First of all a disclaimer: I’ve never played any of the other Worms titles, I’m a total newbie at this so you won’t find any comparisons in this review, which seems to be quite unusual judging by most other reviews. I’m also on a deadline to write this and it’s a large game so I haven’t completed the campaign like I usually do before a review, but I’ve played enough to make a judgement I think.
This is a game that can be placed into 2 genres: puzzle platformer (single-player) and competitive/strategy (online multi-player).
Story mode has bucketloads of charm and humour in keeping with the whole theme of the game. You progress along the main map and each level has an intro telling the story, explaining the objective and telling you to kill the enemy worms (in ever inventive language). You have a team of 4 worms, each with individual characteristics – big/slow with more powerful explosions or small/fast with less damage, and various other traits. Some levels you control all 4 and on some parts of the map they split up so you only have one or two. To complete levels you have to reach objectives by collecting weapons and killing enemy worms along the way. Some weapons are carried over to the next level, others have a limited number of uses, there are always variations in line with the puzzle element of the level. Some levels are an all-out turn-based battle, 60 seconds per turn in the levels I’ve played so far. In all cases, shooting at the enemy ends your turn. They have points values, some more than others, and if you only wound them then they get to shoot back at you and that’s mainly how you can end up failing the level – there are other hazards too like machine guns, landmines etc.
Worm Ops is more or less a tutorial with a single worm and a different weapon on each level to kill the enemy worms without any other objectives. The trickiest thing to learn is how much power to apply to your ranged weapons so they arc through the air accurately to hit the enemies. I suspect this is a key skill for experienced players but I still haven’t got the hang of it, the enemy worms are much better at it than I am at this point.
Multiplayer: my first foray was a “partial success”, as they used to say on the Fast Show. I made several attempts to join matches but kept being rejected, perhaps because of my Beginner status. After a couple of hours I eventually I managed to join a game with two other players. It took so long to load I thought it was stuck and almost quit, then eventually the terrain appeared but one player immediately dropped out, or maybe failed to connect. The in-game chat didn’t work for me so I couldn’t reply to the other player, we took a couple of turns (during which I probably embarrassed myself) then he decided to quit so I won by default, whereupon the game CRASHED. I think I’ll need a lot more experience before trying to compete anyway, I was overwhelmed with a full array of weapons choices having only encountered a limited number of them so far during my single-player campaign, so I would have been dead meat in short order had the game progressed any further.
Katherine Parkinson’s voiceover (she’s the TV actress best known as Jen in The IT Crowd comedy). Oh My. God. I could listen to her all day long anyway, but there’s not another voice on the planet that could improve this particular game. Inspired choice.
Aesthetics: crisp, detailed cartoony graphics and wonderful animations – the way they go flying through the air from explosions is perfect – with cute squeaky voices and funny little comments. The background music is happy tunes that match the level themes, all very pleasant.
Customisation: you can rename your worms and there are many options for worm appearance (eg. moustaches, hats, comical specs), worm accents/phrases (eg. Angry Scot, Hostage, Wise Guy), level appearance etc. and as if there wasn’t enough already you can download/create even more content with the workshop editor tool.
Level overview: you can zoom in and out and mouse over the whole level to plan your strategy, spot enemies and places to hide etc.
Overall quality: very slick and polished, charm and humour, loads of content, cross-platform.
Performance: I have an i7, 8Gb RAM and midrange graphics (nVidia Geoforce GTX 550 Ti) and I had all video settings maxed. The offline gameplay is very smooth, no glitches. I’ve seen others complaining about framerates when there’s a lot of activity on the screen but I haven’t advanced far enough to experience that level of action yet so I can’t comment on it. The online multiplayer is another matter.
Value: after 12 hours I’m barely halfway through Story mode and the levels are already becoming pretty difficult, I’m having to make more and more attempts to get through. After that I can replay to improve my scores and climb the leaderboards which are based on time taken to complete levels. So all in all excellent value even without taking multiplayer into consideration.
No Linux controller support. This was a big disappointment for me and it’s not mentioned anywhere on the store page. People have said that it doesn’t work well with a controller anyway but I disagree, I tried it and it felt much more efficient and natural. However, no offence to Win users but for me playing games in Windows is like trying to enjoy a nice meal in an overcrowded, smoke-filled cafe surrounded by festering armpits and screaming, puking babies. I’ll take the keyboard in Linux, thanks.
Multiplayer: there’s a full built-in system for finding individual matches and managing clans, both of which have leaderboards, so all the infrastructure is there. However, my experience of it was not ideal so if it’s mainly multiplayer you’re interested in then perhaps this one isn’t for you. Personally I prefer the single-player campaigns anyway, I’m a puzzler at heart.
Strange default keyboard hotkeys but a) you get used to them after a while and b) you can change them.
Hidden game mechanic: telekinesis requires the tab key to turn the object. This is not explained anywhere, either in-game or on Google. I discovered it by trial and error. You’re welcome.
A fun, highly polished game with tons of content and a good learning curve. The Story mode will give you many hours of platform puzzling and then you can hone your strategic skills in online competition with your customised worms. It’s not a cheap game but still good value for the quality and amount of content.