Worms Reloaded review
It's been quite a while since Worms last appeared on the PC. 5 years, in fact, since Worms 4, and you have to go back to Worms World Party in 2001 for the last 2D release. This is surprising for a series which gained most prominence on the PC, but Team 17 have been introducing a new generation to the series via the consoles and handhelds in recent years, including via the excellent Worms 2: Armageddon. Now it's back on the PC, ready to deliver mayhem in a game based on that title. But has the game really improved since the last 2D release, Worms World Party? What's different from the console versions? And, of course, is it actually still a fun game to play?
The answers are, in no particular order: "yes", "in some ways", and "in quite a few ways". Hopefully you'll work out which answer matches which question as you go along. But before you do, it's probably worth giving a bit of information about the series for those who aren't familiar with it (honestly, they exist). Worms is (usually) a 2D turn-based action-strategy series where you play as a team of worms, aiming to take out all the other teams of worms who share the landscape. You’ll get access to a range of weapons, many of which are projectiles, so the ability to aim well is very useful here. You can traverse the landscape, jump across gaps, use a ninja rope to get to difficult-to-reach areas, and quite importantly, blow the environment to smithereens. The weapons themselves are often rather crazy, and pretty much always rather fun.
There goes the environment
You'll be pleased to hear that 15 years on from the original Worms on the Amiga that the series really is still fun to play. The fundamental idea of bunch of armed worms jumping and crawling across a map to take each other out is very enjoyable despite having now appeared in a vast variety of games. This is made better by the fact that the series' best weapons, including the likes of the Holy Hand Grenade, the Concrete Donkey, and Super Sheep, are featured in Worms Reloaded. However, this isn’t just about bringing back the classics, as a range of new weapons are also present, including sentry guns, an electromagnet, and the bunker buster. The last two are defensive items that actually allow you to play Worms more tactically than ever before; no longer are you relying solely on the trusty girder as the electromagnet draws away fire. The bunker buster is the counter to this, cutting straight down through the landscape to wherever your foe is hiding. If those new weapons don’t warm your heart in the same way as a concrete donkey, then you’ll be pleased to hear that you can turn them off.
This is from the new Body Count mode
Fans of 4-on-4 Worms gameplay will be pleased to know that it is fully intact here. Fans of teams of any other size, however, will be disappointed to hear that your team size can now only be 4. A whole variety of game modes are included in Worms Reloaded, but for those who simply want to blow worms apart in the same way as they’ve always done, there are the Standard, Beginner and Pro setups. Amongst the new modes are Rope Racing, which sees a single worm from each team trying to reach the end (turn-by-turn) as quickly as possible using the ninja rope, and Crazy Crates, which sees lots of tools and weapons raining down from the sky before each go, resulting in lots of on-screen havoc very quickly. Forts shake up the gameplay by separating the teams into a distinct areas of the map and without teleports and jetpacks to make your way across, it becomes a test of aiming those long-range projectile weapons. And if you don’t fancy any of those, then you can also create your own with a range of options such as how much health is in the crates, when the different weapons become available, how long a round lasts, etc.
It's not just the game modes you get to customise. As always you can create your own team, with their own names and a a variety of voices to choose from, and you can also create your own levels. In Worms 2: Armageddon on the consoles you can choose from a selection of environments, and either accept a randomly generated level or let the system produce a new one for you. Here on the PC, things are different thanks to our trusty mice. You get a full editor which allows you to easily create levels in a manner similar to Microsoft Paint. You can draw on to the environment, and fill in shapes, even place mines and sentries, and choose where the worms for each team spawn. It's impressive how easy it is to construct a level, and you can even import images from your hard drive. Between the team, gametype and level editors, you should hopefully be able to find something to suit your multiplayer needs.
On the other hand, we feel more could be done to enhance the replayability of the game. It lacks the great weapons factory option that existed in Worms 4 (which led to the infamous Bog Bomber), and a mission editor would also have provided a lot of potential for the community. New levels can be shared via the Internet, but there's no in-game mechanism for doing this. You'll have to go down the old fashioned route of sending files to other people and putting them in the right directory, although you can play custom levels in online matches.
Our highly original and exciting level design
Aside from the level editor, this is mostly the same as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game. Except for the fact that you now have a mouse at your disposal, and fully customisable keyboard controls. As someone who grew up with the series on the PC it's nice to be back with the familiar controls, but those who are more used to a limited button set and an analogue stick will also welcome the support for controllers such as the Xbox 360 one.
An internet match where noone is making any progress
Many may be wondering why it's worth moving from their trusty Worms World Party, especially as the graphics, weapons and gameplay aren’t significantly different from that 10 year old game. Well, there are new weapons as mentioned earlier, and the graphics upgrades are important; you can now play Worms at a much higher resolution than ever before, and the quality of the visuals doesn't suffer when you do so. The animation is much improved, and effects - in particular the water - are also significantly improved thanks to a decade of progress. Added to this is the benefit of being able to play Worm Reloaded on Windows 7 with ease, and you’ve got several good reasons to upgrade. Also bringing the game into 2010 is the Steamworks support. Providing a platform for the multiplayer action, it includes the friends list integration, automatic updates, and achievements that you'd expect from a game going through Valve's digital distribution platform. Still not convinced? Well, it also throws in some new gameplay with puzzle elements in the campaign which break up the flow from the usual string of deathmatches, and then there's the new Body Count mode which is a new survival test in which a single worm is pitted against a never-ending spawn of enemies until the inevitable happens.
And on top of that, the classic Worms gameplay remains intact and is a reason in itself to shell out for the first new 2D release on the PC for the series in such a long time. The only remaining sticking point is the price. At £17.99 it's almost twice the price you'd pay for the console editions, and while we think the vast array of content included in its release justifies the price, it becomes a little less of a must-have than a £10 or even £15 price point would have been.
The level editor in all its glory with a custom level design