Don’t Attract the Worms! Worms Collection Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Worms Collection is an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 title developed by Team17. It collects the High-Definition versions of Worms, Worms 2: Armageddon, and Worms: Ultimate Mayhem previously released on Xbox Live Arcade. It also allows players to download the DLC for Worms 2, free of charge. Each game in the Worms series follows a basic formula: players command a squad of crack worm soldiers in a turn-based battle royale. These are action-strategy games in which players must maneuver their slow, clumsy worms into position and make precise attacks on their opponents.
There is a large array of weapons that the worms can deploy in battle. Your arsenal includes machine guns, cluster bombs, air strikes, explosive sheep, grappling hooks, and still more bizarre weapons. Most of them have very limited ammunition, but the standard bazooka and grenade are unlimited. The variety of weapons really gives these simple games a great deal of depth and unpredictability. Many of the weapons, including the bazooka and grenade, rely on the player’s ability to estimate trajectories. By pushing up and down on the left analog stick or on the D-pad, players can change the angle of their attack and, through trial and error, discover which angle best compensates for wind speed, altitude, and gravity to deliver its explosive payload. In this respect, Worms plays like an artillery battle, with slow-moving set-pieces taking pot-shots at one another until they find that sweet spot.
This artillery-style gameplay is enhanced by the games’ fully destructible environments. I must say that it is more fun to miss your target in Worms than in any other shooter game: your shells will open craters, blow out buildings, and trigger the landmines placed throughout the stage. It is not only aesthetically gratifying to break the stage, it is essential to the game’s strategy. You will need to destroy barriers that your opponents hide behind; open up bottomless holes that drop enemy worms into the sea; and create escape routes for yourself.
It must be said that even though the main weapons play to the worms’ slow movements and clumsy jumping abilities, the bulk of the weapons require you to get up close and personal with enemy worms – and often to beat a hasty retreat. The incredible slowness of your worms is not a flaw in the gameplay; it is an asset. You are given less than a minute in each turn and need to make split-second decisions. Players not only need to take the time to move worms into position, select a weapon, and aim for their targets, they must ensure that their worms have an escape route. One of the more tense scenarios occurs when a worm hops into a crater and drops a stick of dynamite next to his enemy, only to discover that the slope is too steep for him to crawl away before the fuse burns out. Should he use a teleporter? Can his grappling hook reach anything? Does he even have time to use one? The close-quarters combat more than balances the slow game of rocket trajectories – it creates a manic scenario in which your strategy can be overturned at any moment by an intrepid worm with a jetpack and a baseball bat.
Worms and Worms 2: Armageddon are two-dimensional games. It is only Worms: Ultimate Mayhem that puts the camera behind the players’ worms and allows free movement in three dimensions. The result is more satisfying than any shooter that I have played since Red Faction II (Volition, 2002). Players explore a colourful, crisp landscape and destroy anything that stands in the way of wrecking the other team. Because the 3D environment requires more effort to navigate than the flat world of the previous games, Ultimate Mayhem has a greater emphasis on action than its predecessors, without losing the strategic play.
Ultimate Mayhem includes more play modes than Worms or Worms 2. These include Statue Defend, in which players must destroy the statues in the enemy teams’ bases, and Homelands my personal favourite mode. In Homelands, each team is given a fortress and must try to capture an island, located in the center of the map, which is loaded with special weapons and first aid kits. These extra modes do add some variety to the game, but are still essentially fights to the death like the standard mode, Deathmatch.
Worms Collection is a fantastic multiplayer game. It gives you time to make informed decisions and also tests you to get in – and out – before your plans backfire on you. The game can turn around incredibly quickly. In one match of Worms 2 that I played with a friend, he had hunted my team down into a chasm and spent all of his ammo to wipe me out. Reduced to a single worm, I managed to escape using a teleporter, stranding my opponent’s army in the pit. I then lured him out of the hole, picking off his fighters one by one until only two worms remained in play, and only then did I return to the pit for a face-off with his last worm. I equipped the Fire Punch weapon – our battle ended with a fist fight. After that exciting comeback, I was finally knocked out. The unpredictability of the game makes for a great dynamic struggle between every player.
Each of the Worms games features a simple graphical style. In this HD collection, the small worm sprites are clean and well-defined, and one can easily make out the characteristic gestures that they make: when one worm sneaks up behind another to blow him away, his hapless victim will roll his eyes around to peek at his hunter. The worms also grow hands in order to shrug when they miss a shot, and when they die, they pull out a little TNT detonator and blow themselves up. All that is left behind is a dancing grave marker. In Worms 2 and Worms: Ultimate Mayhem, you can also customize your team to have different silly hats, which is more fun than it has any right to be.
The sound design in this collection is simple and charming. The music throughout Worms and Worms 2 is rather cliché and extremely repetitive, relying heavily on snare drums beating a battle song, but it is effective at building a sense of military drama. Fortunately, Ultimate Mayhem’s soundtrack is much more invigorating and varied, creating unique moods for each stage. The real charm is the voice acting. Worms all speak in a squeaky, high-pitched voice to make silly quips, battle cries, and sounds of anguish. They make squeaky noises when they move as well, emphasizing their cartoonish silliness and bringing levity to the game. This balances out the weapon noises nicely, as they are comparatively loud and realistic. As with the hats, you are able to customize the voice clips in the later games, so that your worms speak in Disco, Scottish, or Spaceman clichés, among others.
The weak points of Worms Collection are the story and the single-player experience. The story is non-existent in the first two games, and in Ultimate Mayhem, it is a shallow setup for a series of single-player missions. Without a compelling or entertaining story to carry it forward, single-player mode is relatively uninteresting. The computer players are typically unskilled and are not satisfying opponents, even if they put up a fight. The real joy of Worms is in multiplayer mode. The collection supports play over Xbox Live, but I recommend local multiplayer – it is an engrossing, dramatic and tense experience to share a fifteen-minute battle with one, two, or three good friends.
My only other complaint about Worms Collection is regarding the controls. They are intuitive enough in the first two games, but in Ultimate Mayhem, you are required to aim in a first-person perspective. The standard controls of the game do not use FPS conventions, instead requiring you to hold a button in order to aim in first-person. I often became confused when switching between the button that brought up the weapons screen, the one that selected the weapon, the one that aimed it, and the one that fired it. These are all different buttons, and the control scheme is clumsy and unintuitive. With time, it is easy to use, but it is still unnecessarily complex.
To make matters worse, the worms do not make clean jumps in any of the games. They bounce backwards when they jump against a surface, unlike most platform games in which the character would slide down the wall. This is often a setback that can cost you an entire turn because of the precious seconds wasted. Jumping is a necessary mode of travel in the games and should not be so finicky.
Worms Collection is great for anyone who likes action or strategy games and enjoys playing with friends. It is saturated with light-hearted humour, and its variety of weapons and random stages give it great longevity. It can easily become a standard title at your gaming get-togethers, as it already has at mine. Overall, it is a gratifying and occasionally epic game, but bland music, weak jumping, poor single-player mode and the messy control scheme of Ultimate Mayhem are all points against it.
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