The end of an era, or the beginning of a new one? We take a look at how the Worms fare in the third-dimension.
By Kikizo Staff
The Worms franchise has, since its inception in 1994, undergone a gradual evolution; a series of incremental updates that have seen the brand tweaked and refined to the point that it has all but exhausted every avenue available to it within the 2D realm. Now, almost a decade after its conquest of the second-dimension began, Worms has made the perilous transition to three dimensions. An excursion aptly titled Worms 3D.
The requisite agglomeration of modes are all present, segregated into now familiar single and multiplayer factions. Multiplayer, as has always been the case, defines the 'Worms Experience' as it were, but in order to see and indeed, unlock, all that the game has to offer, players will need to make their way through the single-player mode. The first and most comprehensive of these is the Campaign mode -- comprised of a series of missions in which the player is tasked with the circumvention of Boggy Pete's various nefarious schemes. The Challenge mode too, makes a welcome return, and here players are expected to complete varied challenges using only the equipment and weapons afforded them. Your performance in these is ranked and those who excel are awarded with bronze, silver or gold cups based upon their achievements. Lastly, the Tutorial mode acclimates new players to the vagaries of the Worms universe.
Like most multiplayer-centric titles though, the single-player portion of the title wears thin all too quickly. The missions are varied and challenging enough to prove enjoyable; the AI makes for a competent and at times downright ruthless adversary; and the deceptively compelling nature of the Challenge mode are all attributes to be lauded, but ultimately, Worms 3D -- like its forebears -- requires the human element to truly come into its own. Prior to the commencement of any multiplayer skirmish, players are given the opportunity to customize their teams as well as the options for the forthcoming match. Not only can the composition of each team be tweaked and names altered, but players can select the speech set, flag, gravestone and special weapons to be associated with their particular team. As far as game options are concerned, players are given a wealth of settings with which to fiddle, including worm health, round time, turn time, weapon options and landscape used, among others. For the less decisive amongs us, the title even offers the Wormpot, a slot machine device that randomly selects and assigns any number of game configurations.
Were one to simply navigate the game's interface and peruse its many and varied options, the impression could be gleaned that Worms 3D represents the consummate Worms experience. Without question, Team17 have, for their part, done an admirable job of retaining the very core of the franchise. It is the essence that is unmistakably Worms. Simply put, Worms 3D feels like a Worms game. But the third-dimension is fraught with peril, and when one delves further into the title, into the actual gameplay as such, things begin to fall apart.
Previously a simple task of judging only distance and height, while taking into account minor deviations for such things as wind and terrain, calculating the requisite vector has since become a meddlesome chore. The unbridled joy of witnessing a perfectly aimed projectile arch across the landscape, homing in on its intended target with immaculate precision, as though guided by some heretofore unknown inverse parabola of death is mitigated by an interface that can at best be described as clunky and needlessly cumbersome.
Simply getting a shot off requires the navigation of no fewer than three different viewpoints, as you coax your worm into position, before then gauging the appropriate trajectory using the first-person and top-down views provided. It's a daunting proposition even for the simplest of shots and only guarantees that multiplayer matches become even longer, drawn out affairs as players constantly wrestle with an uncooperative camera system. The added dimension has made for some intriguing experiences, but were one to pose the question, is this the best Worms experience yet?
Perhaps even, is this a better Worms experience? The answer would be a definite 'no.' It just feels so... well, broken, or more succinctly, unpolished. Highlights of which include glitchy movement, a poor camera system and the ever-popular clipping phenomena. Also, given Team17's seemingly boundless affinity for options, not allowing participants to play with multiple controllers is a glaring oversight. Having to constantly hand a single controller around the room is not a deal-breaker, not by any means, but depriving players of the ability to choose which system they prefer is a mistake one would not expect of a franchise this long in the making.
Though it exudes a simple charm in its 2D form, the artstyle has not transitioned very well. The gamut of themed locales -- Pirate, Lunar, War, Horror and Arctic, to name a few -- are comprised of basic geometry and below average texture work. The fact that they remain entirely destructible, even in full 3D, is laudable, but that changes little the fact that the environments are sparse and bear a greater resemblance to a first-generation effort than software appearing in the waning years of system's lifecycle. Effects are largely underwhelming and the animation of individual worms too, could stand to be improved, but as is, are faithful to the series. The short cutscenes interjected throughout the single-player campaign, aside from being technically deficient, aren't very funny and elicit only the occasional smile from the player.
As before, players' teams can be customized with a variety of speech sets, all of which comprise a series of jibes, taunts and riposts that while initially humorous, begin to grate with repeated play. So too does the single track that is repeatedly looped while navigating the game's menu structure. Given players' propensity to argue about game options and limits at length, it would have been nice had the soundtrack offered even a modicum of variety.
One cannot in good conscience recommend Worms 3D over any of its brethren. It is the first step, a shaky one, but a step nonetheless on a new path that will in time hopefully reinvigorate the series. At the moment, however, there are better titles to be found in the series (see: Worms World Party) all of which can be obtained for far less.