Turn-based strategy action doesn’t come much more explosive and devastatingly hilarious than it does with Worms. After fifteen years of their Saturday morning cartoon-style combat, it seems our favorite annelids have given up trying to conquer the third-dimension and are headed back to what they do best – wrecking havoc in glorious 2D. After a series of failed experiments to ‘modernize’ the franchise threatened to have fans cut bait and run away, developer Team17 is hoping to put things right with Worms Reloaded, which reworks last year’s excellent Worms 2: Armageddon for XBLA into a Steam-only release that brings back the best elements and gameplay bits that were lost to progress. It’s just like old times again, and just when I thought they were done, they manage to wiggle their way back into my life again.
Yes, our soil-dwelling commandos are headed to the frontline once again as they bring their never-ending war for total and complete domination to a whole new level of destructible chaos. Veterans should take notice as the game returns much of what made the franchise so special, as you’ll command a team of four worms and customize them to your heart’s content. Practically everything from their individual names, accents, appearance, and even those oh-so-sweet victory stances. Your warriors will wage their invertibrate combat across completely destructive 2D environments as they attempt to eliminate and obliterate one another from existence; in this wacky world the last worm standing is the winner. This begs the question: can worms stand?
This wouldn’t be an authentic Worms game without explosives, and fans should wriggle in delight to hear the return of such favorites like the standard bazooka, banana bombs, controllable super sheep, and (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) the coveted Holy Hand Grenade. Unfortunately,, you don’t get all of your utilities at the beginning though since you have to keep playing and purchase item through the in-game shop system. It was a bit deflating to have to play through the 65 available missions and skirmishes using only smaller firepower in order to get your slimy hands on the good stuff, but everything from new forts, tombstones, and even new objectives are available to keep the devout busy.
Soon enough your Spartan redneck worm will be trading blows (and heavy artillery) with the hardhat geezers positioned across the map. Along with that the general premise like the many others before remains unchanged from its original incarnation as you lead your team and take alternate turns against any opponents that squirm in your way with only tombstones left in their places. Of course, this also means that the same 2D style and a generous array of 47 (14 of which are new) weapons at your disposal. Unfortunately, none of these new toys, which include turret guns and invisibility, are as much fun or engaging as their classic counterparts.
Also noticeable is the refinement of weaponry seen throughout the battles, whose power feels toned down when compared to previous games. When you do happen to strike the almighty hammer down it just feels softer than you might remember, almost as if the idea to balance things out was to introduce a tamer side to the conflict. This is somewhat disappointing in a series known for its ludicrously powerful weaponry and explosive action.
Multiplayer is still where its at and can be great fun with ‘hot-seat’ (alternating) commands between you and and a group of buddies (or optional CPU) still the norm, and there’s plenty of gameplay modes to keep things fresh and exciting. On the menu are modes like Crazy Crates (increased number of airdropped weapons), Bodycount (single-worm, Rambo-style), Warzone (full arsenal available), Forts (player-selected levels), and each help break the monotony of the single-player campaign. One new mode, Rope Racing, which has players equipped with grappling ropes race to the end of the level, is a bit of a let-down and doesn’t really fit in well with the rest of the game.
Taking the fight online is a different matter, as this is where the real guts of the Worms experience comes to life. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of taking on real opposition from competition both near and far, and playing online through Steamworks is (mostly) up to the job. I had some troubles getting matches to sync properly, and losing a member of the team wasn’t that uncommon. I’ll chalk these issues up to post-release issues that need addressing, as my review was based on playing the game soon after it was released in the wild. While there’s almost nothing about Worms Reloaded that will tax most modern-day PC rigs, best make sure you’ve got a solid internet connection before heading out into these laggy waters.
Besides the fresh coat of high-definition paint (which gives the game a glossy Flash-like look), another striking addition to the package is the exhaustive editing features, which lets you customize not just your squad-mates, but also the visuals and design of the 2D background levels to insane levels. If you’re not happy with the available battlefields, than either try to find some online or go ahead and make your own (including uploading your own images). There’s currently no easy way to trade your masterpieces with others online, and let’s hope that’s on the list of future improvements. Team17 promises to support these features with post-release updates and modifications, so this is certainly a worthwhile investment for fans looking to dig in for the long haul.
After a series of failed experiments with the trusted formula, Worms Reloaded is a great back-to-basics return for one of the most popular turn-based strategy games ever made. This Steam-only download is essentially a reworking of Worms 2: Armageddon for XBLA, with new high-definition artwork, weapons, as well as extensive customization and editing features that will keep fans busy long after the campaign is over. Online support through Steamworks was spotty (at least at launch), and some veterans may take issue with the drastic rebalancing efforts to the combat. Still, there’s no denying how much fun the game is, and this is certainly one of the better iterations of modern worm warfare you’re likely to find.