Worms Rumble is a surprisingly great transition of the classic franchise to the multiplayer shooter arena.
Worms Rumble should be anathema to fans of the long running franchise (and, at least at first glance, I am sure that’s how many will react to it). Taking a classic turn based strategy series and turning it into a multiplayer shooter hardly seems like a fitting direction for the games to go in, after all, so you can even empathize with that response. However, once you get around to actually playing it, it ends up being surprisingly fun and compelling. In the tradition of other PS Plus titles such as Rocket League, or Fall Guys from earlier this year, Worms Rumble is a surprisingly fresh and enjoyable multiplayer game, with a unique and quirky spin on several multiplayer tropes.
Worms Rumble has three modes at launch – a classic deathmatch, a battle royale style mode, and a team battle royale mode. Each of these modes work exactly how you’d think from those descriptions, with up to 32 worms duking it out against each other in some rather zany maps, and with some delightfully imaginative (and differentiated!) weaponry. Last Worm Standing, the battle royale mode, pretty much has your involvement end once you’re killed – and with a low TTK, this can be the quickest moving mode. Whether or not that’s a good thing ultimately comes down to your personal skill level. If you’re good at the game, quickly being able to mow through other players to nab the gold for yourself is probably an empowering and thrilling prospect. If, like me, you suck at the game, then your involvement in a Last Worm Standing game will be over pretty quickly. This, of course, is true of all battle royale games, but dedicated battle royale games usually have full fledged rules and maps dedicated to that style of play which help keep things nuanced and interesting even for less skilled players. Worms seems to be less compelling in this mode (or in the Last Team Standing variant of this mode).
"Worms Rumble is a surprisingly fresh and enjoyable multiplayer game, with a unique and quirky spin on several multiplayer tropes."
The true star of the game, in my estimation, is the deathmatch mode. Much like he battle royale modes, this mode works exactly how you expect – you and the other worms spawn on one of the game’s three maps, and then you duke it out against each other until the timer runs down. This is where Worms Rumble’s mechanics and finely honed design chops truly get to shine. See, since a single unlucky (and inevitably quick) death doesn’t spell the end of your time in the game, this mode is where you truly get to enjoy Rumble’s delightful map design (replete with shortcuts, multiple levels, dynamic elements, nooks and crannies to set up ambushes, and more), and this mode is where you get the chance to really try out the full range of weaponry that Worms Rumble has to offer, given that you actually have the time (and impetus, in case the one you have isn’t working for you) to experiment.
The weapons themselves are great – while you have your standard and conventional ones such as a shotgun (which is great) or an assault rifle (which is less so), as well as stuff like grenades, you also get some truly off-kilter armaments to wreak havoc with, including a plasma rifle (which has the ability to shoot charged shots, and go around corners – a superb advantage on a multi-tiered, vertically oriented game such as this one), and a gun that shoots out sheep that, I kid you not, then proceed to chase any worm in sight, until they catch up, at which point they explode, dishing out massive damage.
The delightful weaponry, coupled with the really imaginative and clever map design, really help games feel dynamic and frenetic, helping every match feel different in how it flows and how you progress. This kinetic variation across games is, to be frank, necessary, since Worms Rumble has a shockingly low amount of content at launch – the three modes I mentioned, and only three maps. While, as I mentioned, those maps are really well designed, and should end up giving players a lot to work with over the course of many, many games, even the best designed map of all time will eventually get repetitive, which is a risk Worms Rumble runs three times over. Worms Rumble does try other things to keep you coming back, to its credit, including the requisite leveling system for your profile, as well as each individual weapon you play with, all of which works towards unlocking more cosmetics for your character and profile banner – but that kind of thing works better as a supplementary reward rather than being the primary, or even sole, motivation for a player to invest dozens of hours into something. I can only hope that this, as well as the other content issues plaguing this game, is alleviated in some future update.
"Worms Rumble has a shockingly low amount of content at launch."
In spite of the radical departure from other games in the series, Worms Rumble does retain some elements of the older titles’ identity. The controls, for instance, retain the franchise’s trademark floatiness to some degree, which actually ends up working well with the game’s verticality. As you may already have picked up on, the game also retains some visual motifs and nomenclature that has been pervasive through the series in the past as well.
We were promised that Worms Rumble would be the first 3D game in the series, and that was only true in the most technical sense – while the graphics are undoubtedly rendered in polygonal 3D, the actual gameplay takes place entirely on a 2D plane. On the whole, this ends up being strongly in the game’s favor, however, since keeping the action 2D helps it stay simple and brisk (not to mention the sidescrolling view’s ability to give you a view of a larger portion of the map at any given time, helping you prepare for springing or avoiding ambushes based on the rather clever and intriguing possibilities that the design and camera angles can provide for). In spite of the relative simplicity that this 2D format can provide, however, I did find Worms’ controls to be finnicky on console – especially aiming, which seems to lack finesse (the game compensates for this by not demanding a lot of accuracy from you either).
If you’re not sold on Worms Rumble because you balk at the very notion of real time Worms, playing the game will probably be all that’s needed to make you at least start to come around on the idea. As mentioned, Worms Rumble is flawed and lacking in a lot of areas, but the core gameplay and design works, and works remarkably well, to the point that the primary complaint you can lob at the game is very literally that there isn’t more of it.
That’s a pretty good base to build from.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Delightfully dense map design; the weapons are extremely imaginative; really charming and just overall fun
Some finnicky controls (especially with aiming); extremely low on content at launch
Worms Rumble is an extremely imaginative and fun riff on multiplayer shooters, and manages to transition the classic franchise to an entirely new genre and format extremely well.