I used to be a massive fan of the Worms series in my younger years, playing the game with a group of friends after school in what I’d probably consider as some of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences I’ve had, as I’ve tended to stick to single player experiences in my adult life. It started with the original game, simply titled Worms, and for me peaked with the PC version of Worms: Armageddon. The game had a great visual style, a fun single player campaign with unlockable goodies, heavy customization and a vast assortment of wacky weapons to decimate your opponents with. While I’ve dabbled in the Xbox Live Arcade Worms titles, I was disappointed that they seemed watered down in comparison to Armageddon, especially when Worms 2: Armageddon came around - a solid Worms title, to be sure, but it still didn’t match the variety of the original PC version - perhaps because it was trying to focus more on balance than variety.
I’ve long since given up on a console port of the original Armageddon that I fell in love with, and I’ve not really dabbled with the series since. However, I’ve now been given the opportunity to get hold of Team 17‘s latest entry in the series Worms Revolution Extreme on the PS Vita, which is essentially a portable “Complete” edition of Worms Revolution (previously released on XBLA, PSN and PC) with all of the DLC/add-on packs included.
If you’ve ever played a Worms game before, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the gameplay is about – players take control of a team of Worms, and in turn-based fashion navigate them around the environment, using various weapons to blow up the opposing team whilst avoiding your own demise. Weapons range from bazookas and shotguns to flying, exploding sheep and holy hand grenades, used alongside passive utilities such as teleporters and jetpacks.
The most notable change in Worms Revolution is the new 2.5D graphics – that is, 3D character and stage models, but still on the classic 2D plane that Worms is known for. This goes hand-in-hand with the new engine that has been built for the game, with more focus on realistic physics and interactive stage elements. While previous Worms maps used to be comprised of a large image with worms placed around it, the terrain in Revolution is littered with different objects that have different effects and reacts in a more realistic way than previous titles.
Starting with the game’s campaign mode, I was greeted by the voice of Matt Berry (The IT Crowd’s Douglas Reynholm) who serves as the game’s narrator. As a fan of Berry’s work, I thought his voice perfectly fits the general attitude of the series and his comedic lines guide you through the missions. Sadly, it’s not enough to keep the game’s tutorials exciting, as they are somewhat long and it takes a while to actually access the real campaign levels – while some of the new features are covered within these initial stages, the game goes over all of the basic Worms gameplay to some depth which most fans will already feel comfortable with. Of course, for new players the tutorials should be helpful, but it would have been nice to be able to skip the more basic ones.
Perhaps the biggest new feature in the game is its water physics. While previous games had water at the bottom of the level that caused instant death, Revolution introduces water as an interactive stage element. Within the levels are often pockets of water, or small pools. Unlike the classic water (which still remains at the bottom of the stage), this water does not cause instant death – rather, walking through water reduces your jumping ability, and drains your health a little if you end your turn underwater. The real use of water is being able to manipulate it – if you blast a hole in the side or under a water pocket, it will flow out, filling the area below with water or running down a slope below – flushing any unsuspecting worms along with it to a potentially early grave. A selection of water-based weapons have also been introduced, such as water pistols, bombs and airstrikes for raining down water in different ways, and also gadgets such as the plughole which allow you to drain water by placing one down inside a pool. I must admit, the inclusion of water physics was a great idea, and adds a new element to gameplay, though it’s not perfect - the water has a sort of “globby” feel to it, sometimes not quite reacting how you might expect and running more like oil.
Another new aspect are various objects littered around the stages - while older titles did have oil drums and mines, Revolution adds larger elements as part of the stage design – such as large bombs, water containers such as hip flasks and other solid objects such as spanners and torches. Bombs and water containers will explode and release water respectively when struck, and other solid objects can react independently of the main terrain, falling when dislodged to create bridges or blockages, or else drop the unlucky worm standing on top. A new ability called Telekinesis even lets you manipulate these objects by letting you move them to a new location on the stage.
The third new aspect is the introduction of different Worm classes. The standard worms are known as Soldiers, while there are three other variants available this time around, with their own character models. The Heavy is a chunky worm that is slow but does more damage, the Scientist is a weaker worm with a big forehead that heals your team a little each turn, and the Scout is a smaller, similarly weaker worm that is able to move faster and jump further than the others. It’s a nice concept and adds for a little tactical play, but didn’t add any major feel of change to the game’s mould.
Of course, the usual team customization options are available – you can name each of your squad (of four worms), and customise their voices and add little accessories like hats and glasses, as well as choosing their tombstone. Playing through the game lets you unlock more customisation options and gives a little incentive to progress.
The game does have a few different modes outside of its Campaign and usual death match modes, and while the real meat of the gameplay exists in its deathmatches, playing things like Puzzle Mode can offer a nice change of pace – giving you scenarios with limited resources or special conditions that you have to meet by using the tools at your disposal efficiently. It’s good to see a selection of single player content, though some of it does feel a little like filler.
The game does of course offer online play, which is great if you have a group of friends to play, or don’t mind waiting for random match-ups. I’m happy to have a few bouts of single-player death match every now and then – but in truth, my heart really lies in local multiplayer when it comes to Worms, something that the portable format doesn’t work with very well. It can be done on the Vita, of course - but it’s just not particularly comfortable for multiple players to watch a hot seat match on a portable console. There’s something very satisfying about seeing the reaction of the person whose worm you just landed a Holy Hand Grenade next to that I miss from the PC days.
Of course, I’ll always be comparing to my favourite Worms game, Armageddon - it’s very difficult not to. But while I wouldn’t say Worms Revolution Extreme is better, it’s great to see that it brings enough new content and ideas to the table to be worth playing. The 3D stage design offers new depth into the stages and makes them feel a lot deeper, though the 3D worm models aren’t as crisp as a 2D worms title could have looked on the Vita’s screen - looking at how great titles like Rayman look on the handheld. However, it looks good enough and manages to feel like the Worms I know and love, albeit with some new gameplay elements to keep it fresh – all of the 2D entries I’ve seen of late have felt rather stale.
+ New gameplay features, mainly water, bring new tactical options into Worms
+ New visuals offer good depth into stage design
+ Matt Berry’s narration adds character to the game
- Unskippable tutorial is a little too long
- Water physics could be improved
If you’ve played Worms before, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The new concepts brought into the game help set it apart from other titles, though don’t expect any major innovation for the most-part. There’s plenty to do and a good selection of weapons, but the handheld format isn’t great for local multiplayer, which is where I believe Worms is at it’s best.