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Worms Revolution review: Wriggling in circles


It says it right there in the title: Worms Revolution. A revolution, a radical change, a momentous shift. The game that will, as the marketing blurb puts it, bring classic Worms gameplay "squarely into the 21st century." Let's just settle this right now: Worms Revolution does not radically alter or change the traditional Worms formula in any fundamental way.

In truth, though, does anyone really want it to?

Gallery: Worms Revolution | 33 Photos

If you've somehow managed to miss the Worms series since it debuted nearly two decades ago, the concept is pretty simple. Commanding your squad of vicious annelids, you choose from various (often ridiculous) weapons and do your best to annihilate up to three opposing teams. Taking turns, each team moves a single worm and fires a weapon. Some weapons require precision aim and power adjustment – even factoring in wind speed – while others are merely point-and-click. With a limited amount of time on each turn, it's your job to outmaneuver your opponents and destroy them with the tools at your disposal, ranging from bazookas to uzis, holy hand grenades and ... exploding sheep.

Worms Revolution does bring a handful new ideas and features to the longstanding series. The most prominent change is a shift to entirely three-dimensional landscapes and characters. Gameplay is still confined to two dimensions, however, and remains essentially unchanged from nearly every Worms game since Worms 2 (apart from the love-them-or-hate-them 3D entries).

Those 3D landscapes bring with them new interactive objects that can help alter the course of a battle. Odd bits and bobs have always littered the battlefields of Worms – beach balls, fire hydrants, what have you – but objects are now endowed with actual physics. They're subject to the whims of gravity and certain weapons can even move them around. The UFO, for example, can lift an object and move it wherever the player wishes, handy if you need some cover or want to make it harder for enemies to get around.

Other objects, meanwhile, have more direct effects on the action. Destroy a lighter and watch it explode into a gout of flame. Pop a blowfish or disintegrate a mushroom and it will emit poisonous gas. Spy a water bottle hanging over a pit? Blast it open to pour its contents over unsuspecting worms.

Dynamic water is actually one of the other major additions to Worms Revolution, and it is used both in its environments and a few new weapons. Water balloons burst upon contact, flooding the surround area, while the water pistol shoots a directed stream capable of washing worms straight off of a cliff. The water strike, meanwhile, drops a load of balloons on a point of your choosing. Unlike the water that has always surrounded the playing field in Worms games, the new dynamic water won't instantly kill a submerged worm. It will, however, drain away hit points every turn, making it a useful tool for flushing out (ha!) entrenched enemies.

Finally, Worms Revolution introduces a new class system, which features four classes of worm. Scouts are tiny, quick and can jump long distances, heavies are slow but deal extra damage, scientists heal the entire squad every turn, and the soldier represents the old-fashioned, well-rounded worm we all know and love. You're allowed to mix and match classes as you see fit, so long as you can purchase them with in-game credits.

While each class has different health, speed and damage attributes, I rarely felt that the makeup of a squad dramatically affected the flow of a battle. There are exceptions, notably facing off against a squad comprised entirely of scientists. With each enemy turn resulting in a five point health boost for the whole squad, it can add up very quickly if you don't deal out heavy, precise damage. The scout contributed the most to my play style, as I tend to move my worms long distances frequently. I haven't experimented with it much, but of all the new concepts in Worms Revolution, the class system certainly seems to be the most significant. Not a revolutionary change, perhaps, but definitely a welcome one.

Beyond the new mechanics, Worms Revolution offers a few separate single-player modes, which attempt to address one of the series' biggest weaknesses. Lots of single-player missions and puzzle missions try to spice things up, but mostly prove what fans already know: playing Worms alone just isn't very much fun. Some of the puzzles are interesting, forcing players to kill opposing worms or accomplish objectives with a limited number of resources. Still, it's hard to escape the feeling that you're just killing time between multiplayer matches.

Multiplayer, unsurprisingly, is where Worms Revolution really shines. Throwing two or more players onto a random map with a broad sandbox full of hilarious weapons has always been the hallmark of the series, and that's no different here. I instantly fell into the familiar rhythms, and was jetpacking, ninja-roping and banana bombing my way to victory in no time. The online matches I played were stable, though peppered occasionally with troubling "waiting for other player" messages.

Even though the multiplayer is as good as it ever was, the question that needs to be asked is whether or not anyone really needs a new Worms game. There are some fun new additions, the 3D levels and worms look great, and the classes add a wrinkle or two, but very little of the actual gameplay is fundamentally different from previous installments. If anything, especially in this day and age, Worms Revolution proves that the series is ready to enter the era of "games as a service." The franchise is dying for one definitive version, something fans can enjoy and something developer Team17 can tweak and update in perpetuity. Something akin to what Valve has done with Team Fortress 2, perhaps.

That's a story for the future though. For now, we have Worms Revolution. It's largely the same entertaining experience that Team17 has been iterating for years now, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you've never played a Worms game, and you have a couple of friends handy, by all means dive in. Series vets, on the other hand, will have to ask themselves if a few changes and "more new weapons!" is still enough of a reason to grab the latest Worms game. For many, I suspect it is.

This review is based on an XBLA download of Worms Revolution, provided by Team17. Worms Revolution is also available via PSN and Steam.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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