It's difficult to approach a title like Worms: Reloaded without bringing at least a little bit of your 'prior' to the table. After all, who among us hasn't sampled any of Team 17's numerous iterations over the years? And going even further, how many of us haven't played more than a few? I'd wager most of you reading this will be well versed in the series' somewhat sporadic history, but for anybody that lapsed after its ill-fated move to 3D, all you need to know is that Reloaded is basically Armageddon and World Party with a new high-res lick of paint, a couple of new single-player modes, and a bucketload of nostalgia. Rope Match anybody? No? How about some Forts? Oh go on then.
For everybody else, here comes the science bit: Worms, at its heart, is a fast-paced turn-based action-strategy game that pits two or more teams of slithery pink invertebrates against each other in a fight to the death. Weapons are selected from an armoury of 48 individual death-dealers, ranging from grenades, baseball bats, missiles, and mines; right the way through to exploding sheep. Gameplay involves manoeuvring your troops into position on a destructible landscape (unless switched to impenetrable pre-game), before launching ordinance at the opposition via a physics-based projectile system that'll be familiar to anybody versed in Tank Wars. Your worms can easily be knocked off their various perches into the deadly water hovering below most levels, so a variety of tactics from 'darksiding' defensive barricading through to all-out kamikaze attack work well dependant on your position and skill level.
To boil the appeal of the series down to a couple of sentences, the inherent dilemma in any single turn of the Worms franchise is one of risk-reward. Turtling underground will do you no good as the landscape is usually slowly slipping into the sea as the match progresses, whilst an all-out attack without any consideration for defence will leave your little pink fellows dangerously exposed and swiftly dispatched. The very best players are masters of hit-and-run, carefully jumping, jet-packing or swinging over to your location with a ninja rope, dropping their ordinance, and then retreating to a safe vantage point to cackle with delight.
It's always been a fantastic multiplayer game, and that remains true here, whether you're playing offline or on. The only gripe you can really level at the Reloaded ecosystem is that weapons have to be unlocked via coins earned in the traditional single-player campaign (short, sharp challenges are still the norm), which is a big shame for those of you that just want to play with friends straight off the bat. It's a little odd that the two newer game types of Warzone (team-based against increasingly difficult opposition) and Bodycount (which is Warzone but with a single worm) don't carry any in-game incentive besides Steam achievements, making them a little redundant in the overall package, but fun as they are.
Of course it's that huge array of customisation options where Worms traditionally hangs its multiplayer hat, and besides the unlockable weapons, Reloaded thankfully looks set to become a modders paradise. On top of the fully-featured level editor and infinitely tweakable rule sets, Team 17 has taken a 'greatest hits' approach to customising your squad. Total team members are limited to four protagonists and four teams per game, but the array of audio, hats, gravestones and victory animations is expanded, taking in all the best material Team 17 has amassed over the years and adding a few new options to boot. Whilst it is a little disappointing to see the sound bank editor miss the cut at launch, developers on the forum indicate it may well be included in a future update, so you'll eventually be able to be as obscene as you like.
Besides not being able to give the online code much of a run-out before launch (not that it really matters in a turn-based game), the rest of the package can't really fail to disappoint new players or old, given it's essentially the same refined experience as before, and almost ten years since we last saw a proper 2D outing on the PC. It might have been nice to have a few more additions to the pack in terms of game modes and weaponry, but what is here is so customisable that the core appeal of the series remains intact regardless. If you think a type of terrain is missing, create it or download it; if you want a different style of game, set the rules or browse online for somebody else's. It's almost endless, and virtually guaranteed a strong audience of loyal content creators for years to come.
WORMS RELOADED VERDICT
It’s rare that a videogame can remain just as relevant today as it did at the turn of the decade, but precisely because of the stylised graphics, simplistic physics and endless customisation options, Worms remains evergreen to this day. With a relatively low price, it’s a nostalgic celebration you really shouldn’t pass up.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Lobbing that final grenade across the map for victory