Unless you are a newer gamer, or have spent the majority of the last 18 years living under a rock, It’s a pretty safe bet that you have heard or played one of the many iterations of the Worms franchise. Starting way back in 1995, developer Team 17 has been cranking out games on almost every platform imaginable. Just a few short months into the life cycle of the PS4 and Xbox One, they are back at it again, this time with Worms: Battlegrounds.
So what is Worms? Well to put it simply, it’s turn-based worm warfare. It makes very little sense, but is a ton of fun. The premise? Two opposing teams of worms battle to the death using a variety of crazy, over-the-top weapons in a turn-based fashion. The worlds are usually randomly generated and destroyable, making for a fair bit of strategic planning as you hop and squirm your worm around for the perfect shot. The last team standing is the winner, and because of it’s fun pick up and play style, Worms has been a favorite local multiplayer game for well over a decade.
Battlegrounds is obviously the newest, best-looking addition to the series and, to the joy of many fans, brings back that classic look and feel that made the Worms series so popular in the first place while also adding in some newer game modes, a story-type mode, and different classes and customization options for your little worm soldiers.
Running on Xbox One, Worms: Battlegrounds looks fantastic, with really vibrant levels layered onto a background environment that pops on its own. The levels are both fun and unique; as you advance through the different stages, you start to see some levels based around really cool water and lava physics that change how you approach taking down the enemy. I did notice both offline AND online that the game had some lag issues, but usually in viewing enemy movements, which was not enough to hamper my own attempts at destruction.
The game controls in the same manner as the countless Worms games that have come before it, which can both be a familiar blessing and a curse. You move your earthbound soldier around the scattered elevations of the battlefield using the left thumbstick (LS) left and right and, depending on the weapon or gadget you have, a tap or hold of the A button will usually fire, with radial aiming being delegated again to the left thumbstick. Jumping and back flips are handled using the X button, and the right thumbstick allows you to move the camera around and scan the environment. Again, these are essentially the same controls that have been in place since 1995, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!
The story mode, from what I could wrap my head around, involves a museum, a stolen artifact and 25 missions that increase from “oh this is fun” to “retrying this for the 10th time”. Along with 10 special “worm-ops” missions, the campaign can be very short if you are a Worms veteran, but if you are anything like myself, some of the more challenging levels will give you some trouble. All in all, the main story only took me about four hours to finish, and that’s with quite a bit of time spent repeating failed missions.
If you take your Worms game online, there is a bevy of things to keep you busy. You can create a clan of Worms with different classes, such as the quick scout who can move past land mines undetected, or the heavy-set brute who moves much slower, but packs a bigger punch with explosives. After you have your team set up and customized the way you want with your own logos and gear for them, you can take your clan online to do battle with others. This is where I spent most of my time with Worms: Battlegrounds, and had some fun with it, but unless you can find a group of friends to get in the game with, even online play can end up being pretty monotonous.
There is also a pretty cool level editor that allows you to build levels from the ground-up and share them with the online community; if you are a big fan and plan on playing Battlegrounds for months to come, you can rest assured that new content will be readily available. One minor issue I had with the levels themselves was the destructibility. In past games, the land could be terraformed by your missiles and airstrikes in any way you saw fit, allowing you to carve a hiding spot or tunnel under a mountain; in Battlegrounds, not EVERYTHING can be blown open – certain types of granite or stone simply can’t be changed, and this left me a bit disappointed.
All of the awesome weapons that Worms fan have come to know and love are back and just as awesome as ever. everything from the common rocket launcher to shotguns and airstrikes, to the crazier entries like fireball punches, exploding sheep, and flying monkeys, there is no shortage of ways to decimate your wormy opponents. There’s also a bunch of cool navigational tools, such as the fan favorite (and personal favorite) Ninja rope, Jet packs, and even teleportation. Just HOW these tiny creatures of the earth are able to wield such insane amounts of firepower is still beyond me, but it works and it’s a lot of fun.
Arguably my favorite part of Worms: Battlegrounds is the hilarious dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humor presented throughout. My hat goes off to the writers, as they often had me in stitches reading some of the things my little worms had to say, some very off-the-wall stuff that suits my sense of humor perfectly. The games overall narration is done masterfully by one Katherine Parkinson, who I am told is a fan favorite in a BBC show called The IT Crowd. I will be totally honest here and tell you that her portrayal in a game like Worms has made me actually go out and start watching the show. Her dry British humor and charming accent really work well for the game and her Worm character “Tara Pinkle” (who is a sort of messed up Lara Croft). Many a laugh were had thanks to her and the great writing over at Team 17.
Worms: Battlegrounds doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t try to change what it’s loved and known for just for the sake of change on a new era of consoles, and the choice to go back to basics does nothing but help it in the long run. Even as a casual fan of the series, I had a great time playing Battlegrounds. I would have liked for some Kinect integration on Xbox One, but the Smartglass application you can get on the tablet is a nice touch and something I hope to see ALL developers do in the future, whether it’s a AAA title or a downloadable arcade game. The biggest barrier that’s preventing Worms: Battlegrounds from being a sure pick up is the price, at $24.99. I felt was just a bit too steep for my blood. I would have been perfectly fine with $10 to $15, but it is what it is. Diehard fans of the franchise will pick this bad boy up no matter what, and if you have ever enjoyed blasting small fleshy ground critters off the face of the earth, then you should give Worms: Battlegrounds a shot as well!
This review is based on Worms: Battlegrounds for the Xbox One. The game was provided to 3GEM by the publisher. The game is also available on the PlayStation 4.