Years ago, and we’re talking Windows 95 and 56K modem years ago, I remember playing Worms for the first time. The cheeky cartoon humour and explosions appealed to me in a way that no other game at the time could … well, until I grew up and discovered Quake and Diablo, that is. I didn’t own the game though, unfortunately money wasn’t something child me knew much about, so instead I played a free demo over and over again. It was one of the first PC games I played, said Worms demo, and I have fond memories of it.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Worms franchise is still hanging around, which kinda covers my own life in a strange way. We’ve seen lots of ups an downs, had our fair share of enjoyment and sadness (and explosions), and after a few years away from each other dabbling in other things, Team 17 has returned to reunite me with Wormy mates in a brand new adventure.
Worms W.M.D is the latest in the series, taking various elements and visual cues from previous entries whilst mixing in a healthy dose of new and interesting developments. For the most part it looks and feels just like every existing game, so a fan like myself will fit right in. Luckily, it’s still just as entertaining as ever before, and the latest enhancements put just enough of a spin on the familiar to keep it from going stale.
First and foremost, you can know deconstruct and craft weapons on the battlefield. Either during your or the enemy turn, you can go into your weapon selection menu and switch to crafting. You’ll need parts to make what you want, which can be find either in crates dotted around the place or by deconstructing whatever weapons you may already have. This opens things up a little bit during play, allowing you to change your strategy if the parts are available instead of just using whatever you come across. The fact that you can do this during your opponents turn keeps you in the game for longer, instead of just sitting there and taking it all in.
There’s also the addition of mounted guns and vehicles, a welcome addition to the mayhem. You can jump into tanks, helicopters and my personal favourite, the fist pumping Mech suit, along with sniper, machine gun and mortar placements. It’s fun to watch a new player get into a tank for the first time, though it isn’t quite clear at first as to how to use it properly.
Beyond that, it’s still the same Worms. Create your team, take them into battle and take turns to decide the best way to destroy the other team(s). The additions add an extra layer to proceedings, but it all still feels familiar. Whether it goes beyond that will depend on your own experiences with Worms over the years, you’ll either love it because it’s exactly how you remember it, or you’ll hate it because it still feels more of the same.
Worms W.M.D works for me, largely because they’ve improved on the existing formula in important places and have gone back to some fan favourites in the process. The ninja rope makes a welcome return whilst most of the existing weapons and character movements feels like the original games instead of the more recent iterations.
The thing that got me was the vastly improved load times. Worms Battleground took forever to load into a map, where as here it feels like but a few seconds. It also helps that the menus are vastly easier to navigate and the look and feel of the game is vastly more appealing with its 2D cartoon vibes than any attempts at adding 3D models to the series. I’ve always thought going 2D made way more sense for a game like this than trying for that quasi-3D look. Of course, it also helps that I’ve barely seen any bugs or issues in the game so far, where as with Battleground I had a few issues with lag and frame rate problems.
I had the most fun creating my own Worms team. As is tradition, you can name and customise your team, along with a host of extra options such as the voices they use, the theme song that’s played and the kind of tombstones left behind. You can pretty much create any kind of game you want, given the amount of options available, but the worms customisation is still the best part. I got a kick out of adding the Achievement Hunter lads’ voices to my Worms, wearing colourful beanies and dancing to the Irish national anthem. Kinda fitting, really.
Ultimately, it’ll come down to whether Worms still appeals to you that may determine if W.M.D is worth a purchase. As couch games go, the franchise is still relevant and enjoyable, especially given the sudden growth in indie games for 4 players. The fact that you can have up to six playing on one controller is a bonus.
Worms W.M.D stands as one of the best in the series, which goes a long way to prove how enjoyable it can still be despite being roughly the same game after all these years. The humour still hits, thanks largely to the fun voice work and the simple but creative action, and the latest additions (though small) add enough to make it seem somewhat fresh. Some might find it too familiar, but fans will enjoy it.
Worms W.M.D is available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Mark Isaacson is the editor of PN2. Go say hi @Mark_D_Isaacson