Worms: Revolution isn’t a bad game at all, but is that title really justified? Only if it’s meant ironically, or very, very literally — a proud announcement that yes, here is Worms, coming round again. Like the rest of the series, it’s a sequel stuck in the middle of two extremes: the need to find something… honestly, at this point, anything new to add to the series, without risking the simplicity of the decade-and-a-half-old mechanics. When those mechanics work so well though, can you blame Worms for playing it safe?
By this point, you could probably pack everyone with a PC who’s never played or seen a Worms game into a single phone booth [Ed note: they don't have those anymore, Richard] and still have enough space left over for a bison. For tradition’s sake though, here are the basics: Every round sees between two and four players, each with four worms, randomly scattered over an equally random map with an assortment of cute but dangerous weaponry. Bazookas and grenades are the staples, scaling up to sillier things like exploding sheep. Action is turn-based, with each player controlling one worm at a time, and fighting to be the last one standing at the end.
As the round goes on, the scenery gets blown to pieces, laughs are had, and if one of the players is being controlled by the AI, it is accused of cheating or sucking depending on whether or not it wins. Other factors include weapon and health crates, there’s a game mode where players are given forts instead of being out in the open, and you can customise your worms with names and hats and such, but that’s not overly important right now.
Worms: Revolution’s biggest change is that while its predecessors — hold on a moment, Mr. Pedant — are 2D games, everything is now 3D. This isn’t like the spin-off Worms 3D though, where the third dimension offered a tactical factor. It’s still a 2D battle plane, and that’s for the best. The upgrade adds a few aesthetic niceties, like fully animated backgrounds and more animations for your squads of worms, but it still feels like Worms of old, with satisfying chunkiness to the combat and that same cartoon cheer. Disappointingly though, there are only four level themes — Sewers, Beach, Spooky, and Farmyard — with others saved for the inevitable DLC. A Season Pass is available, costing as much as the game itself.
As ever, Worms is all about multiplayer. If you must to play the gaming equivalent of eating wallpaper paste though, there is a single player component. Comedian Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, Darkplace) is the host here, and a highpoint of the solo side, playing sadistic wildlife documentary maker Don Keystone. He gets some good lines, and if the script wasn’t written specifically with him in mind, it may as well have been. The subtitles spoil the reveals on much of his banter though, and while I may just have gone temporarily blind, I couldn’t see an option anywhere to switch the damned things off.
Mode-wise, first up is Campaign, starting with a spectacularly bad tutorial. Start any game mode. Open the weapons display, and see the lines and lines of unexplained toys. To see what you do and how to use them, you have to quit that and go several screens into the Help menu, where you find the exact same display with actual descriptions. The Campaign offers exactly the quality of teaching you’d expect from a game that doesn’t see any problem with that. I barely made it halfway before losing the will to live.
Puzzles mode is slightly more successful, giving you very limited resources and showcasing how you can use them in interesting ways. Finally, another mini-campaign mode, The Farmhouse Face Off Diaries… also exists. It’s not worth caring about even a little bit though, so let’s skip straight to multiplayer, where the real game lives.
The Worm That Took Its Turn
There’s a reason Worms has endured so many years, and Revolution shows it off perfectly. It’s a game of perfect moments. Launching a bazooka all the way across the map, having it catch the wind just right and slam right into an enemy. Turning the landscape into your plaything with Ninja Ropes. When you’re down to your last worm, on its last health point, and your enemy’s last worm spectacularly misses with the baseball bat and lets you rip victory from the jaws of defeat. Worms is great. Worms: Revolution is no different.
Its big changes to the formula are mixed though — good ideas, slightly underplayed. There’s now a class system for instance, with squads made up of four types of worm. Scout is nimble, Heavy is tough but slow, Scientist heals, Soldier is a jack of all trades. Class also affects the damage you do, and the strength of built items like Girders. This obviously makes a difference, but I’ve yet to play a game where it felt like a major one, given that everyone’s still firing bazookas and hurling grenades around the random maps. Heavies especially feel more trouble than they’re worth. Their toughness is an asset, but they’re too much of a nuisance to move around unless you’ve got Teleporters on standby.
Similarly, Revolution adds some physics objects that can be moved for cover or shot at to release effects like fire and poison on nearby worms. They can be useful, but in my experience only through luck. Usually, they’re more annoying when an enemy uses them against me than they are fun to make use of myself, and it never feels right that a direct hit with a bazooka only dents rather than blows them up. They don’t hurt. They’re still forgettable.
The Wetter the Better
Water is much more interesting, though deliberately limited to avoid it taking over the gameplay. As before, falling into the water at the bottom of the screen is an instant kill. Now though, there are usually extra caches around the random levels, and you get water balloons and pistols to add more. This water is initially harmless, but can be used to wash worms off the map or into traps. Any worm left underwater after their turn also loses a small chunk of health after everyone else’s until they finally drown in shame.
This is a fun addition, even with the weak fluid modelling. It’s more like dealing with balls of gel than water, with it stacking where it should be overflowing and often failing to hit worms with as much power as it looks like it should be carrying. As a new weapon though, once you’ve got the measure of it, it works well. Worms’ Most Satisfying Kills list definitely now includes methodically trapping half your opponent’s team in a pit, throwing a water bomb after them, and jump-roping until they drown or ragequit, cursing your name.
Collectively, these tweaks add a number of new tactics to the Worms repertoire, and another layer of customization. Revolution is a positive step forward. It’s not, however, a game-changer, and if you’re tired of the basic Worms template, it’s not going to draw you back. It’s no revolution. As a revival though, there’s lots to like, in the old and the new.
That was a lot of words to say “It’s Worms again. You know what Worms is. If you want more Worms, buy it.” Still, if NBA 2KXX and FIFA can get away with yearly releases, why not this? Last I checked, athletes don’t even have a single bazooka between them.
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