Team 17's aggressive, anarchistic, adorable annelids return to the front lines, in this 2005 edition in the Worms series, brought Stateside by Majesco. Like the immediately previous Worms game, this fittingly titled Mayhem is in 3D, bringing another dimension of uncertainty to a game known for its massively destructive ballistics and acutely imprecise, on-the-fly aiming. Players can customize their own six-worm teams, and make use of new weapons such as the poison arrow, sniper rifle, and tail nail, as they continue in the series' endearing, enduring quest to blow up the other guy's worms before they accidentally blow up all of their own.
The highly popular Worms series is nearing its tenth anniversary, and despite the "4" in the title, this is actually the ninth to arrive on PC (including the puzzle-based Worms Blast and Worms Pinball). While Worms was originally a 2D game, from Worms 3D the series has gone, well, 3D. The move has been controversial for some - the 3D was difficult to navigate and while ultimately it was still fun, some said the fun had been lost from the game. The follow-up Worms Forts Under Siege didn't fare too well due to its departure from the classic gameplay style, so how will the true sequel, Worms 4: Mayhem fare?
Well, I'm happy to report that Worms 4 is a return to form. Firstly, some of the problems that plagued the first 3D edition - such as the dodgy camera - have been sorted; no longer are you fighting to try and see what is going on. That said, the camera still has a few minor bugs (for example, inconsistency with an inverted mouse) which we hope will be fixed in an upcoming patch. Movement is now much tighter, with better turning and an improved pace. Land damage - a classic Worms feature that had to make the transition to 3D (although it didn't feature in Worms Forts) - is much improved. Gone are the blocky Lego-style craters, and in their place are smoother, more visually appealing holes in the ground.
In fact, the graphics on the whole have been given some more spit and polish in line with the improvements in technology since the 2003 game. The colorful action is complemented by improved animation - particularly in the actions of the Worms and their facial expressions. You can watch as they cower away when aiming a sniper rifle at their head, or see them turn green when poisoned (be it by weapon, barrel, or poisonous landmine). The environments as a whole look more accomplished this time around, with a range of pre-made levels on offer, and while you can't make your own, you can use the random map generator to have a different setting every time. The random generation itself has improved, and will now more often produce large, more land-based levels, rather than the tiny islands that often cropped up in Worms 3D that made water deaths too easy.
The game's story mode has also been improved, and now has a more comprehensive story that features dialogue and cut-scenes (which unfortunately are only rendered in low resolution). This mode is key to unlocking content in the game - completing the levels makes them available to play as pre-set multiplayer maps, trophies can be won, and other items become available to purchase in the game's new shop. The shop is where you can use the coins earned through playing games - including multiplayer - to buy new items such as weapons and clothing. Buying weapons allows them to be used in custom gametypes, a new feature that allows you to set up the game in the way you want it - 200 health worms that you can select each turn, or a game consisting entirely of unlimited super sheep, the choice is yours. Of course, the Worm Pot - a one-armed bandit that selects 3 changes to the game, for example applying increased explosion strength - is still present to allow you to shake things up a bit. Buying clothes, on the other hand, allow you to use them in the team creation mode, where your team of worms can be styled in a variety of typically humorous themes. The way the new features have been integrated together may mean that they are often overlooked in comparison to Worms 3D, but together they provide a comprehensive package. It is also commendable the way the game is actually allowing you obtain new content from playing both single and multiplayer (or skirmish) games. Worms has always been a multiplayer game at heart, and allowing you to play against friends while unlocking content at the same time is a great move by Team 17.
Another element of the team creation is the new weapons factory. One of series' great additions since the Worm Pot, this new mode has a huge range of options to finally allow you to produce the weapon you've always wanted to. You can choose the weapon type from projectile, thrown, or air strike, then choose the ammunition (e.g. cheese or 8-balls), before finally setting up exactly how powerful the weapon will be. To stop you producing the ultimate doomsday device, each option is weighted, with a simple gauge telling you if your weapon is too powerful for inclusion. You'll also find that more powerful weapons take more turns to become available. One of the best weapons created during our playtesting was the Bog Bomber™. This air strike weapon dealt a deadly blow to anyone that happened to come into contact with it's cargo. It's also particularly embarrassing to have your team wiped out by exploding toilet rolls.
So that's the Worms fans covered - they now know if they want to pick up the new edition. But what about people who don't know of the series? Well, Worms 4 basically involves teams of worms fighting it out through two key ingredients; weapons and humor. In fact, quite a few of the weapons are humorous too (for example, the new Fatkins Strike). The nature of the gameplay - destroy the other team(s) - naturally lends itself to multiplayer. Thus, even with an improved story mode, this is where most of the fun of Worms 4 is to be had. You can have 4 humans teams involved, and can play in the traditional everyone-round-one-screen approach, or via LAN, or even online.
There are other issues with the game to be considered before downloading; the slider bars in the weapon factory are one example. Clicking the areas on the side of the scale have no effect on whether the amount increases or decreasing. This means you have to left-click to increase, and right-click to increase; a minor bug, but certainly counter-intuitive. Another more fundamental issue about any Worms titles in 3D is this; they simply aren't as immediately accessible as the 2D versions. This isn't really the fault of the developers, but it's clear that the extra dimension (and the problems that come with it) can make things hard to adjust to, and is unfortunately slightly off putting (a major problem for a mostly-multiplayer title that depends on others joining in). Still, this is to be expected, and if you give it time, you'll find yourself even more satisfied than when you conquered Worms 2.
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