There's been remarkably little progress in the Worms universe over the years. The jump to 3D was undoubtedly a massive change, but the fundamentals of the game remained exactly the same: cause as much havoc as possible with a set of creeping critters. It's always been a series where playing with humans improves the experience, and unsurprisingly, that fact is no different in this repackaging effort from Team 17. With plenty of content from Worms 3D and Worms 4: Mayhem to play through, is the lack of new ideas beginning to hinder the experience?
It's a question that's difficult to answer. The core gameplay has always remained simple and excitingly loose, willing you to make a fatal mistake. The franchise's strongest moments have appeared in the 2D realm, as the unambitious viewpoint eradicates a number of problems. Of course, upgrading the visual style was a natural progression back in 2004, but fast-forward 7 years, and this release does a good job of reminding you how the graphical progression fiddles with the formula. After a few hours with the game, it's difficult to say it's any less enticing than its flat-face brethren. Unfortunately, instead of providing a main meal that'll feed hordes of gamers, Team 17's reworking is a delicacy that plenty will quickly dismiss.
The cheeky buggers have returned...
So, what are the main problems? Since moving to 3D, Worms has always had a camera issue. It's no different here, as the sensitive handling often reveals a fair amount of frustration. In 2D, all you need to worry about is looking from side to side, while sometimes zooming in and out for a better perspective on things. That's not the case here, as the 3D space throws up a number of hindrances when combined with the shallow level design. Obstacles often get in the way if your worms are hiding underneath, as the camera spasms back and forth. It's not easy to control, especially when you've only got a short amount of time to make your shot.
Every map is surrounded by water, meaning the easiest way of eliminating your opponents comes from battering them into the sea. This takes the emphasis off previously key weapons such as the Air Strike, special grenades, and even burrowing (which isn't possible here). It's a shame, as each level looks absolutely lovely, with a thickly cut style that you will recognise if you've played a 3D version before. Each location can be destroyed, but the devastation isn't particularly deep. The ground will cave in under the stress of a grenade or explosive strike, revealing more pesky water to watch out for. Buildings can take a bit of a battering, but not nearly as much as I would have hoped.
A FPS viewpoint changes things up slightly, but it's not always for the best
It's a testimony to Worms' formula that even with these irks, the game is still consistently entertaining. The story mode introduces short missions that are perfect for learning the ropes of the game, but ever-present AI mishaps return. It's likely a computer controlled opponent will miss the easy shots and land the impossible ones, often producing bewildering results. None of the objectives ever push the series forward as they're largely rehashed from Worms 3D and Worms 4: Mayhem. To round the single-player off, a handful of challenges can be completed if you're looking for more light-hearted action.
As usual, online is massively addictive. A fairly substantial set of game modes have been put in place, including Deathmatch, Homelands, Defend The Statue and a number of other variants. You can now customise your team for play across the entire game, but this feature excels against others. Plenty of wacky teams litter the net, as the selection of glasses, moustaches, hands, hats and voices make for interesting viewing. With this said, it's a shame each individual worm can't be customised differently, as every team member takes on an identical look. Playing with a number of other teams in each match, the strategic side of the game is prominent here.
Beautiful, colourful graphics keep the charm levels at maximum
For those who like to customise their matches even further, the Wormpot system has been installed. This randomises aspects of a battle, such as the amount of crates that fall, and other minor points that should affect the way you play. It's not revolutionary, but it adds a hint of spice that will keep you coming back. The sheer randomness of what appears is great, as manipulating settings to your advantage provides a tactical element that hasn't been seen before.
WORMS ULTIMATE MAYHEM VERDICT
Referring back to my opening question, that lack of new ideas is certainly having a negative impact on the series. This package feels like it’s been thrown together to make a quick buck, and despite having so much content, it’s ultimately lazy work. That said, it’s immensely fun to come head-to-head with friends in a number of delightfully pretty environments. Worms: Ultimate Mayhem doesn’t overcome the prowess of Worms 2: Armageddon on Xbox Live Arcade, but it sits alongside it nicely. The 3D angle still uncovers a game that feels massively different to it’s 2D counterpart, but just like the genitalia of the headline act, there’s definitely room for both.