Hundreds of worms were harmed in the writing of this review. You’ve got to pity the poor critters that lend their name to this franchise. Nearly two decades after the sacrificial invertebrates made their debut, the Worms are back and they’re facing more grizzly deaths at the hands of uzis, grenades, baseball bats and exploding sheep.
The latest Battlegrounds entry in the long-running series has “wormed” its way onto the PS4 and Xbox One (reviewed here) – and is one of the first games to be launched under the latter’s ID@Xbox program.
Team17 once again works its magic, transforming the affable creatures into killing machines across a lengthy single player campaign and a selection of multiplayer modes.
The slightly elevated price point can perhaps be forgiven given Worms Battlegrounds crams in a fair amount of content. There are 25 single player story missions story (revolving around a plot involving evil worms and museums, or something), 10 “Worm‐Ops” time attack missions, as well as multiplayer Deathmatch and Fort modes. Then there’s a level editor included for you more creative types and SmartGlass integration so you can keep an eye on your kills and statistics too.
While the various game modes are all well and good, clearly it’s the weapons that most of us are bothered about – and Team17 doesn’t disappoint. The developers have a collection of 65 items in the arsenal, including the intriguingly-named Winged Monkey, Teleport Raygun and Bovine Blitz. The doddering old woman, water-generating jet packs and cluster bombs are among our favourites!
And as if all those explosive inclusions weren’t enough, there’s also the option to customise your worms, providing them with comedic costumes, voices and unique names. There are over 200 variations and although it doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way, it does allow you to form some semblance of an emotional attachment with your cannon fodder, and succeeds in making you a little melancholic should one of your favourite creations meet an untimely demise. What’s more, you can pick from various classes of Worm too, with soldiers, scientists, scouts and heavy troopers offering a tactical element to the proceedings.
As ever, the visuals are typically garish – the bright and colourful environments having their own distinct identities. All the action, in its glorious cartoony 2D style is played across five varied landscapes: Inca, Viking, Feudal Japan, Industrial Revolution and Prehistoric. There’s clearly nothing here that pushes any boundaries aesthetically but it looks nice enough. One criticism is the occasional difficulty differentiating between the fore- and backgrounds, which makes it tricky to target your enemies and achieve those vital hits.
Comedian Katherine Parkinson (star of shows such as IT Crowd) provides the humorous narration that punctuates the game and there’s a nice array of sound effects and voice samples – although all of these do get a tad repetitive after prolonged playtime.
Gameplay-wise, Worms can be enjoyed by people of all ages – despite its heavy emphasis on weapons and destruction. Be warned, however, it is a turn-based strategy game so it is slow paced and may not appeal to the more action-oriented or younger gamer.
Perhaps the most significant flaw is the enemy AI. Rival worms are sometimes bumbling, swinging between complete ineptitude – firing their weapons off target and inadvertently blowing themselves up – or demonstrating pinpoint accuracy and pulling off an incredibly tricky shot at your expense.
It doesn’t detract too much from your enjoyment, however. The single player campaign and “Worm Ops” mode are really little more than a lengthy tutorial, introducing you to the various gameplay mechanics… it’s the multiplayer segment that really deserves the plaudits. Battlegrounds boasts both local and online multiplayer – great fun and probably where most of your time will be spent. Games can be tailored and tweaked, with factors such as weapon strength and the time between turns easily adjusted.
Matchmaking can occasionally be frustrating and all too often I found myself being kicked from a game for no good reason. And when I did join a few, I came up against either absolute newbies who made for easy kills or shrewd tacticians who certainly knew their way around a jet pack and ninja rope, quickly wiping out my entire team. It’s testament to the game, however, that none of these issues deterred me from diving back into the action time and time again.
Battlegrounds is certainly a fun game and there’s plenty of replayability – especially if you’re playing human opponents. It’s easy to get to grips with but difficult to master. A little practice, however, and you’ll become a lean, mean, worm-killing machine!
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.