The Worms series is familiar to many, even those who might not exactly call themselves ‘gamers’
Plonk anyone who’s ever held a controller at some point in their life in front of any iteration of the series (now in its 21st year), and they’ll no doubt take to it again with the kind of implicit memory usually reserved for riding bikes.
Had videogames been accepted by the mainstream more readily 20 years ago, there’d no doubt be copies collecting dust next to battered Monopoly boxes, ready to be dug out at Christmas.
Which is why it’s so refreshing to find upon loading up Worms W.M.D – the just-released new instalment in the series – that despite some invigorating new features, the core gameplay feels just like it did when you’d wade through Windows 97’s clunky UI to get to the game itself.
Here’s why it’s worthy of your time.
Worms W.M.D actually does do things differently. Quite a bit differently in fact. vehicles have been introduced to the game’s 2D maps for the first time, bringing with them a surprising amount of tactical range.
Players can get their hands on tanks, helicopters and mechs, each serving a slightly different purpose – but all leaving you a larger target at the end of your turn. Tanks mow down the competition with firepower, helicopters allow you to zip around the map with ease, and the mechs can brutally punch worms into the water. Because of course they can.
Another major feature is the introduction of internal locations; spaces within buildings that provide some much needed shelter. It all adds a layer of strategy and – perhaps more importantly – leads to some amazingly chaotic scenes.
Back to basics
There’s some ‘looking back to movie forward’ flair here as well though. And Worms W.M.D proves that the game’s turn-based combat works best on a 2D plane.
Sure, the series’ brief forays into three dimensions quite literally gave things a new perspective, and some of them were even quite good (here’s looking at you Worms 3D), but it’s a game best enjoyed on the flat, destructible environments we’ve come to love so much.
It’s got a glossy coat of 2016 sheen, but at it’s heart it’s still the same game from 20 years ago. And that’s a good thing.
That Team 17 humour
It’s one of the funniest series going. And that’s still true today.
We all have childhood memories of sitting around chuckling at the high pitched voices, and there was always a healthy dollop of popular culture satire and anarchic spoofing to boot.
W.M.D takes on everything from Twitch streamers (listen as your Worms erupt banal gibberish between every turn) to mobile phone batteries on their way out – one weapon has you lob a ‘Dodgy Phone Battery’ at your opponents for a chain of electical damage and maximum chaos.
Not a reboot
W.M.D is about as far from the dreaded reboot word as you could hope to get.
It’s a game that deserves to sit alongside that all-time Worms classic, 1999’s Armageddon.
It presents all of the best things that made those early games so great, but brings it kicking and screaming into the modern gaming world with sharp graphics, 60fps gameplay, and new features.
So often in the past the Worms games have tried to reinvent the wheel with ill-conceived additions to the gameplay (who can forget Worms Battlegrounds‘ story mode?); additions that have been left by the wayside entirely in favour of what Team 17 already know works.
Worms‘ cartoonish, 2D turn-based-combat really is very easy to understand and to wrap your head around. Perhaps that why it all comes rushing back so quickly when you sit down to play your first game in years.
For any other game to feel this familiar after 20+ years would be a major downside; a franchise languishing in tired mechanics and unoriginal design.
But for Worms, it’s exactly what you want.
There’s enough old-skool charm here to make Worms W.M.D feel exactly how you remember it from all those years ago.
It’s certainly the game fans have been waiting for since 1999, and hopefully a whole new legion of young players can get into this quirky, charming (and quintessentially British) gaming phenomenon.
Worms WMD is out now on PS4, PC and Xbox One