Worms Reloaded Review
Someone once said that “war is hell” and if the long-lived Worms series is any indication, war between invertebrates is the most hellish—or at least the most enduring—of all. Since 1995, these tiny legless adversaries have been waging 2-D, turn-based war on each other, apparently for no good reason. The latest incarnation of the conflict, Worms Reloaded, brings us more of the explosive gameplay we've become acquainted with (and addicted to), along with a host of welcome additions.
For Worms veterans, Reloaded will be extremely familiar since the core gameplay remains much the same as in previous titles, with changes consisting mainly of new weapons and new customization options. For gamers who've never commanded an annelid army, the Tutorial mode teaches them the basics of Worms warfare while the Single Player Campaign mode lets them hone their skills. You start by choosing a team and naming it, then customizing your team's look, attitude, color, hats, names and particle effects. You can even choose from a large selection of character voiceovers—anything from the Three Stooges to Space Monks). Once the level starts, you and the opposing worm team take turns and have anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds to maneuver and attack. A right click brings up each level's given arsenal which consists of limited-use weapons like air strikes and super sheep as well as unlimited ones like grenades and a bazooka.
The number of worms on each team varies by level and the challenge of each battle varies depending on the level of the water (which is deadly), the shape of the map, and where your worms are positioned on it. At level start, your little wormy soldiers may be deep underground and have to shoot their way out or may be balanced precariously on a ledge, just waiting for a stray bullet to knock them into the drink. Strategy is essential if you want to win, as is the ability to make effective use of your arsenal. Some weapons require being able to anticipate their trajectory and some, like the bazooka, are even trickier to use since they're affected by wind direction and speed. This means if you're not careful, a well-intentioned bazooka shot may, like a loogie out a car window, come right back and hit you in the face. Luckily, you'll have ample opportunity to learn how to avoid this kind of embarrassing combat gaffe in the 35 level single player campaign.
The Campaign consists of maps set in differently themed levels, such as sports arenas and construction sites and offers a variety of different objectives. Most often you'll be working to defeat the opposing team but sometimes you'll be given a much shorter puzzle level. Puzzle levels come in two kinds: timed puzzles that ask you to navigate the map using a special tool like a jetpack or a ninja rope, and non-timed puzzles that ask you to defeat an enemy using limited weaponry and logic. All of the level types are well designed and entertaining in their own way and if anything negative can be said about Worms Reloaded, it's in regard to its pacing, sound and somewhat uneven AI.
Turn-based games are, by nature, slower than other types of combat games, but Worms Reloaded suffers from strangely unnecessary and over-long pauses. During combat, slow reaction and death animations coupled with a seemingly pointless lull between turns make gameplay as a whole feel somewhat sluggish. Timed puzzles also exhibit some annoying delays as every time your worm takes damage, the game lurches to a halt for a few beats before resuming. While these stops don't appear to affect the puzzles' timer, they create an unnecessary hiccup in what would otherwise be much more dynamic gameplay. In addition to these pacing issues, Worms Reloaded's music and voice-over could use some improvement. The music has a strangely mellow, world beat feel that just doesn't fit the game and the voice-overs, while funny at first, soon get irritating enough to make you want to turn them off completely. Lastly, the skills of opposing worm AI are fairly erratic. Most of the time, enemies are spot-on, seemingly able to hit you with anything from anywhere on the map. On the rare occasion they do miss, you can usually thank tiny slivers of geometry for creating unlikely obstructions.
Fortunately, the overall game experience isn't overly marred by these issues and in general, the positives in Worms Reloaded far outweigh the negatives. First, aside from some truly fun competitive mechanics, there are more gameplay modes than you can shake a land mine at. In addition to the single player campaign, ambitious worm generals can choose from custom modes like Beginner, Standard, Pro, Rope Racing, Fort, Crazy Crates, Bazookas and Grenades, Warzone and Bodycount. Second, it's USB gamepad compatible and offers up to four player online and offline multi-player with voice support. On top of that, the new landscape editor lets you create custom levels, making your own maps from scratch and setting the number of rounds, the turn, round and retreat times, the sudden death conditions and the types of available powerups, hazards and weapons. Oh, and let's not forget the abundance of brand new weapons, maps and ridiculous headgear.
With its slew of new cosmetic and AI upgrades as well as its surprisingly comprehensive custom map editor, Worms Reloaded represents a savvy upgrade on previous Worms titles. The game blends fun, modern variants with unabashedly old-school gameplay, and the mix is a good one. The campaign alone is good for at least six hours of gameplay and once you dive into the game's many multiplayer options, the fun really begins. At $19.99, Worms Reloaded is a solid entertainment value—especially for those of us who love the smell of banana bomb in the morning.