Team 17 inches their way to excellence
It’s hard to believe it, but those wriggling warmongers of Team 17’s Worms series have been blasting one another to squiggly bits for over two decades. Those endearingly antagonistic annelids have inched their way through many a campaign over the years on everything from the Game Boy and Atari Jaguar to the crop of consoles and mobile devices. Now they’ve made they’ve returned with a vengeance with Worms: W.M.D, once again giving players the chance to turn their segmented opponents into fish food.
Worms W.M.D marks a return to form for the long-running artillery strategy franchise, abandoning the pseudo 3D trappings of recent releases in favor of a strictly 2D formula that’s more akin to the 1999 classic Worms: Armageddon. While it may seem like a stubborn decision by developer Team 17, the focus on finely tuned gameplay over gimmicks pays off. Worms W.M.D is arguably the most engaging engaging entry the series has seen in years, delivering a barrage of cerebral and addicting strategy and destruction that is both easy to pick up and impossible to put down.
While the mortar-slinging, bomb-dropping gameplay of the previous releases is largely unchanged, there are a few noteworthy additions that really add a new dynamic to the game’s battlefield antics. The most notable of which are the addition of vehicles, which can turn one lowly worm into a a force of destruction. Some of these vehicles are fairly tame, such as jetpacks which allow players to maneuver around the battlefield like never before. However, tanks, mechs, and helicopter gunships can turn your enemies into mincemeat in the blink of an eye. That’s not to say these units are invincible, as lumbering tanks and bulky birds of war make for large targets, and players with a steady trigger finger can blast them to smithereens when used recklessly.
Turrets offer another twist to the way fights unfold. These stationary targets offer a variety of munitions: from sniper rifles that can one-shot a target with ease; flame turrets that roast the opposition and turn the earth into a barbecue; and machine gun nests that can lay down heavy fire on enemy positions and wipe out entire squads. Though extremely useful on the battlefield, they leave their operator vulnerable to air strikes and keen-eyed shooters, meaning you’ll need to use them strategically to avoid any unnecessary casualties.
In addition to the new means of transportation and turrets, another interesting addition to the classic formula comes in the form of a crafting system. Each map has materials spread across the map which can be collected to whip up new weaponry in-between turns. Annoying sniper keeping you down? Wriggle your way to some bits and bobs scattered perilously far away to fashion an air strike to rain hell from above. Is an enemy unit calling in support from a sheltered position? Whip up a Bunker Buster and leave him pushing up daisies. Bringing up your crafting menu is as intuitive as tapping a button and choosing the weapon you want to craft. It’s seamless, and doesn’t interfere with the other team’s actions by bringing the battle to a pause. Overall, the crafting mechanic is a simple yet brilliant way of adding a fresh layer of strategy to the game, and you’ll find yourself searching every nook and cranny of the map for more supplies to expand your arsenal.
Worms: W.M.D’s campaign mode features 30 missions to master, which run the gamut from tense showdowns in desert frontiers against squiggly bandits to siege battles against advancing enemies trying to overtake your fortifications. While these stages aren’t tied together with any cohesive plot, they’re still very entertaining. Each of these unique arenas represents its own unique puzzle to overcome and serves as a great way to come to grips with the various tools of destruction that are at your disposal before challenging other humans in the game’s online and local multiplayer modes. Playing through the game’s campaign and challenge modes also unlocks more outfits, victory wiggles, and other bonus content which gives the single player portion some welcome extra legs.
Speaking of extra content, those who pre-ordered Worms: W.M.D will also receive the All Stars Pack, which brings weapons and accessories based on such series as Rocket League, Goat Simulator, PayDay 2, Yooka-Laylee and The Escapists to the game. While hardly a game changer, these cosmetic enhancements are a nice bonus that gives fans of these various franchises a chance to show them some love on the battlefield.
Despite all of the things Worms: W.M.D gets right, there are a few areas where it stumbles a bit. The addition of interior environments is a novel one, but it’s often very hard to discern where the various entrances of each building are located. This can be especially frustrating when trying to move to cover as the clock ticks down, only to find yourself impotently squiggling into a brick wall. Another area where the game sometimes struggles is the enemy A.I. department. While your foes are occasionally tenacious in their assaults, other times they seemingly pass on their turns for no good reason, or blast themselves to bits with reckless abandon, turning a would-be tense standoff into a hollow victory. While nagging, these issues don’t crop up frequent enough to put a major damper on the fun, but they’re bothersome nonetheless.
When all is said and done, Team 17 has done a great job trimming the fat with this entry in the series while finely polishing the things that make the series so great to begin with. Worms: W.M.D may not pack the glitziest graphics or a compelling narrative, but the consistently hilarious blend of wiggly warfare and wealth of wacky weaponry make it stand out from the pack. If you’re a veteran of the series who’s been waiting for these segmented superstars to return to their former glory, look no further than Worms: W.M.D. And if you’re a newcomer looking for a bit of lighthearted destruction, there’s never been a better time to enlist.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC ; Publisher: Team 17 ; Developer: Team 17 ; Players: 1-6 ; Released: August 23, 2016 ; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $29.99
“Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Worms: W.M.D given to HeyPoorPlayer by Team 17.”