Worms Reloaded – Review

Title   Worms Reloaded
Developer  Team 17
Publisher  Team 17
Platform  PC (Steam)
Genre  Shooter, Arcade, Turn Based Artillery
Release Date  26th August, 2010

Pretty much sums up London on a Friday night...

They’re pink, hard, and will unload in your face.  No, it isn’t the Ron Jeremy appreciation society – everyone’s favourite homicidal annelids are back in the first 2D Worms release to hit the PC for close to ten years.  Returning to its spiritual home after an extended flirtation with consoles and handhelds, Worms Reloaded is essentially the same game as Worms 2: Armageddon, with a handful of PC friendly extras thrown into the mix.

The premise of Worms is simple and so embedded in gaming culture that even if you haven’t played it, you’ll have likely heard of it.  Your team of pink nutcases has to annihilate the opposing team by whatever means necessary, with the aid of some of the most surreal weaponry this side of a Monty Python arms factory.  Carnage, chaos, and scenery-shredding turn based gameplay carries the player through 35 single player campaigns with the added option of local or online multiplayer modes.

This being a reboot of Worms 2: Armageddon, which saw a console release in mid 2009, the campaign levels are the same, so fans of the franchise who have soundly spanked that version may feel disappointed, but they are as tricksy as ever and being able to attack them with a keyboard and mouse is most welcome.  As usual, the earlier campaigns are a cakewalk, with the difficulty ramping up in later levels to, often, frustrating degrees.  This is largely due, as series veterans will be all too aware, to the notorious AI.  Famously, the AI in Worms, at least in the early days back on the Amiga, was either terminally stupid or ridiculously accomplished, with barely a middle ground in sight.

Sadly, this arse chapping Worms tradition continues here and, while the stupidity has been toned down, enemy Worms appear to possess better dead-eye skills than John Marston, managing to pull off ludicrously difficult bazooka shots against the wind.  Their grenade skills are just as outlandish, with an innate ability to time and place grenades with the precision of an OCD scrapbooker, and after multiple rebounds to rub salt into the wounds.  It is, frankly, beyond aggravating and swiftly threatens to push the player to the point of keyboard destruction.  This precision reaches a point in later campaigns that leaves the player with little choice than to adopt guerrilla ‘dark side’ tactics in order to pull their team through safely.

When it comes to Worms, half the fun is in how you go about visiting some ultraviolence on your foes, and weaponry has always been the main staple of the series, with fans traditionally getting riled up at favourites being left out, as with the first console release three years ago.  Everything from the console version is present and correct in the Reloaded arms cabinet: from the garden variety bazookas and uzis, to the Holy Hand Grenade, Concrete Donkey, and Buffalo of Lies.  Also here, are the utilities such as teleports, blowtorches, and girders, though the developers have tweaked the girders from the first console release so that they can only be placed within a reasonable distance.  This scuppers the irritating multiplayer strangers who like to use them to box in your worms, but it means that it is harder to construct a nest high up in a landscape nook to teleport into during Sudden Death mode.

Not all of the weapons are available from the off, however, with the good ones (including Armageddon) being locked away in the in-game shop, which need to be purchased using the credits doled out for completing the campaigns.  The credit system isn’t really the issue it could have been, as within the first handful of campaigns you’ll have enough to unlock most weapons.  Also for sale are extra landscapes, hats, and various bits; don’t worry though, the game isn’t trying to stiff the player in withholding content – to be honest, there is so much choice during the customisation stage, that you’ll not be anywhere close to going without.  And customise you can: gone are the days when your worms’ names were all you picked; now you can assign a hat, tombstone, skin tone, victory dance, and one of a variety of bizarre and ridiculous speech sets.

Parachutes packed, uzi in hand, it’s time for your team to stop talking about Madonna’s big dick and go to work.  The campaigns, as mentioned, climb in difficulty, with a few puzzle levels thrown in for good measure to break up the carnage.  As time goes on, however, not only do the enemy worms become crack shots, but they will vastly outnumber you.  This leads to a necessary change in tactics to make sure that you make every single move and shot count, and planning moves ahead in order to keep your worms from annihilation is, very much, the key to survival.

In the good old days, it was more or less a standard blast-athon but 15 years has nudged the franchise into maturity somewhat.  Where once, digging in and using the more mundane facilities was scoffed at, seen as cowardly and labelled ‘dark side’, such caution is now an essential key to surviving the later levels which are incredibly tough.  Should any match not be concluded before the on-screen timer ticks down, the game goes into Sudden Death mode.  All worm health is reduced to one, scrappy hit point, and the water level begins to rise.  Of course, you can use this to your advantage if you have bunkered down in higher ground than your opponents, though the restriction of girders has now made using Sudden Death to your advantage a mite trickier.

Other gameplay elements to spice things up are the fallout from incendiary weapons such as the napalm strike and the petrol bomb – these leave a fire trail, which eats through the scenery, damaging nearby worms on the way.  Of course, the unstable oil drums scattered around the levels can be used to your advantage, just don’t bunker down beneath one or you’ll be wishing you packed your asbestos thong.

The graphics have evolved only slightly over time, and are more robust and cartoony, with a ‘thick’, rounded feel to them.  The HUD is clear, with only the wind direction gauge, timer, and health bars to distract from the action but the weapons panel, however, seemed blurred for some reason – perhaps a victim of the port.  Overall, everything is as you’d expect from a Worms game though:  colourful, kooky, and concise.  The concept and gameplay are simple and the interface reflects that; weaponry and wind direction are, after all, all that matter.

As far as the levels go, the stand up, cardboard cut-out nature of the landscapes is pretty much unchanged.  There are now, simply animated backdrops to compliment the themes and an attempt has been made to give the scenery some depth as it is gradually blown away, but this often leads to some confusion, with some scenery appearing to be solid when it actually isn’t.  Everything is as fully destructible as ever – if it’s there, you can nuke it, and the audio packs a punch which does the destruction credit.  Sound compliments the backdrops, along with clear audio effects which combine to make the game as immersive and fun as it’s ever been.  The speech sets are a large, staple part of the enjoyment to be had and no Worms title would ever be quite the same without the odd and often surreal nonsense that they spout.

With this being a PC release of an existing game, you’d be forgiven for passing it up, however, there are a few baubles thrown in which help it to pull ahead of its console doppelganger.  A speech bank editor gives the player the ability to create their own speech sets which will no doubt lead to a great deal of hilarity, but the best part is, undoubtedly, the Landscape Editor. Resembling a stripped down paint package, the editor gives the player the scope and tools to create fully functioning levels.  A freehand tool can be used to design anything and the resulting mess can be filled in with whatever landscape theme you choose.  The handful of added extras include cavern borders, water levels, objects, aspect, and air bubbles and worm positions can be set, along with mines, sentry guns, and barrels.

There is the ability to create some delightfully complex levels, or go down the tried and tested route and create a giant, earthy cock, jizzing mines.  Either way, that you have the option is a great inclusion.  And the game does need it because it is practically identical to the Xbox360 version, with the majority of Steam achievements remaining the same (including the foul, ranked multiplayer ones – yes, I can hear the sound of palms hitting faces), however, the ability to play with mouse and keyboard again may well be the draw that old fans need.  It took a while to adjust to the old ways, before the console empire, but it quickly felt as natural as it ever did, and I soon wondered how I had ever coped with a pad.

Worms appears to have changed little from the early days and its humble beginnings as a competition entry to Amiga Format, but it doesn’t really need to, so it isn’t really a complaint as such.  The simple concept – destroy the opposing team with whatever zany weaponry you can muster, has spawned more sequels than the average horror franchise, but it works.  At the risky of sounding like a Sunday supplement ad for Royal Doulton plates, I’d go as far as to say that it was a timeless classic.  The game has been tweaked and polished over the years, given more options and a bolder looking set of clothes, but this is still Worms at its best – as enjoyable and addictive as ever.  If you haven’t enjoyed it previously though, you likely won’t now, but veterans will know what to expect and the game doesn’t disappoint – yes, it may be more cartoony, with AI that will have you grinding up your monitor, but we play it still, even after 15 years, so Team 17 are doing something right.

  • Worms as we know and love it, chock full of over the top, cartoon violence
  • Vast array of customisation options
  • Inclusion of a surprisingly comprehensive level editor makes up for the identikit port to PC
  • Audio is crisp, sharp, and the voice sets make for hilarious experimentation
  • Easy for newbies and veterans alike to pick up
  • A welcome return to PC – finally
  • Port of the Xbox360 version means that there is little new to offer in single player mode.
  • In true Worms tradition, enemy AI gets dickish alarmingly fast, meaning they can pull off ridiculously accurate shots, even in the most difficult circumstances.
  • Played through Steam, there is some lag on occasion which can affect play – albeit briefly, depending on your net connection.
  • The faux 3D scenery effects can lead to moments of confusion as to what is actually solid ground, leading to some frustrating deaths or wasted turns.

Worms as a concept has remained unchanged from its early days on the Amiga but remains as absorbing as ever. The surreal weaponry, cut-out levels, and silly voices are all present and correct – as is, unfortunately, the ridiculous accuracy of the enemy AI, but the sense of humour and addictive gameplay will keep you coming back. Accessible to newbies and series veterans alike, this reboot of the recent console release sees the franchise make a welcome return to its spiritual home on the PC, and not before time. The Landscape Editor and speech bank extras are just the icing on the cake and go a little way to blunting the disappointment at the near identical port.

The game is just Worms in all its cartoony, colourful, violent glory and it won’t likely ever change much – all Team 17 need to do is change the landscapes, mix up the weaponry, and cash the cheque every few years, but to be honest, they don’t really need to do much else.

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  1. Edward Edward says:

    Another great review!
    However, the only Worms game there ever was or will be for me is Worms World Party, which still sometimes gets taken out on occasion, and I can’t be bothered to put up with Cheating Bastard AI =[

  2. Lee says:

    I am invincible at worms! Oh man I just had a flash back to it on my amiga and now I feel old :(
    I do like the look of that level editor I think i’d end up dicking around with that more than playing the game though.

  3. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    What Lee said… twice. Worms was one of those games I played to death on the Amiga, along with Lemmings, UFO, Ugh, Superfrog and Zool. As with any game with a built in editor, I’d undoubtedly end up spending all my time playing with the editor and very little (if any) actually playing the game. Trials HD is a testament to that – gave up on the levels about half way through but could spend 3-4 days building a custom track without a second’s hesitation. Gotta love that level of customisation, so yeah… I reckon I’ll be giving this a shot and going a bit mental with the editor :D

  4. Samuel Samuel says:

    Nice write up, Lorna. Jumped at this when it was released, as Steam were offering a bunch of forts and things exclusively if you preordered, and I’ve owned every Worms game ever made… seemed a bit sacrilegious to stop now. Worms is one of those proper old-school franchises that seems to have survived more or less unchanged, except to be distilled down into a more potently addictive form than ever. If you ignore Worms 3D anyway, which I try to do. God that game sucked, just like the 3D version of Lemmings.

    Not sure where Team17 get off saying this is the first 2D PC edition of Worms since Armageddon over a decade ago though… Worms World Party was released in 2001. I can’t understand them wanting to ignore that game existing, because it’s still my favourite version. Reloaded doesn’t seem to be quite as good in some respects, though it’s still a damned good game.

  5. Ben Ben says:

    Level editors in Worms games have always been great fun. I think it was Worms 2 (although could be way off) that was my first experience of it all, loved it then and still love it now.

    One of those games that are good fun on your own but immensely fun when playing with people you know.

  6. Lorna Lorna says:

    Thanks for the comments folks :) Yep, the level editor is pretty addictive and for such a simple interface, allows for some great results.

    @ Samuel – yes, I was also suspicious of that statement as I was researching the piece, which is why I delved into it and worded it as I did after turning up the WWP release date. I think they like to get overexcited perhaps, and decade always sounds far more impressive to stick in a press release. Still, welcome return to the PC…though I’d have liked a change up of weapons…I’m sure I remember a Granny related weapon, unless my memory is dimming.

  7. Samuel Samuel says:

    Heh, I had noted the phrasing and figured you’d realised the same thing as I did about the WWP release date. Still, seems kind of ridiculous of them when any fan of the series would know it was so much hokum.

    There was a granny weapon! It was called “Old Woman” in the director’s cut of the original Worms game and in Worms 2, but I think they changed it to granny in Armageddon and World Party. Classic Monty Python type stuff, just like the Holy Hand Grenade. Exploding old women with silly hats and blue rinsed hair, squawking loudly in obviously fake female voices, heh.

  8. Kat Kat says:

    I love Worms! But have the XBLA release handy for if I need a hit. Do like the sound of a level customiser, lucky PC folk.

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