Once more, Team 17’s classic Worms franchise returns, this time on the PS4. Can they once more recreate their magic and deliver a banana bomb of excitement or has their lack of progression granted them too little wriggle room?
From the first time I booted up my brand new, shiny/dull grey PS1, and popped in a fresh copy of Worms, I was hooked. Every single device I’ve owned since then that is capable of running Worms in one form or another, has been taken over by the pink little blighters. This time around, it’s the turn of the PS4 to keep the disc warm for a presumably long while.
Upon starting it up, you are greeted by the voraciously sarcastic and demeaning Tara Pinkle, excellently voiced by Katherine Parkinson of IT Crowd fame. She’ll soon regale you with the basic but serviceable storyline regarding a certain Lord Crowley-Mesmer, a worm of course, who’s hell-bent on the ol’ world domination via acquiring the Stone Carrot. Needless to say, it’s up to you to put a stop to this madness by unleashing all kinds of wanton destruction inside various exhibits of a museum, all the while being scolded for not running off with everything in sight by Lady Pinkle.
Serving as a base for newcomers to the series, the story mode lets you get to grips with the fundamentals of movement and general platforming, as well as learning how to use the various landscapes to your advantage. Instead of covering the absolute basics of dispatching worms in varying hilarious manners, the story missions play out like puzzles instead. You’ll often be tasked with getting to a certain area of the map whilst picking up the required tools on the way. However, due to the different classes of worms at your disposal, it can sometimes take a fair amount of thought on some of the latter stages in how to progress. Luckily, Team 17 thought it prudent to incorporate checkpoints into the main missions, letting you try again from whenever you activated it. Probably a good job too seeing as some of the missions can certainly rack the time up.
Along with the 25 story missions that should set you back a fair few hours, there are also ten Worm Ops to try your hand at. Acting as challenges, you can post times on leaderboards to see how bad you are at the game, alongside it teaching you some of the more advanced tactics in the process. One of the earlier levels is a great example of when you should move and when you should stay put, it plonks you down in the middle of the ‘map’ with infinite rockets and seldom jetpacks. Inherently, the objective is to destroy all the enemy worms dotted about and whilst you can eventually kill them all from your starting position, it will require either a deft aim or plenty jet pack scavenging from the surrounding utility crates to win in a reasonable time.
Of course there’s the old classic ‘local play’ to get your eye in with the AI before challenging the intimidating internet horde, but there’s also a rather solid, yet easy to use, clan system to get stuck into as well. From here, you can create or join a clan to rank up, climb the leaderboards and assert your dominance. For the less competitive, there are unranked matches too to either whet or satiate your appetite.
It wouldn’t be Worms without a veritable armada of weird and wonderful weapons at your disposal and with 65 varieties of armaments on offer, you should never be short of an idea or two. Also adding many a potential spanner in the works are the physics objects and their resultant contraptions, ranging from creating a bridge by knocking something over, to useable doors and platforms.
Of course, it’s not only weapons and utilities you have to worry about now, as besides the standard Soldier worm, who can detonate grenades at any point during the timer, there are also others to test your tactics. Returning from Worms Revolution are the Heavy guys who deal out more damage and create a massive explosion upon death at the unfortunate, extreme handicap of movement speed and jump height. There’s the Scientist, who can not only heal nearby worms for 5 health a turn but can also remove the poison affliction too, and lastly, the ever useful Scout. He’s is the nimblest yet weakest of the lot, trading damage dealt and suffered for vastly increased movement and jumping speed. Oh, and being able to see what’s in a nearby crate at the start of a turn; the ability to crawl into tiny spaces and also to never set off a landmine are all envious traits too.
Creating your own team of squishy warmongers is always half the fun, and again, Team 17 and Sold Out have delivered once more. Customising your worms with spectacles, aviators and all manner of headdresses is great fun, but it’s the sound banks where the franchise has always shone. It often becomes quite the bewildering dilemma, having to choose between the classic angry Scotsman, the nature watcher and the advertiser due to the genuine hilarity of their responses.
There are some nice, exclusive touches to the PS4 version too, in exchange of the Xbox One’s SmartGlass interactions. The light bar on the back of the controller lighting up when danger is abound, worm voices coming through the controller speaker and the incredibly useful, if not a tad unresponsive, assignable weapon quick select using the touchpad.
Whilst there are plenty of plus points going around, Worms Battlegrounds does also have its share of negatives too. The backgrounds and the landscapes can often seemingly blend together, giving little indication of whether terrain is physically there or not. The ninja rope feels unnecessarily difficult to land with, and for a PS4, it’s hardly stretching the boundaries of its capabilities either. To offset these however are the surprisingly punchy and gratifying audio effects and the inevitable intricacies of learning how to master each and every tool in the arsenal.
Despite them appearing to have fallen towards the darkside; cowering under girders and blowtorching their way to ‘safety’ in regards to a possible evolution of their game, it’s instead a constant refinement process that still keeps them feeling fresh nearly 20 years on.