Game review: Worms: Reloaded
Let it be known, I am an old-school Worms nerd. The amount of hours I spent playing deathmatch was eclipsed only by the time I spent chasing a higher ranking on Case's Ladder, roping around the custom built maps of olde.
It came as something of a surprise to me that this particular Worms title was being developed and published by Team 17. Even more surprising - and satisfying - is that this Worms game marks the return of the 2D battlefield, a perspective that has not been scarred by a Holy Hand Grenade since 2001.
At a glance, Worms: Reloaded looks familiar, very familiar. In fact, the fog of nostalgia aside, I couldn't really distinguish between the interface I was staring at and the one I lingered in front of at age twelve - my proto-facial hair bristling with anticipation as every segment of the loading screen filled.
Worms: Reloaded will feel exactly as it should to a large number of you, and I couldn't give it more praise for this. Picking silly names and accents for your team of worms? Still there, and still entertaining.
The impressively granular level creation and set up were a hallmark of Worms 2, something that set it apart from other "novelty" (read: non-FPS) games in the 1990s and they're still right here, as expected.
I would mention the loading screens, but they really ruin the illusion that Worms is the same as ever. Even on my modest home PC, there are none to be found. Perhaps not surprising in the age of Modern Warfare 2 and Crysis, but it makes for a snappy set-up which is quick to draw you in.
At the game's core it remains a trajectory-based shooter. Armed with an increasingly absurd array of weapons, your team of brave little invertebrates must do battle across destructible landscapes until the other little wormy team is destroyed.
To spice things up, there are a variety of pseudo-modes you can enter into, including a campaign mode made up of tough battles interspersed with problem solving. These are devilishly tricky towards the end of the arc, many requiring a high level of skill and patience.
Warzone is fairly similar, but without the problem solving. As a nod to the multiplayer community of old, "rope racing" is officially included, which utilizes the ninja-rope and a lot less killing. At the time of writing, I am limited to singleplayer and hot-seat multiplayer only (Steam seemed incapable of finding a foe for me), but the offering is there... Waiting.
The graphics in Worms Reloaded won't see you scouring the couch for the coins to buy a new graphics card. To put it plainly, it looks almost exactly like any of the older Worms 2 generation of games, but for the backgrounds and weapon effects receiving a minor visual update.
The sound effects, voices and music are all top notch, showing off the humour and attention to detail that Team 17 once put into their games. There's nothing quite like having an Old English-speaking pink-wrinkle assassinate three of its species then hop off with a hammy "ah hah!"
The upside of such a low-spec engine is that the game loads virtually instantly. It's refreshing to have a game that you can ALT-TAB out of with no lag and load on a Pentium III. Buy a few copies, LAN your old machines and throw a Worms party as soon as you can.
But it's the addictive nature of the gameplay that keeps Worms alive to this day. In multiplayer, outwitting your foes and slamming them with a perfectly piloted Super Sheep is pure satisfaction. Dropping dynamite from a jetpack while setting off a series of mines with your tail is why multiplayer gaming was invented. The sheer creativity that the relatively basic weaponry allows you to display is what makes the formula a classic.
Playing solo can be harrowing, however, as the AI becomes especially nasty when it's on the ropes. While this does prevent the game from being a walk-over, having a team almost beaten only to be killed from across the map by a grenade aimed with inhuman precision (we're talking five perfect bounces) can be frustrating.
Luckily, just as you're beginning to frown at the computer's newfound ability to clobber you from out of nowhere, another game mode will take your fancy and you'll play on.
Worms Reloaded is a worthy addition to any gamer's arsenal. The singleplayer will keep you busy for hours on end and the deceptively simple nature of the beast will have you plotting and scheming long into the night, even when you're not playing it.
Speaking of Steam, the game has its own monetary system. You gain coins by completing singleplayer tasks which can be invested to customise your platoon with hats and accents.
Keeping track of your friends and foes is a real advantage to having the game Steampowered, as well as the internal ranking ladder for knowing who's who online. Pulling off an incredible feat of worm-murder used to be akin to a fishing story. All too often your "6-kill" bazooka shot became a tale met with a wearily knowing expression. No more! Proper stats collection is evident with the inclusion of Steam achievements, which add an extra dimension to the in-game ranking system, and your own sense of pride.
While it's essentially nothing new, this is truly the definitive Worms experience for this generation, or those gone by for that matter.