Despite all its incarnations and hardcore fan base, the Worms series has been a mere blip on the mainstream gaming radar. First appearing on the PC and Amiga in the mid-90’s, Team17’s annelids provided an unusual mix of turn-based strategic warfare and a goofy sense of humor. Although it later popped up on home systems, the emphasis on tactical game play and little advertising relegated the series to sleeper status.
It appears, however, that the status quo is no longer good enough. Hoping to appeal to a greater audience, Team17 finally gave Worms the 3D treatment. And having exhausted their creativity in the process, they named it Worms 3D . The newest installment of the franchise introduces fully three-dimensional environments to the familiar warfare. Unfortunately, the switch to polygons creates new quirks in the well-traveled game play. The absorbing single and multi-player modes, sheer amount of game alterations, and replay offset its shortcomings.
There is no underlying story to Worms 3D . Instead, each stage has a theme and objective. Occasionally, antagonist worm, Boggy Pete, will show up to hamper your progress. Without a storyline to pace the action, you don’t feel any progression during the game. A few plot points would keep interest from dwindling during the single player mode.
W3D lacks the graphical polish of recent PS2 games. For a game touting its newfound 3D appearance, W3D is a letdown. Trying to match the look of its sprite-based predecessors, the visuals sport a cartoon-like look. The character models are blocky, and the textures often blurry. Character animation is decent but not particularly exciting. The graphical upgrade does bring out some nice qualities, however, such as numerous facial expressions that give the worms character. The cinemas are clean looking and entertaining.
The stages face a similar predicament. Taking on the hand-drawn, the environments are colorful and imaginative in appearance. The actual details, while sparse, do the job. The water effects sparkle, and you can see underneath the surface. One qualm is with the destructible environments. When landforms explode and splinter, the graphics warp around the damaged part as the mass rebuilds. A bigger problem is slowdown. When there are two teams on a map, there are rare occurrences of framerate drops. Get four teams on a stage — particularly a randomly generated one — and the lag becomes noticeable.
The presentation of W3D is sharp. With bold colors and clean text, the overall look is high-quality. Menus are first-rate and easy to navigate. The developers saw fit to make the experience as friendly as possible for newcomers to the series.
In the audio department, Worms 3D is average. The music fits the stages well. There is a lack of variety in tracks, which often repeat. The sound bites are a staple in the series, and W3D doesn’t disappoint. The more than forty voice sound banks echo the emotions of your worm team with hilarious effects. Everything from gangsta-speak to nagging-wife voiceovers adds distinct personality to each squad. The sound effects are solid, and catch the nuances of each weapon and event well.
It’s too bad that the sound is marred by inexcusable glitches. There are several bugs that should have been corrected before release. Music tracks often skipped erratically, and sometimes cut out totally. Sound bites overlap, creating an effect of two characters speaking at once. Sound effects frequently cut out during game play, and sometimes disappear during long bouts of play. I would say it was my copy of the game, but there are already several complaints. It’s a disappointment.
The controls are set up well, but there are a few problems here also. The left analog stick moves your worm, while the right analog controls the camera. I found that both analogs were extremely sensitive to movement, with the camera control being the worst. Conversely, back-flips (done by pressing square twice) required pounding on the button to execute.
Compared to its forefathers, game play is where W3D slightly slips off the line. Veterans of the series will recognize the miniscule changes as a result of the switch to 3D. Trying to adopt the play mechanics into three-dimensions, the developer tweaked some aspects while ignoring more dire ones. Newbies and fans will both feel at home, but only after a few rounds of practice.
The three initial modes in W3D may seem small, but hide an unimaginable amount of options and customization. The Quick Start one-player mode is for gamers wanting a fast, down and dirty game without worrying about the little details. The single-player mode contains three different options: a Tutorial mode, a Campaign mode and a Challenge mode. The Tutorial mode teaches you how to navigate the terrain and use the various weapons. It is highly recommended for everyone; as there will be few surprises (and disappointments) when playing the regular game.
The Campaign mode is the main solo experience. Team17 has vastly improved the single-player element over past Worms games. Over the course of 35 levels, you guide your team of worms through imaginative settings (a flooding garden, for example) and interesting spoofs (D-Day, anyone?). You control up to six worms and have to complete different objectives to advance. Throughout your adventures, you pick up weaponry that helps you out of jams. In addition, finishing levels with certain goals met — amount of turns, amount of worms left, etc. — determines whether you earn gold, silver or bronze ranking.
The Challenge mode is the bonus part of W3D . You earn the mini-games by placing gold or silver in the Campaign mode. The different challenges test your weapon skills, and offer rankings based on completion. Besting your times is fun, but there are few rewards for completing this modes.
The multi-player mode has always been the bread and butter of the Worms franchise, and W3D doesn’t tamper with the formula. Up to four teams play on the maps, either randomly generated or earned in campaign mode. The amount of option customizing borders on insanity, and lends to a new experience every match. The computer can generate new maps, control the time of day, the amount of land, height and distance, and even stage themes. The Wormpot slot machine throws random variables into each stage, affecting the matches even further. One niggling point is having to use one controller for all players, but that’s the norm for the series. Playing with three buddies is truly intense and fun — especially playing against Worms nuts. It’s a testament to the legendary multiplayer status this game enjoys.
For those who like to create their own unique playing experience, W3D is it. The options mode is vast. You can control: health, placement of worms, the amount of ammo present, the appearance of land objects, three different sudden-death modes, items in crates, time options in game play, and that is just for starters. Challenge schemes (beginner, standard, pro) adjust the difficulty, while others (shopping, strategy, stand and deliver) create varied situations.
Some of the alterations to this installment are unfortunately for the worse. One of the main changes in W3D involves movement. No longer restricted to a two-dimensional plane, you can now manipulate your worms on a variety of surfaces and heights. The worms handle clumsily, and moving is tricky on certain surfaces. It doesn’t help that you often get stuck on objects — a consequence of 3D — forcing you to give up your turn.
Complicating matters further is a camera that fights you at every turn, and because of the visual change, you now have control over the worm’s viewpoint. This often results in poor views, as the game sees fit to spin things around at various angles. When you do take control, the standard view is too close to your worm. Zooming out helps somewhat, but the computer defaults to another crappy angle if left alone. The camera also gets stuck at certain spots and makes for frustrating turns. And unlike most 3D games, objects blocking the view of your worm do not become transparent?cinfuriating is not the word.
The biggest change in W3D involves the use of weapons. Most of the fan-favorite gadgets make their return — minus the blowtorch and several others; such as the exploding sheep and Street Fighter fire punch. Aiming weapons is done using first-person radar or the blimp-view camera. While the game continues to rely on real-time factors that affect their potency (gravity, wind), the move to polygons creates an unforeseen problem. The difference between finding a good trajectory and actually hitting your target — even after taking all factors into account — is cause for concern. It will take a fair amount of attempts before getting a handle on aiming, and even then it is trial and error. Using some weapons is a guessing game in their effectiveness.
The replay value of W3D is very high. The Campaign mode will take a while to complete. Placing in the top ranks unlocks: assorted challenges, playable levels (for multiplayer), new voices, Wormapedia (the Worms encyclopedia) definitions and more. Multiplayer goes without saying and is well worth the purchase alone. Earning the best times in the Challenge mode gets you additional weapons and challenges.
Worms 3D is the inevitable evolutionary step in the series. The move to three dimensions puts a spin on the traditional Worms look and feel. As such, there are a few new issues that creep into the trusted game play. The sub-par visuals and sound foibles represent the franchise’s growing pains. The clunky camera, weapon and movement issues won’t deter long-time fans from adjusting to the game. A sequel ( Worms 4D ?) should fix the problems and mark a return to form. All issues aside, Worms 3D is worth picking up for the insane multi-player fun, great replay value, and cheap price tag. This game will keep you glued to your controller for a long time. Overlook its flaws, and it could worm its way into your heart.