If there’s one thing you can say about Team 17’s Worms franchise, it’s that it has longevity. First released back in 1995, the game has made its way to every major platform (and a few more minor ones, such as Nokia’s N-Gage) and has seen new engines, all manner of new features, and more than one ill-advised sojourn into 3D. Now, those cartoony lumbricidae are back once again to hand out their own specific brand of destruction with Worms W.M.D.
As you’d expect, the gameplay is relatively familiar fare. Players take turns controlling one of their squadron of worms, hopping around the 2D map to get into position to lob all manner of weapons at one (or more) of the members of the opposing team. If you can’t get a kill with a bazooka or an exploding sheep, you can choose to throw a faulty mobile phone battery at an opponent to electrocute them and anybody standing near them at the same time. If that’s not going to get it down, you could use a jet pack to fly across the map to an opponent standing precariously on a ledge and give them a good, old-fashioned prod to send them careening into the deep blue sea. Failing that, you might want to dig out your blowtorch and blast through the landscape to an area that holds a promising looking crate of supplies or a health pack. The choice is all yours and choice is exactly what Worms W.M.D provides in absolute spades.
The cause of this is that while the main gameplay loop is very much the same as it always was, the worms can now craft new weaponry either using supplies that they’ve picked up, or pieces that they’ve salvaged from dismantling weapons that they aren’t going to use. In the game’s lengthy single player mode – which contains 30 ever-more-difficult campaign levels and 10 head-scratching challenges – you can craft on both yours and the opposition’s turns.
So with one enemy to go, you might pick up a few pieces of material towards creating a homing missile, dismantle a mine to get the remaining bits that you need, miss with a hopeful bazooka shot, end your turn, craft that heat-seeker while the enemy has their go, then lock in your co-ordinates and rain down explosive death when you’re back at the controls.
In local multiplayer – which for many people will be their reason for making a purchase – crafting can only be done on your turn, but it doesn’t change the fact that the new options create extra depth in a franchise that has had that “same old, same old” feel for far too long. Crafting also brings with it the ability to create even grander versions of the series’ weaponry. Maybe one homing missile isn’t enough? Maybe you want to create a whole cluster of them? Now you can.
On top of that, yet more depth is added with the inclusion of stationary weapons – such as machine guns and sniper rifles – and even bigger booms can be created if you jump into a vehicle. Helicopters, tanks, and mechs are the order of the day when it comes to transportation and the ability to destroy more things in less turns is obviously their main draw. But secondary to the extra gunpower comes their ability to move your little pink chums around the map at a faster rate. Sure, you may have run out of jet packs and ninja ropes, but that chopper is perfect for carrying one of your team members over the hills and far away to relative safety.
The final seasoning added to the recipe comes in the form of habitable buildings. From outside, these structures just look like a standard piece of scenery, but if you edge your way across to one of the entry points, the facia is removed and you can see what’s hidden inside.
In the campaign mode, you’ll investigate every building as there are often challenge unlocks to be found within but even when that’s not the case, the ability to quickly get under cover without having to blowtorch your way into the earth adds yet more tactical nuance in certain situations.
The added possibilities that have been brought to the franchise here mean that Worms W.M.D is a real return to form. A lot of issues still remain that have persisted over the years though, it must be said. AI players take an eternity to eventually make a relatively dumb decision at times and when on foot (or is it on tail?) worms often get caught or bounced off pieces of scenery that are so tiny that they can barely be seen. That’s to be expected by now, but that doesn’t stop it from being a frustrating occurrence when you’re in the last embers of a 20-minute brawl and you get unceremoniously pinged backwards into a mine.
Some weapons also cause the camera – even though it’s controllable with the triggers and right stick – to become massively unhelpful. It’s difficult to aim a shot with a machine gun – a weapon that allows you change your aim between shots – when you focus the camera on what you’re firing at and the game zooms you right back across to the guy with the gun so that you’re shooting blind.
Finally, for a game that has multiplayer as a focus, there’s not a great deal in terms of options for long term feudin’. You can construct any combination of rules, teams, and scenarios that you could ever dream of for a long-term series of head-to-head matches against a friend for example, but there’s no win/loss record to be found. Take Worms W.M.D online and you’ve got relatively simple ranked or unranked play which all works well, but this is the sort of thing that is crying out for the ability to construct leagues and tournaments.
To call the game out for those relatively minor oversights would be harsh though, especially when you consider that there’s a fair few hours of single player gameplay included for the budget price before you even think about taking on a friend.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Team 17 have done a good job of breathing a bit of new life into the franchise with Worms WMD and while it isn’t perfect, it’s a good way to reignite some old friendly rivalries with a pal or two.