After failing somewhat in its attempts to push the series in a new direction with Forts Under Siege last year, Worms developer Team 17 has dropped its RTS experiment completely and decided to return to the traditional turn-based cosiness of a typical Worms outing for this year's effort. Hence Worms 4: Mayhem, which ought to be out on the PS2, Xbox and PC in Q2 2005, with Codemasters handling publication this time rather than SEGA. It's all a bit New Coke/Classic Coke to our eyes.
Mayhem will once again put you in control of a team of four worms trying to blow the bejesus out of one another in a nice 3D landscape from one of five themed zones (Jurassic, Camelot, Arabian, Construction, and Wild West - with destructible scenery sensibly reinstated) using the series' various classic weapons like bazookas and cluster bombs, and obviously there are plenty of new additions including a Poison Arrow, Sentry Gun, Tail Nail, and the snappily-titled Bovine Blitz, which unleashes a bombing raid of cows.
Worms 4 will also place a greater emphasis on customisation than before, allowing you to create your own weapons using a Weapons Factory - like Exploding Chickens or Toilet Bombs - by mixing and matching different elements, selecting whether you want things like a gun sight, whether it's a launched weapon or not, and so on and so forth. You'll also be able to customise your worms, choosing hair, hands, face and glasses as well as their dying words - and it should all be delivered with the series' trademark sense of humour.
Although online options have yet to be confirmed, publisher Codemasters has been very good at supporting both PS2 Online and Xbox Live in the past, while Team 17's last Worms efforts happily went online, so we're confident that side of things will be exactly as it should be. Offline though it will be a mixture of the traditional multiplayer for up to four teams (we assume), with 20 multiplayer-specific maps, and there will also be a 25-mission single-player mode that involves recovering items and smashing scenery as well as killing other worms. Maps from the single-player mode will also be available in multiplayer.
Those of you about to comment that it all sounds remarkably similar to Worms 3D, which certainly polarised opinion, will also be pleased to learn Team 17 is trying to improve the 3D camera and animation system this time around. And, although that won't address the fundamental issue of whether a game that made its name thanks to simplicity and accessibility in 2D can transfer to three dimensions without losing some of its charm, we're tempted to give it another chance to worm its way back into our hearts.
In the meantime, you can see how it's all taking shape thanks to these screenshots.