Reviewing the latest Worms release can often be a tricky task. After all, Team17 has been creating games in this series for almost 20 years and despite all the significant changes they have made in the intervening years, such as forays into 3D, different worm classes and adding new water-based physics, most fans simply want a return to the good old days of Worms Armageddon. So while the last few instalments in the series may have missed the mark somewhat, the developers seem to have gone back to their roots with Worms W.M.D in an attempt to create the ultimate 2D artillery game.
This different focus has seen Team17 concentrate on the basics of what makes a great Worms game and what made it such a hit with fans. Gone are much of the innovations that have come in the last few iterations, leaving the gameplay in a much more refined and pure state that the franchise has been severely lacking over the past five years. This is arguably the best instalment of Worms ever and definitely the greatest since Armageddon.
That isn’t to say that the developers have not added anything new to the experience. Simply moving backwards to the past would obviously not go down well with longtime supporters and so Team17 have chosen to include some notable features that have never been seen before. These come in the form a new crafting system and the addition of tanks and turrets.
A crafting system may initially seem like something that this particular series hasn’t exactly been crying out for. Sceptics might even suggest that it has just been put in the game thanks to the modern trend of including such features into titles since the success of Minecraft. Yet, crafting in Worms W.M.D works surprisingly well and fits perfectly with the rest of the mechanics. Supplies drop in crates much like weapons, giving you access to a number of materials that can then be used to construct a variety of different weapons. These aren’t just the standard offerings either but upgraded versions that include elements of other weapons combined together to make weapons of mass destruction. It’s even possible to tear up weapons you already have to get the vital part you need to create your unique tool to kill the enemy.
This adds a new layer of depth to battles as players have to consider new tactics and can never be completely sure about what the opposition might be saving up to build. It also provides you with something to do while the opposition is taking their turn, preventing you from having to sit and watch as they move around and kill your own army.
The crafting mechanic is not the only new addition. Another one comes in the form of vehicles and mounted turrets. They add some much needed variety to affairs, as the basic premise of killing enemy worms s stayed the same for almost two decades. While the various tanks and helicopters change the way battle can be done and can seem slightly overpowered at first, they are actually well balanced. Any occupied machine is a huge target for the other players and the resulting explosion when they eventually explode can cause a tremendous amount of damage to its pilot.
Additionally, the vehicles also suffer from the same control problems that have made Worms such fun and a pain to play. Like the ability to perfectly time a rope swing to ensure that you can reach your destination, vehicles need precision to work effectively and the slightest mistake will lead to disaster. It’s incredibly satisfying, and hilarious, to see someone attempt to wipe out an enemy team only to crash and burn from their own doing.
The singleplayer campaign and challenge mode aren’t especially good when compared with the rest of the game. That doesn’t matter too much though as the campaign is essentially just a glorified tutorial to teach you all about how the combat and new mechanics work – although there are some interesting boss fights that will entertain you along the way. More interesting is the challenge mode, which tasks you with fulfilling bounties of criminal worms, but even this won’t keep you interested for a long time.
Just like with all of its predecessors though, Worms W.M.D is all about multiplayer. Whether you are playing locally with some friends on your couch or online, this is where this game comes into its own. Complementing the intensely fun gameplay is a new array of customization options that effectively means that you can play any type of match you want, from vanilla games to more insane ones where everyone has access to super weapons from the get go.
The maps and terrains themselves have also seen a return to more traditional 2D landscapes. Rather than having the semi-3D visuals and complicated designs, Team17 have opted for full-on 2D battlegrounds. They not only work much better with the gameplay but also look incredibly detailed compared to some of their counterparts from previous titles. There is a large degree of variation between the different environments on offer and they are easily the best looking ones that a Worms game has ever seen.
Despite the fact that there are some faults with this latest entry in the old series, Worms W.M.D. contains some of the best multiplayer action that it is possible to have on any platform. The enjoyment from sitting down and taking on your friends with a concrete donkey or holy hand grenade has lost not of its luster. Meanwhile, the new improvements and features have done enough to make this instalment stand out from its predecessors. Without a doubt, this is the best Worms game in a very long time and won’t likely need a follow-up for a while.
This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes. Worms W.M.D is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One worldwide.