The mere mention of Worms stirs nostalgic feelings within me the like of which are normally reserved for games like Mario and Zelda. Memories resurface of being stuck in the tiny box room at my parent’s house, playing the early installments on their chronically underpowered PC. Much like Championship Manager and Lemmings, Worms holds a dear place in my heart.
Worms Revolution was the newest installment of the long running franchise and arrived in 2012, a full 17 years after the first game in in the series. This ‘Collection’ edition contains the game plus all the DLC that’s been subsequently released. As an added bonus Worms Armageddon is also included along with all the DLC for that too.
While the title Revolution does feel like a stretch, it does see changes to the series.
From a core perspective the game sees the debut of a new engine. This has revitalised the graphics of the game which is now displayed in a 2.5D style, as the characters and environment are designed in 3D while the gameplay stays in the 2D style we’ve known and loved. As has been the case throughout the series, the worms themselves are wonderfully rendered. Each displays personality and, when appropriate, emotion. For example a worm will look visibly terrified if a grenade lands next to them. There’s also a (sadistic) pleasure in watching a worm wearily lift its injured body off the floor after a particularly long fall to earth. Also the backgrounds to each level are wonderfully animated and show things like gigantic – in scale to the worms – rats scuttling through the sewer and seagulls perched upon a boat, watching the battle unfold in front of them.
The excellence of the character and environment design doesn’t flow through all graphical aspects though. I noticed several occasions where environmental textures looked particularly low resolution, although this could be blamed on space saving measures by the developers as it was originally a XBLA/PSN title.
Another new introduction this year is a class based system. For the first time it’s possible to add various different types of worm to your unit and each style has an effect on the gameplay. On top of the standard worm there’s now the Soldier, who delivers more damage per shot but moves at a markedly slower speed, the Scientist, who improves the health of your squad by 5 points each turn, and the Scout, a much quicker and small worm who can get through tiny gaps but has markedly reduced health. While these may not seem like big changes at first, they add a huge amount of strategy to the campaign mode as picking the right styles of worms in the right formation can mean the difference between success and failure.
The final fundamental change to the Worm experience is the new water features. This isn’t the water that’s historically existed at the bottom of the maps but enclosed areas of water dotted throughout the maps. These can easily turn the tide of battle by, for example, washing worms off the map or alternatively trapping them underwater and leading them to slowly lose health every turn. There’s new water based weapons too, from water bombs (and a water bomb air strike!) to a water pistol. While the impact of the weapons does minimal damage it’s easy to wash a precariously positioned worm to a quick death in the sea below.
Worms Revolution features a considerable single player experience with both a full campaign consisting of 3 stages of 8 levels, plus a tutorial stage of the same length too, plus a puzzle mode too.
The puzzle mode starts off simple and gets increasingly complex over time. You’re asked to destroy the enemy with an extremely limited amount of resources and, apart from being a decent distraction from the more common game modes, teaches you to think outside the box. This can come in handy when confronted with the main campaign.
Here’s where I have to hold my hands up and admit something; I didn’t finish the single player campaign. It wasn’t down to the huge amount of content on the disc, nor was it because I got helplessly addicted to the multiplayer mode and I had to rush this review in before deadline. No, it’s because Worms Revolution is, quickly frankly, unethically difficult.
I’ve now been stuck on level 5 of the final stage for 3 days, sinking between three to five hours per day. I’ve cancelled plans that I had in the evenings of the real world because I’ve been unable to drag myself away from the mental torment being inflicted upon me by a single stage of this game. The reasons for my struggles are twofold; on one hand my pitifully small squad of four worms is facing up against 12 enemy invertebrates. The other is that towards the later stages of the game the bad guys develop skills that completely decimate me.
Now I fully appreciate that a game should get more complex as it progresses, but this is less of a difficulty curve and more difficulty-sheer-insurmountable-cliff-face-of-unclimbable-polished-marble. If you’ve played any previous Worms game you’ll know the feeling of achievement of tossing a grenade a decent distance across the map and have it land at an opponent’s feet. The AI by comparison thinks nothing of being able to throw a 5 second fuse grenade the entire distance of a map that bounces off 3 different walls, drops down a Bunker Buster’s shaft, bounces at the bottom and conveniently explodes just as it reaches my worm, who with near inevitability will be blown next to a mine which explodes and tosses me into the sea. This isn’t a one off that sticks in my head, this is the sort of thing that happens with soul-destroying regularity.
Of course, you don’t buy a Worms title for the single player action. A full functioning multiplayer mode is included and, as to expected, it’s undoubtedly the strongest part of the package.
There are 3 multiplayer modes available, Classic, which is old school Worms minus the new water based additions, Forts, which poses two teams across from each other in, well, forts and Deathmatch, the classic Worms experience plus the new gameplay additions this iteration brings.
Not only are these three available online in both ranked and unranked style matches, I’m pleased to say there’s also a local multiplayer mode too. Anyone who’s played friends sat next to a friend will know it’s a great and often hilarious experience so it’s great to see that carried over into today’s online-centric world.
One repeated bone of contention I felt throughout the game was the feeling that the physics of items like the ninja rope had been changed, much for the poorer. On numerous occasions momentum utterly failed to carry me through a jump from a rope. These tools are severely limited throughout the game so to repeatedly lose ropes due to a failure within the physics system is extremely frustrating.
Another major bugbear came from collision detection with the environment. I’ve lost count of the number of times a bazooka rocket has blown up in my face after the game decided I was in contact with some invisible ledge. Considering the rampant difficulty faced at points through this game, losing a turn and taking massive damage from your own shot is incredibly frustrating.
A positive mention however should be made of the voice over work from comedian and actor Matt Berry. Matt narrates between and sometime during the matches with a consistently funny and offbeat script, providing amusement throughout the game.
Maybe I’ve gone soft in my old age. Maybe it’s true what people have said and this generation has indeed seen games get too easy. All I know for sure is that Worms Revolution Collection pushed me to the very edge of insanity.
This shouldn’t dissuade you from the package though. As a value proposition it’s fantastic, with a whole wealth of content included on the disc for around £25. Most importantly though it’s the inclusion of an almost predictably wonderful multiplayer mode and the hours of fun that you’ll derive from throwing Holy Hand Grenades and Banana Bombs at your friends and enemies that makes Worms Revolution Collection a worthwhile purchase.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 03/05/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Worms Revolution Collection for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.