Worms 4: Mayhem
While The last ten years have seen little in the way of innovation when it comes to Worms' trademark turn-based battling, the Amiga original was so spot-on that we're more than happy that the concept has remained largely unchanged in spite of the recent move to 3D.
Of course, many would have you believe otherwise; that by viewing the insect carnage from all angles, the purity of the original game has been leeched away. These people may have had a case when Worms 3D wriggled onto the scene back in 2003, seeing as it lacked the ease of play of traditional 2D efforts thanks to a slower pace and over-complicated interface. However, in Worms 4 we're happy to report that Team 17 has pretty much succeeded in modernising the decade-old series. Unlike last year's fun-but-flawed Forts spin-off, the developer has gone back to basics: fixing, tweaking and stuffing in even more over-the-top weapons.
We'll not waste precious column inches explaining the basics. If you've never experienced Worms before, you really have no cause to call yourself a gamer, suffice to say that the cycle of move-shoot-snigger rotates at such a pace that it seems wholly unjust to call it turn-based'. Our invertebrate heroes slink across the landscape at an agreeable rate, no longer snagging on polygon outcrops. Plus, because there's a much-improved camera that tracks shells and grenades as they arc across the maps, more time is spent appreciating the cartoon carnage and guffawing at yours and others' ineptitude.
As ever, the game is stuffed with toys and customisable options, from equipping your team with various items of facial furniture and imbuing them with high-pitched voices, to creating your own multiplayer templates and even creating new superweapons - although sadly this feature simply involves tweaking a few settings on a multipurpose rocket-launcher.
Thankfully there are a few all-new weapons, all of which are instant Worms classics, from a sentry gun, a sniper rifle and. my personal favourite, the concrete donkey, which when released can drop through a multi-storey building, often leaving entire teams of stunned annelids blinking at each other across a puddle of water.
In truth, while Worms 4 lives up to its Mayhem moniker rather well, it isn't yet the ultimate 3D version. For a start the fine art of ninja roping is an utter bastard to master - I'm sure the complexities of having to play in 3D are a contributing factor. Some sort of persistent ranking would also have been a welcome feature. Generally though, Worms 4: Mayhem is fantastic fun, as Worms has always been (Blast and Forts excluded). Some may claim that it's a one-gag game worn thin, but to others like me, Worms is something that will always manage to raise a smile.
To say it's better or worse than versions of old is to miss the point. Worms 4: Mayhem is different in so many ways -the emphasis is now firmly on quickly collecting bigger weapons rather than hiding in tunnels. We may have several years before 3D Worms has exhausted all avenues, but right now, Worms 4 is as refreshing and distinct as you could hope for.
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Once Upon a time, there was a game that made tum-based combat fun. As time passed it gained more and more old women, sheep and holy hand grenades. Then it became 3D. It had seamlessly integrated itself into computing history. Now, the announcement of Worms 4: Mayhem confirms that even at the game's tenth anniversary, there's still no end in sight for the Worms world party.
Ten years ago, if I thought I'd still be talking about Worms in 2005 I'd have laughed at you, says Martyn Brown, the studio director at Team 17. It's amazing really. The worm thing is almost like a part of the furniture here now. It was never intended to work out that way, but I guess we timed it just as the industry went hell-bent on franchise development. There's a saying that suggests you can be a victim of your own success - but the term victim' is hardly applicable given all that's gone before - especially with all that's about to hit with Worms 4."
Worms 4, recently migrating from Sega to the Codemasters stable, is apparently being taken back to its anarchist basics. It's probably the title we really wanted Worms 3D to be, but never had the luxury of time and resources, explains Brown. It brings a much richer balance of play, plus two of the most keenly requested aspects of our fan base; you can customise your own Worms and also make your own devious weapons. With inflatable scousers, poison arrows and a bovine blitz option that provides a bombing raid of cows, it looks like you're in for a familiarly surreal experience - not least with the game being spread out over five themed zones: Wild West, Arabian, Construction, Camelot and Jurassic. Animation and worm interactivity have also been significantly upped, meanwhile, and Brown promises that issues with cameras, control and multiplayer that he felt bugged previous 3D releases have had far more attention paid to them this time around.
But how does it feel to be head of a development company that's been entangled in worms for an entire decade? I think it's fair to say that it's been one mother of a roller coaster ride, smiles Brown. It's had massive highs and a few splashes in the water along the way. I've felt sick, been sick and worried sick, but ultimately never became sick of the game itself. Given that it's been ten years and we're still keen as mustard on making things better - that must say something. Roll on Worms 5,6 and 7 then...
Worms always struck me as docile creatures. After all, the slinky invertebrates spend their entire lives wallowing in the dirt ' not exactly threatening, right?
Oh, but how wrong I was. These little buggers have a murderous cold-edge to them, ready and willing to call an air-strike on you if you even so much as look at them the wrong way. Thanks to Worms 4 Mayhem, I'll never look at one the same way.
The Worms franchise has been a mainstay of the gaming world for over a decade, offering up strategic and humorous mayhem on a small scale. And, to be honest, not a whole lot has changed since the first installment. Worms 4 Mayhem revolves around the same concept of huge weapons dolling out big death in a strategic, methodical fashion. It's hard to deny the delight that results from chucking a holy hand grenade at an opposing worm and watching his death ensue in a hilarious fashion, but as with all things, the charm of a worm's death can wear off with repeated viewings.
Even so, the core of Worms 4 Mayhem is solid enough to help counter-act this issue since you will have to utilize methodical strategy throughout the game. The game still comes off as a bit easy however in spite of all that. Once you get the hang of the game's mechanics, it becomes easy to steam roll your way through the game, especially so since the AI isn't all that bright. Matches quickly become bullying events because the AI isn't too consistent in its death-dealing competence.
The thing that'll keep you playing through Worms 4 Mayhem, however, is the multiplayer. It can be a riot with a group of friends, thanks largely in part because of the game's humorous edge, and you can take it online too via Live!, but finding a match might be harder than you think, given the low population of the community.
Technically, Worms 4 is on shaky legs (which is strange because worms have no legs at all). The visuals are unimpressive, with low resolution textures and blocky environments. The filler effects from explosions and the like aren't all that thrilling nor satisfying; a bit disappointing since half the fun comes from watching the worms bite the dust. Unfortunately, the sound fares a lot worse. Minimalism seems to be key in describing the sound in Worms 4 and even what's there can be grating after a time.
But, hey, at the bargain price of $20 bucks, you get what you pay for. Worms 4 Mayhem won't rock your world with its refinement and it won't keep you on the edge of your seat with excitement, but it's certainly an entertaining and interesting diversion, if nothing else.
Snapshots and Media
- Bugs Bunny Lost In Time
- Disney's Magical Quest 3 starring Mickey & Donald
- Happy Tree Friends: False Alarm
- King's Quest 7: The Princeless Bride
- Sheep Dog ‘N’ Wolf
- Sonic Lost World
- Sonic R
- The Flintstones: Bedrock Bowling
- Tiny Toons - Buster's Hidden Treasure
- Toon Car: The Great Race
- Baby's Day Out
- Crystal's Pony Tale
- James Pond 2
- James Pond 3 - Operation Starfish
- Lemmings 2 - The Tribes
- Tempo 32X
- Worms Forts: Under Siege
- Zool: Ninja of the 'Nth' Dimension