STAFF REVIEW of Worms WMD (Xbox One)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Worms WMD Box art I can’t believe I’ve been playing worms for over 20 years. I still remember the day I went to a friend’s house and saw him playing this odd game on PC with worms shooting each other. From that moment on I've been hooked. Even though I’ve been a massive fan of Worms, and their developer, Team 17, for over two decades, I’m not blind to the fact that some of the last releases have really been hit or miss in terms of quality and lasting power.

Many fans feel the series peaked way back in 99’ with Worms Armageddon, myself included, so the question for super fans is if Worms W.M.D. can be just as good, or better, than Armageddon. Well I’m happy to announce that W.M.D, while not drastically better than Armageddon, is easily at least on par, which is saying a lot given there’s been a dozen releases between then and now. Team 17 has done just enough to refine and add to the tried and true gameplay to make for a modern-yet-familiar gameplay for fans. There’s so much here that feels like Worms, yet I’m still learning a ton of new intricacies even after a couple dozen hours of gameplay.

While the core gameplay hasn’t changed drastically after twenty years, as you’re still commanding your team of worms against the opposing team with over the top weaponry and cartoonish graphics, it finally feels as though Team 17 has gotten back to what made Worms so great, making you want to play ‘just one more game’ after each one. There’s something for everyone here; single player, challenges, multiplayer, and a whole slew of new mechanics to learn and strategize with.

Even though I’m a Worms aficionado, I still always play through the single player campaign missions before taking my skills online. Normally these are pretty dull as you face an A.I. team, or teams, of worms of increasing difficulty, simply adding more worms to increase challenge. I honestly expected the same with W.M.D. but I’m more than happy to report that the campaign has been completely reworked and is actually engaging and really fun.

Comprising of 30 missions, each one has a main objective that needs to be met to get a passing mark. Each mission also has a handful of secondary objectives to challenge your skills. Some of the primary objectives may consist of defeating the enemy worms, defending a specific worm, collecting a crate, or other special goals. This adds some variety to the typical ‘kill all worms’ gameplay that the series is known for.

Secondary objectives are completely optional, but offer some new challenges and replayability, even for series veterans like myself. Sometimes these are simple and you may even complete them naturally, but others will have you approaching levels slightly different. Some of these might consist of your worm ending the round with more than the starting amount of health, or having your whole team finishing inside a building (more on this exciting addition shortly), or using a specific weapon to get the final kill. There are even hidden posters that can be found to unlock up to ten special challenges.

This new campaign setup is much more bite-sized, but the variety makes it become less dull since the primary objectives switch often. You earn XP for completing these objectives, unlocking new cosmetic items and sound packs, so there’s some reward in spending the time to do so. Team 17 has done a great job at changing up the formula and making it a mode that I actually wanted to sink time into and complete.

For those that have somehow missed playing a Worms game in the past two decades, it’s essentially a turn based strategy game where you’re tasked with defeating the opposing team(s) of Worms. You’re given an arsenal of weaponry that ranges from standard bazookas and shotguns to completely off the wall armaments such as banana bombs and concrete donkeys. There’s a surprising amount of strategy that goes into a match of Worms, and with all of the new additions, even more so with W.M.D.’s release. Thankfully the class based worms have been nixed from W.M.D., so expect a much more classic gameplay overall.

One thing I’ve noticed about Worms games when playing single player is that the A.I. is completely random. Sometimes they are as dumb as a bag of rocks and will shoot their teammate, while other times they seem to have prayed to their deity and make humanly impossible shots with pinpoint accuracy. This randomness seems to live on in W.M.D., as some matches the enemies will be a pushover, and other times they’ll make a shot that you wouldn’t be able to do if you tried a million times in a row. Given that Worms is primarily a multiplayer focused adventure, it’s not a deal breaker, but something to keep in mind when going through the 30 campaign missions or against bots.

There are a handful of weapons that are so iconic to the Worms series that even to this day when I see a banana, the banana bomb instantly comes to mind. Not that I have, but if I ever see a donkey statue in real life, I know Worms will come to mind. Many of the favorites and staples return, such as the bazooka, uzi, shotgun, super sheep, air strikes, holy hand grenade, concrete donkey, and many more. There are even a handful of new weapons that, while maybe not as iconic yet, they certainly fit in the silliness of the Worms warfare. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, as figuring out what’s new and how they work is half the fun, but I’ll just say that the phone battery is now a regular in my armament.

There are now also mounted weapons that can be used if you make your way to them. Placed randomly in the battlefield, you may come across a mounted sniper, machine gun, mortar, and others. Obviously their placement will determine your strategy to use them or not, but man, they can make a huge difference in a match if utilized properly, giving you a massive advantage.

As for utilities, Worms wouldn’t be the same without the staple jet pack and ninja rope to traverse around the map. For vets like myself, it’s been a rough time ever since the rope changes from Armageddon, as it’s never felt as good since then. It seems Team 17 has taken this to heart, and while it’s not as perfect as it was back in 99’, the ninja rope is once again an easy to use yet hard to master utility that can make a world of difference in your gameplay if learned how to be used properly. As a side note, learn to use the rope effectively so you can also destroy many worms with the new sheep on a rope weapon as well.

So what else has Team 17 done to make Worms fresh and relevant again? Vehicles. It’s crazy to think these haven’t been a part of the series until now considering how awesome they are. You can find scattered throughout the level (should your settings allow it) tanks, helicopters, and mechs. Yes, mechs. The first worm to get inside of it can use it, and while it can be game changing, it can also be hijacked by the opposing team on their turn and used against you as well.

While vehicles can deal a massive amount of damage, they do take some getting used to, and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve accidentally shot my own team with some poor helicopter flying skills. Just be aware that while you’re in a vehicle you do gain some extra protection, but if it blows up with you inside you’ll take that extra damage as well. The vehicles feel overpowered at first, but require quite a lot of strategy to use them effectively, especially since you can be ejected from them during an opponents turn.

Another new addition, and quite a game changer, is the ability to craft weapons. Not simply another bazooka or grenade, but variants of almost every weapon in the game. What if your bunker buster simply won’t cut it? Why not craft a mega buster that explodes with the power of a holy hand grenade. Heck, why not craft a holy hand mine instead? There’s a huge list of weaponry that can be crafted, each of which has a specific time and place to be used and opens the door for even more strategy involved.

You need a specific amount of resources to craft items, some of which can be found in crates, or you can deconstruct items you don’t plan on using as well. You break down these items into scrap which can then be used to create unique and even more enjoyable weapons to defeat your enemies. It takes a turn to craft a weapon, but you can even craft during an opponent’s turn, which is a huge addition and can easily turn the tide of battle if thought out correctly ahead of time. This mechanic absolutely needs to stay in any following Worms releases, as I found myself using it much more than I expected to.

The other big addition to the weathered gameplay is buildings. Now there are certain buildings that can be entered and hidden in. When in a building the opposing team can’t see exactly where you are inside, unless it’s been blown up or you’re in one of the few visible spots, like a window. This allows you to hide without having to rely on the standard digging that we’ve done for years, or even set traps for unsuspecting enemies. While it’s not as big of an addition as crafting, it’s big enough to warrant some new strategies.

W.M.D. has taken Worms back to its 2D hand drawn visual style, as opposed to the awkward 3D models on a 2D plane that occurred in the past few games. This results in a gorgeous style, full of color and charm. The new hand drawn look makes it feel fresh and new and arguably one of the best looking Worms game yet.

There was only one huge downfall in my time with W.M.D., and that’s the lack of a map editor. There’s options to change the style and type of landscape, but there’s no ‘paint brush’, so to speak, that previous Worms games have included. This may seems small to some, but for those of us who like to create our own maps for specific game modes, like rope racing (which is sadly missing), and while it may not be a deal breaker, it’s sadly a big miss. I’m hoping that this might get included in a future update, as it would really make W.M.D. a standout in the series.

To be completely honest, I’m willing to overlook the lack of a map editor (for now) simply because of the amount of other new mechanics that have been added. Crafting alone is enough to learn and strategize, and I really hope it’s a standard feature moving forward. Playing online with a friend resulted in many laughs, which is what Worms is all about. While it may not exceed the greatness of Armageddon in some respects, Worms is definitely back, and W.M.D. shouldn’t be passed over if you want an enjoyable night of gaming chucking a bunch of banana bombs and a slew of other new crazy weapons at a friend.

A map editor is a must.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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