the fact that Worms WMD feels like a classic Worms game, going some way to recapturing the magic that's been not-quite-lost in more recent updates. Rockets fly through the air, bombs bounce along the ground and shotgun shots fire in a way that feels familiar, while all the little Worms-y idiosyncrasies are alive and well too - the wayward Banana Bombs and super explosive Holy Hand Grenades, the jumps that inexplicably backfire and the near-invisible remains of scenery that cause you to blow yourself up with a rocket, much to your friends' amusement. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but then we've never wanted it to either - this is old school Worms at it's best, and we can't wait for it to hit the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC later this year. If you like playing games together on a sofa, you should be excited for this. Why not check out a few brief seconds of footage in the trailer below: