20 years and countless games later, Team 17 rediscovers some of the old magic for Worms.
Worms WMD is something like the 20th Worms game to have been produced by Team 17 during the past two decades, and I'd run out of fingers and toes to count on before even getting to the spin-offs (Worms Crazy Golf anyone?). Over the past two decades Team17 has tried reinvigorating the series in a variety of ways, including moving the gameplay from 2D to 3D, through to introducing different classes of Worms. Some ideas worked, some didn't, but for all that effort it seemed like Team17 was consistently missing the mark. After 20 years, the series had simply grown tired and jaded, much like the enthusiasm of its fan base.
With WMD though, Team 17 has opted for a different approach. Instead of trying to innovate it's gone back to basics with simpler, purer two-dimensional gameplay that's instantly reminiscent of arguably the best game in the series, Worms Armageddon. And to be honest, it's worked a treat; WMD is a joy to play, and an instant throwback to what made the pre-noughties games so enjoyable.
That's not to say that nothing new has been added. Vehicles make their first appearance in a Worms game, as do buildings that players can enter for cover and a tactical advantage. There are new weapons, too, such as the satellite powered OMG Strike that disintegrates a large chunk of the play area and the Dodgy Phone Battery that creates an electrical charge which jumps between any Worms unlucky enough to be within its range.
Perhaps the biggest new addition though is a rudimentary crafting system that sees players collecting components from special crates that drop into the play area at random points during matches. These components can be used to create new weapons and tools in a special crafting panel, accessible through the weapons menu. Each item needs its own specific combination of components to make, with the more powerful weapons requiring larger quantities or rarer ingredients. Crafting can be done at any time, it doesn't constitute a turn, and clever players can even start crafting while their opponents take their turn. It's an invaluable tactic to know because it means precious seconds of turn time won't be wasted on crafting. Plus it gives impatient players something to do between goes other than twiddling their thumbs.
Part of the genius behind the Worms games has always been a control scheme that is one part simple, one part terrible. The controls don't need to be as fiddly as they are but there's a hilarity that lies within the accidental discharge of a rocket launcher. The most exciting games can be won or lost on a fumbled thrust of a jetpack or an ill-judged rope swing. It's calamitous, and often nothing less than hilarious.
This same approach to the controls has been taken for the vehicles which, when you have things like armoured tanks, mechs and helicopters, have the potential to be overpowered enough to ruin the game. Only people who've truly mastered the controls of the helicopter will be able keep it steady enough to do serious amounts of damage and even then there's always plenty of room for error. Oh and that mech suit? Discovering how to use its jet pack correctly was a game changer for me.
As with every Worms game before it, multiplayer is where the real fun's at, be it local or online with up to 6 players in a match. Every facet of the multiplayer is customisable, from the look of the level to what weapons are available. So, if players want to go for a super vanilla experience they could easily disable crafting along with all the vehicles, or they could go for all out carnage and just give everyone Concrete Donkeys to play with, the potential for chaotic fun is limitless.
The game's not without its faults however. The single player campaign is bare bones and utterly forgettable, serving more as an extended tutorial and a way to unlock additional customisation options for your worms than anything more substantial. There's no forced storyline featuring the voice of the lady from the I.T. Crowd this time round, just 30 differently themed missions to play through, along with some extra challenge missions that can be unlocked by finding hidden Wanted posters inside some of the levels. It's short-lived fun for completionists and those who want to hone their skills offline, but the majority of people who pick up the game will undoubtedly end up trying a couple of levels before ignoring it completely.
More problematic are the awkward camera controls, which I constantly found myself wrestling with. They're not so bad that they ruin the game, but there were many times when I missed out on watching a cool fatality or a devastating air strike because the camera had suddenly stopped tracking the action or zoomed into a random part of the level unexpectedly.
The character customisation is also pretty lacking. Even though it is possible to unlock new hats, voices, gravestones and victory dances by completing campaign and bonus missions it still feels like there are very few cosmetic options on offer. Worse still, the best items are confined to the All Stars pre order pack, which features guest appearances from other franchises like Payday 2, Saints Row 4 and Yooka-Laylee.
Still, all these criticisms are relatively minor when compared to the enjoyment you'll get out of Worms WMD. Like the best couch co-op games of yesteryear, it's a game that'll have you and your mates laughing out loud one minute and screaming with self-loathing the next. It might not offer much in the way of originality, but it's still one of the finest Worms game to date and perhaps best of all, it'll make you forget that you were ever bored of Worms in the first place.