I have no idea how many installments the Worms franchise has had, but of the ones I have played, I’ve enjoyed them all immensely. Admittedly, the last one I actually played was back on the PSP (I think), but after several installments on the PC, the series takes several strides forward with Worms: Revolution. The newest Worms title adds a number of new features to the series and a fancy-looking 3D engine, but manages to retain the core of what makes the games so much fun.
Worms: Revolution largely retains the classic turn-based gameplay of the franchise, with minor changes: each team is comprised of four worms. During each turn, one worm in a team gets to move. Their order is predetermined by the team lineup, so on that team’s next turn, the next worm gets to move, and so on. During a worm’s turn, he gets one minute to move and/or use any weapons. Once the worm uses a major weapon, takes damage, or causes damage to an opponent or the environment, the turn automatically ends, and the opponent gets to go. The last team standing is the winner.
The centerpiece of the Worms franchise has always been the insane selection of weapons, and Revolution is no different. While the whole collection is not always available for the match, I have yet to see everything that’s available after several hours of gameplay. The arsenal includes everything from the standard bazooka to exploding sheep to my personal favorite, the Holy Hand Grenade that emits a heavenly chorus before exploding with a massive multicolored blast. They’re not all that in-jokey, however: there are also some more creative ones such as a mole that tunnels to the enemy before exploding. Things get more interesting when the game allows players to explore their creativity with weapons: for example, one turn you can use the Water Gun to submerge an enemy (causing them to take damage for every turn they don’t get out), then block off the opening so that they cannot get out.
The series is also known for its oddball sense of humor, and Revolution retains this almost perfectly. While some of the lines occasionally don’t quite land, the script overall is extremely funny, with the centerpiece being the narrator. Dry humor and humorously forced British puns are the main order of the day, and for the most part they kept me chuckling as I progressed through the reasonably lengthy campaign. Most of the humor revolves around the worms surely going to their death, and one great joke poked fun at how the omniscient narrator of any story is never in any danger. The humor carries over to the art style; the worms are animated with fantastically goofy character, and throughout the matches start to sport bandages and black eyes. Their tinny voices any spoken non-sequiturs also set the mood perfectly.
Most of the environment is destructible, which means as the battle goes on, the map gets more and more defaced. This can have major repercussions on the battle, as a wall can be detonated to allow a deadly rush of water or one or more worms can be trapped. The latter happened to me in one match, as my entire team got trapped on one side of the map as the opponent started taking potshots. However, instead of cheating me out of a win, the game merely required me to change my strategy and I ended up narrowly winning. This strategizing is thanks to an almost-sound elegance within the system that allows each player to change their stance on the fly, as well as be forced to change from an offensive stance to a defensive one as the match progresses. The malleability of most of the strategies also make things interesting when playing against human opponents, as a cunning foe significantly increases the excitement and tension of a match.
I say “almost-sound” because some of the stages seem designed with a specific strategy in mind. That is, if one team knows how better to exploit a stage’s setup, their win is practically in the bag. Secondly, the teams’ starting positions on certain stages put certain teams in very inconvenient situations requiring its members to rearrange the environment while the opponents get in position to attack. This isn’t a pervasive problem, but it does get mildly disappointing from time to time.
The standard turn-based matches aren’t all there is to see here. There’s also a fairly robust customization system that allows anything from the worms’ voices to an array of hilarious idle animations. Additionally, there is an impressively deep level editor that allows for environment creation through a Microsoft Paint-style drawing system. These levels can then be uploaded and played in. One could easily lose several hours in this mode alone, particularly as a means of alleviating the aforementioned issues with unbalanced environmental makeup.
Other issues in the game are minor. It’s not always easy to line up shots thanks to a very simplistic targeting system that simply doesn’t get the job done when using longer range explosive items for which you don’t know the exact trajectory. It leads to a process of trial-and-error that feels like more of a hindrance than it has in the past, and when the turns count, it’s not particularly welcome. Finally, damage values and physics don’t always feel right; grenades don’t consistently bounce like they’re supposed to (something that’s always felt strange with the game) and I have yet to pinpoint exactly how much damage is caused by various weapons since it doesn’t stay constant.
Just as with the rest of the series, Worms: Revolution does still suffer some issues that mildly hamper enjoyment of the game. That said, few games do turn-based strategy better than this long-running franchise, and the issues are easy to overlook in the grander scheme. Despite minor changes to the formula, this is still Worms at the end of the day, and that will directly impact your enjoyment of the game. If there’s something you hate about the series, there’s nothing here that will change your mind. If you’re a big fan of the games, however, and have been itching for a good strategy game on the cheap, or, like me, have had a positive experience with it in the past, you should definitely get Worms.
Worms: Revolution was developed and published by Team17. An Xbox 360 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.