Guys? You’ve played Worms, right? Everyone’s played Worms. Even my dear mother, whose experiences with gaming in the past 20 years has largely been limited to things that come free with Windows and Popcap’s back catalogue, has played Worms. Heavily-armed cartoon annelids with squeaky voices blowing merry hell out of each other with silly weapons, in a turn-based setting. Right? We’re all up to speed?
Right. Worms Reloaded dispenses with the 3D rubbish that tarnished the series, and is sticking with the familiar 2D blasting that we’ve seen, of late, in the Open Warfare subseries as well as Worms 2: Armageddon on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Armageddon’s an excellent comparison to make, in fact, because Reloaded is pretty much a retuned version of that.
From the off, you’ve got a tutorial which does enough to help you understand the controls and rules of playing without spoiling all of the insane weapons for you, in addition to a smattering of single-player modes. Quick Game immediately drops you into a single-player round, while Custom Game lets you tweak rule configurations and teams to your liking; if you want a game with four teams of two worms each, with the ability to choose which worm you control each round, no ninja ropes, and everyone starts with a Concrete Donkey, that’s where you’ll head. Other than that, there’s a 35-mission Campaign mode which gets predictably impossible as it nears its close, a campaign-for-lunatics called Warzone, and a survival mode called Bodycount.
These single-player offerings bear closer examination. Campaign doesn’t just feature 35 matches in a row – while regular team vs team matches make up the majority of it, there are a load of other diversions hidden away in there. Some levels will give you 60 seconds to get to the end of a course using the Ninja Rope or the jetpacks, while others play out like The Impossible Machine, tasking you with using creative methods and a very limited supply of armaments to kill all of the enemy worms. It’s entertaining enough until it gives you a vertical tower map, two worms against eight, and an AI that can make pinpoint shots with grenades that involve three ricochets as well as a roll through a crater, which I’ve pinpointed as the exact moment when the game becomes a frustrating exercise in trial and error.
Bodycount, meanwhile, gives you one worm and a host of respawning foes. The enemy starts out weak (10hp per worm, to begin with) but, as with Obi-Wan Kenobi, killing them only makes them more powerful. Every time a worm dies, a replacement beams in with more health. It’s chaotic as hell and it doesn’t take long before survival becomes very, very hard. It’s also slightly repetitive, and not something you’re going to spend a huge amount of time on after your first few goes.
The thing is – and you’ve played Worms before, so you know this – Worms was never about single-player. Single-player is a diversion. The real fun is in the multiplayer, and that’s as true here as it ever was. Once you’ve created your team (with a variety of skin colours, hats, and a huge array of multi-lingual and comical voice banks available) you can pit yourself against your friends either on the same computer, or against the unwashed masses on the internet.
And it’s brilliant. This is, absolutely, Worms with pitch-perfect balancing. I spent an hour last night playing with a group of American friends, and I haven’t laughed so hard at a game in ages. Multiplayer Worms isn’t about the successes; it’s about the monumental screwups. Winning a game is nice, but losing a game because a grand plan went awry – your bazooka shot missed and collapsed a platform above you, dropping a mine on you that blasted you into another mine and an explosive barrel – is what makes this such an entertaining multiplayer game, particularly with friends.
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It’s still better in hotseat, though. For one thing, you can punch the people sitting next to you, which is the exact same reason why Bomberman is much better when sat on a couch with people you know. For another, there’s something weird going on with Worms Reloaded’s netcode. It all plays wonderfully and lag has little impact, considering it’s a turn-based game, but the game waits for everyone to catch up with what just happened between each turn. Expect waits of 5-10 seconds after every move. It’s not gamebreaking in the slightest, but considering we’re in an age where people can play fast-moving 3D games with full physics with very little lag, it’s weird to see a delay of seconds here. There are other slightly weird bugs, too, which remove a lot of confidence in the product – when the game’s lobbies are mixing up who has what Steam avatar, you start to wonder if things are as solid as they seem. Happily, though, this doesn’t appear to impact the gameplay, and Steam integration makes it wonderfully easy to drag people into games. Again: this is an excellent, excellent version of Worms, and barring the between-turn waits, I’ve hit no issues when playing online, and none at all when playing offline.
Upsettingly, this isn’t the only issue the game has, but it’s the only one that’s of any real consequence. There’s a minor annoyance in that the game doesn’t appear to have a windowed mode, which is a crime as Worms is an ideal coffee break game to have sat in a window while you browse the internet and chat online. The other problem comes with the creation tools: while they’re comprehensive, they’re a pain in the ass to sort through. If you’re trying to tweak the available weapons in a game style you’re creating, you have to go through them all individually in a horizontal list, while a drop-down menu would be far more convenient. Equally, some of the settings are positively esoteric unless you’re an experienced worm-wrangler, and there are no tooltips or help popups – a few readers might be able to guess what Artillery Mode is in the game style creation, but the game won’t help you at all until you switch it on and try it out.
This has been a bit of a negative review, I confess, but this isn’t my overriding feeling. If anything, it’s more because there’s little to say about a good version of Worms except “It’s Worms, and it’s really fun,” without explaining the things everyone knows, while there are a fair few little niggles that bear mentioning. If you’ve got a few people to play with, either online or off, and you can tolerate a little waiting while playing online, you’ll have an absolute blast. There are plenty of options for custom game modes and some of the new pieces of equipment – like Electromagnets, which can attract or repel any metallic weapons that come near them – have unexpectedly hilarious effects. There’s even a landscape editor that’s about as complicated as Paint, so all you need is some rudimentary drawing skills if you really want to get your friends over to play a round of Worms on a gentleman’s parts. Which sounds a bit off, now I come to write it.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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