A Preview of Worms: Revolution

The Worms games have changed a great deal over the years. Originally 2D turn-based combat games, the series has added a literal new dimension to gameplay starting with Worms 3D. Recently, the series has released a number of remakes and re-releases on multiple platforms and the 3D and 2D versions of the franchise have forked into their own directions.

Worms: Revolution is an upcoming release from Team17 that continues the 2D gameplay tradition of the original Worms games, rendered in 3D with a brand new graphics engine. It is very much a sequel to 2010’s Worms: Reloaded, rather than Battle Islands or Ultimate Mayhem.

As soon as I started the game up, I was thrown into a brief tutorial narrated by fictional wildlife documentary filmmaker Don Keystone (voiced by Matt Berry), who serves to give the single-player campaign something of a bizarre narrative.  The narrator is a hilarious choice, and suggests that the carnage the little worms inflict upon each other is for the amusement of a deranged British stereotype on safari.

The tutorial is quick and straightforward and if you choose to continue it leads you right into the first missions of the Campaign Mode. Most notably, the game is almost entirely controlled with the keyboard while the mouse serves as an ancillary function at best. It’s been some time since I’ve used the cursor keys to direct my character in a video game, and, on instinctively reaching for WASD, was shocked when nothing happened. If you don’t care for the remarkably old-school default keyboard layout, it is fully customisable to whatever you are comfortable with and the game also includes support for gamepads.

New players to the series should find that the tutorial explains the basics of the core gameplay of Worms: Revolution, but even veterans of the series should pay attention because there are several new elements to this iteration of the game.

Water is the most notable new feature to the maps themselves. In previous Worms games, water was simply the deadly obstacle at the bottom of the map; a fatal terrain feature to knock your opponents into. That is still the case in Worms: Revolution, but a new wrinkle is added with water that can be found in pockets or pools on the map itself. This water can be used to drown or wash away your opponents (or yourself, if you’re not careful!) It uses a very unique fluid physics system, allowing it to pour, leak, displace and create waves similar to how you’d expect water to behave.

Because the terrain in Worms: Revolution is deformable with explosions and other tools, water adds a brand new tactical element to combat because it allows you to pull off tricky moves like breaking open a reservoir of water over the tunnel your opponent is digging thus filling the cave and drowning him. New weapons such as water guns and water bombs allow further use of this new element.

The other big change to the battlefield is the addition of physics objects. While most of the terrain is unmoving but deformable with weapons’ fire, physics objects are subject to things like gravity and form discrete items with their own properties. Most are gigantic versions of common items, like water bottles and wrenches, to reflect the miniature scale of the worm combatants. Some contain the aforementioned water, several are explosive, and others are solid and highly resistant to damage. Like the water physics, new tools have been added to manipulate these objects. Using Telekinesis, for example, you can manipulate the objects to form barricades, traps, or bridges across the battlefield.

The game includes two exclusively single-player modes: Campaign and Puzzle. Campaign guides you through something of a story as Don Keystone narrates your journey, while Puzzle Mode gives you extremely limited resources and a complex playing field in order to accomplish specific objectives. I found Puzzle Mode especially challenging and fun—racking my brain on how to dislodge a bomb so it breaks a water bottle that, in turn, drowns my opponent.  It very much reminded me of Sierra’s The Incredible Machine series, only with explosives and cartoon worms.

Multiplayer, always the bread and butter of the Worms franchise, is deep and full of features. There are several different gameplay modes, from Classic to Deathmatch to Forts, and each one can be tweaked  to your liking. A few versions of the franchise didn’t include very much control over what items and weapons were available in the game, but Worms: Revolution includes a startling level of command over what you can and can’t use, and in what quantity. This can lead to a lot of diversity in how you play the game, allowing for the niche combinations of previous games that many fans loved (‘Shotguns and Ninja Ropes’ is a personal favorite of mine).

The fantastic level of customisation extends to other aspects of the game as well. You can customize your team of worms with your choice of hats, voices, props, gravestones and even what your fort looks like in Forts Mode.

Most notably, Worms: Revolution adds another element to customised team load-out in the form of classes. There are now four classes of worm: Soldiers, Heavies, Scientists, and Scouts. Soldiers are your standard worm with no special abilities or weaknesses. As their name suggests, Heavies are larger and tougher than Soldiers, but also slower and with a dramatically lower jump height. Scientists are slightly weaker than Soldiers, but have the unique ability to heal your team every time it’s their turn. Scouts are the most distinct of the new classes, being not only faster and more fragile than Soldiers but also physically smaller. Many default maps include tunnels and crevices that are so small that only Scouts can fit through them and thus adding new factors to consider in a battle.

One of the most exciting new features of Worms: Revolution unfortunately wasn’t included in this preview and that is the Landscape Editor. Between control over the weaponry and team selections as noted earlier, having the ability to alter the maps themselves is incredibly promising for fans of custom game-types and will really add to the longevity of the game.

With online multiplayer (both ranked and unranked) and the ever-popular hot-seat mode for Versus, Worms: Revolution is definitely a game best enjoyed with friends. The Campaign and Puzzle mode can be good fun on their own, but the heart of the franchise has always been a party game and Worms: Revolution continues that tradition.

Worms: Revolution will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on October 10th, 2012.

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September 27, 2012 - 8:00 am