Although the worms continue to pop up on damn near every platform available, it seems like it’s been an eternity since the series graced the one platform it truly belongs on: the PC. Worms Reloaded is in fact the first PC entry in the franchise since 2004’s Worms 4: Mayhem, and the first 2D PC Worms title since World Party, nearly a decade ago. Although the series briefly dabbled – perhaps misguidedly – into the third dimension, the franchise has always shined in the second, and Reloaded is no different.
Generally speaking, if you’ve played one Worms title you’ve pretty much played them all. The variations from one entry to the next are usually minor, highlighted by the occasional new game type or mode and punctuated by the newest addition to their weapons library. Although Reloaded might initially appear to be ‘just another Worms game’, it also happens to be the single most comprehensive version of the series to date, boasting several small but noteworthy additions.
Traditionally, Worms is a game you’d never want to be stuck playing alone and while multiplayer will always be the main appeal, Reloaded succeeds by finally offering a few genuinely entertaining single player modes. The campaign sports a variety of mission types, highlighted by the ingeniously devised puzzle stages. During these stages the player is given a worm or two, a few single use items and the instructions to either reach an exit or kill an opposing worm. The weapons or items provided are never the obvious choices for the situation at hand so the player must craft a non-traditional solution to succeed. Most of the puzzle stages are quite clever and are extremely satisfying to solve once you’ve played around a bit. Sadly these mission types are in the minority over the course of the entire campaign, but they’re totally worth the time involved in reaching them.
The other reason to play alone is the new Body Count mode, which is essentially Reloaded’s version of a survival mode. Starting out with one buff – 200hp – worm, the player has to kill as many opposing worms as possible before dying. The opposing team always has four worms, as one will spawn immediately after another perishes. The enemies start the round with a minuscule 10hp a piece but as the game plays out new worms spawn with more and more health, making it more difficult to dispatch of them quickly. The constant uphill struggle of the mode is a welcome change of pace to the traditional team based deathmatch the series is known for and the leaderboards make Body Count a mode you’ll likely want to revisit again and again.
Although Worms Reloaded boasts some of the more memorable single player diversions yet seen in the series, they still remain that: a diversion. The multiplayer is where most of one’s time will be spent and it’s as robust and easy to use as any previous Worms title. It has a dizzying level of customization to make sure you can play the type of game most to your liking, or if you’re simply interested in fan favorite game types like Crazy Crates and BnG, Reloaded has you covered there as well.
The only cause for alarm with the multiplayer is the very rare but glaring latency problems. Usually if lag becomes an issue you’ll see a character stop and suddenly start, speeding through the actions the other player made over that pause in the action. In my own experience with Worms Reloaded, the few times I ran into any lag the opposing worm would continue to move in real time but the actual actions made by the other player wouldn’t correlate to what I saw on my own screen – basically I saw them screw up, and then found out I had a pair of dead worms that had never appeared to have been attacked.
In addition to customizing game types and rules, there is a robust map editor to let players create their own stages using one of the many level templates. Of course default stages are randomly generated to begin with, but the extra option provides an even larger selection of wacky stages to play with. Vertical maps have also been included for the first time and while the game flow is quite different, it doesn’t seem likely the map type will ever catch on as it has a fundamental problem with landscape PC displays. At this point vertical maps don’t allow you to zoom out, as there is nothing outside the single column to populate the extra screen space, which makes it damn near impossible to align any sort of shot that isn’t primarily horizontal.
Given the high level of customization found in the game, it’s a little disconcerting that custom levels occasionally render improperly online. Areas that are supposed to have land masses will show up as the shadowy artwork that backs every stage, and while it has no tangible effect on gameplay it can certainly be distracting. It’s also surprising a game that seems so poised to be driven by player created maps and game types has a generally lackluster set of local stat tracking and leaderboards. As zany as the franchise has been, it seems like a missed opportunity to not be tracking arbitrary statistics like super sheep miles flown.
Although Worms Reloaded has its share of rare but notable problems, it is without a doubt the pinnacle of the franchise, the single best and most complete version of Worms to date. The level of customization is staggering and the game’s timeless artillery gameplay is just as fun as it was fifteen years ago. Hopefully the developers at Team 17 will give the game a chance to breathe and find an audience before releasing yet another iteration to be filed in the worms’ seemingly endless march towards gaming oblivion.
And for the record, the new weapon of choice is the Buffalo of Lies.
Nine out of ten
- Surprisingly decent single player offerings
- Dizzying level of customization
- Same old classic artillery gameplay
- Rare game breaking lag
- Levels occasionally don’t render properly
- Disappointingly sparse leaderboards and stat tracking