Game Review: Worms Revolution
It stands testament to the imagination of developers Team17 that after well over a decade Worms is still a compelling franchise. Originating on the Commodore Amiga, Worms since then has spanned many titles and many different consoles: perverting the gaming public with its brand of animal violence, warfare and quirky humour. Its premise was simple: a 2D side-scrolling, turn based strategy game involving teams of four worms blowing up, shooting and punching their way to garden dominance. What made it so excellent was the combination of wit and intelligence with brutal fighting and destructive environments: resulting in a satisfying mix of action and carefully plotted stratagem. Ask any Worms veteran, and you’ll be treated to many examples of cautionary and exhilarating tales that occurred unexpectedly, but most spectacularly. Whether it’s one worms’ fearless leap over a deadly chasm, the most seemingly impossible shot made by a grenade, or the satisfaction in pulling off successfully the ultimate weapon of a flying explosive ‘super-sheep’. A game of Worms was filled with mini-blockbuster action set pieces that proved the strength of the strategy genre. Its excellent British sense of humour also fermented its place as a cult classic, with the customisable name choices often forming humorous sentences when placed in conjunction with in-game accolades. Or the ridiculousness of the weapon choices, such as the baseball bat, the Concrete Donkey, or the Monty Python referencing Holy Hand Grenade. But perhaps most memorably were the silly voices of the titular worms, whose small squeaky voice boxes taunted the other players in a varying manner of English and international dialects depending on your choice (such as Brummy, Pirate or New Yorker).
However, sadly as trends began to move along in the game industry and the development of 3D gaming and blockbuster titles became fashionable, more modest games like Worms and others began to suffer. The introduction of 3D into the franchise in Worms 3D proved to unfortunately lack the previous quality of the former titles. Camera Angles and its control undermined the action, but mostly it was the fact you couldn’t see the whole map from a side-scrolling perspective as the classic games did. A strange criticism perhaps, but while the addition of 3D brought the game into the 21st century, it fundamentally changed the game. The inability to see the entire gameplay map meant the player could not plot and scheme in the same way as before, resulting in a very different experience.
Fortunately then, HD remakes for the original titles proved enduringly popular, and as a result, the new game in the franchise Worms Revolution sees a return to the classic Worms side-scrolling gameplay. Based on a 3D rendering with a more in depth physics engine, this new entry sees the best of both worlds: utilising the classic game style us Worm die-hards love, with a modern twist. It’s exactly how a fan wants it too, with all the classic elements making a return (including the aforementioned Super-Sheep with all his exploding cape glory), as well as new weapons such as the Ol’ Hag (an exploding granny) and Boggy B (a helicopter flying, grenade chucking worm sergeant). The most interesting addition to Worms Revolution though is water. Before, water was simply a nice little ocean of death lurking below the battlefield, but now, pools of water lurk around the landscape waiting to be utilised in combat. The effects of this can be both small and grand, in which a worm can burst open a large pocket of water to wash the enemy away into the death below, or simply trap them in a large puddle that slowly drowns them. This works in a similar way to poison, in which small amounts of health are taken off each round if you stay beneath the surface. Furthermore, new water based weapons can add to these effects, with water pistols, bombs and water strikes adding more ways to utilise the environment to your advantage. Similarly, new physics objects now form part of the landscape, and can be used to drop on enemy worms or block paths, but when destroyed have differing effects according to the item. A H20 bottle has the obvious attribute of bursting with water, while other objects explode or poison. The new inclusion of worm classes also adds to a sense of customisation, in terms of personal touches and the range of combat options on offer. There’s the standard soldier, a heavy worm with higher damage, a light infantry scout and a scientist who heals each worm every time it’s his round. It’s a subtle change to the usual Worms combat, but the nuances present in each character, such as each worms’ individual ability to fall, jump and take damage add a further element of challenge in which the player must be fully aware of which class the worm in control is.
The new 3D engine looks great, adding a far more visual depth to the game that allows you to zoom in and get a good look at the variations of the battlefield. Each world also now offers more than a simple change of colour, in which the characteristic of the environment changes the physic objects and style of map. It’s a great attention to detail, which is especially seen by the background natural objects that feature behind, but not as part of the battlefield: such as crabs, zombies and rats depending on what map you are playing. In terms of audio, the usual brilliance of sound is also present in Worms Revolution. The triumphant, optimistic chorus of the super sheep makes an ironic return as it plunges destructively into an enemy worm, while the sheer sound of destruction as you pull off a chain of consecutive explosions nicely captures the sense of obliteration on the landscape, and hopefully on the opposing team. As expected though, the audio charm of Worms Revolution is found in the voice acting. The usual choice of differing accents and voice characters is as excellent as ever: with particular highlights being the thespians, whose cries of ‘alas, alack’ during death nicely mock the melodramatics of a poorly acted Hamlet. It also seems that Team17 know their skills in this respect, by making sure it’s done properly and thus hiring none other than British actor Matt Berry of Mighty Boosh and It Crowd fame. His loud and pompous wit and banter acts as a guide to the player in the single player missions, and as a result makes the campaign of Worms Revolution something more than just a side extra to the multiplayer. One example of a comedy nugget would be his moral encouragement of ‘If your team name isn’t victor, then I suggest you change it to that immediately’.
Ultimately, Worms Revolution is an excellent new entry to a long loved franchise. It capitulates on its now arcade status, but gives you something that is much more than just a nostalgic piece of classic gaming. However, in some respects it does require a little more touching up. Jet packs, after being used to much dastardly effect in previous titles have now been ruthlessly drained of fuel. While ninja ropes have been made much more awkward, dropping you at the slightest touch, and firing you up in the air at inappropriate times. Furthermore, the single player is tyrannically difficult at times, which as a result becomes somewhat of a proving ground for Worm veterans. Nevertheless, Worms Revolution is a charming, smart and fresh installment in a title worthy of more nights-in playing with friends than a FIFA game.
Available on Steam, PSN and XBLA