Worms: W.M.D. Review

While the Worms series has recently suffered some frustrating low points, I am delighted to say that Worms W.M.D. returns to classic form and delivers an incredibly fun experience. It has been a long time since I played a game this excellent in what I call the "artillery genre."

You see, it all began in 1991 with a little-remembered but much-beloved DOS game called Scorched Earth. I'm showing my age here, but I used to love loading that George H. W. Bush-era antique up with floppy disks and playing with my sister. It was primitive with shallow AI, but it was an enormous amount of fun for the time it belonged to. It also began what I like to call the aforementioned artillery genre, although this is not an officially recognized term by the industry. My self-defined genre differs from the standard military tactics games in several key areas. The first is that the battlefields and landscape are dynamic, changeable, and are a key component to the strategy. The second is that the variety of weapons is large and interchangeable amongst your troops without specialization. And the third major difference is that each of your units controls like a tank. And like Scorched Earth before it, Worms W.M.D. fully embraces these aspects into an enormously fun package.

After some frustrating 3D outings, Worms W.M.D. goes back to the classic 2D style. Worms W.M.D is essentially a sequel to Worms Armageddon and Worms World Party, both of which were phenomenal games. Worms W.M.D. improves upon the classic formula with new options. For the first time, vehicles and stationary turrets are introduced which can alter gameplay in many ways. Worms can enter vehicles such as tanks, helicopters, drill boats, rocket cars, and mechs, which are available from the start or can be spawned by airdrops.

Stationary guns, such as machine guns, mortars, flamethrowers and snipers, can be used for greater damage within line of sight. Both vehicles and turrets can take damage and become unusable if they take too much damage, after which they are destroyed. I cannot stress enough how fun these vehicles are. Nothing is more satisfying than using a mech and slam an opponent out of the ring or raining hell from above in a helicopter. Plus, the clever leap on those mechs is quite satisfying.

These vehicles are powerful, but can also be hijacked from the enemy. They can also be disabled if you want a more traditional experience.

The gameplay revolves around each team taking a turn with one of its tanks; or in this case, worms. One worm per team will be able to crawl around the map and perform any number of tool actions, but only one attack. The worms are slow and lack much agility. However, they can deploy tools to help them get around. They can teleport, jet pack, drill their way down, and especially skilled players can use ninja ropes to swing around the map like Spider Man. You can use as many tools as you wish, but you are on a timer (which can be set from 15 to 90 seconds). After moving around, you get to make one attack.

For example you can drop a stick of dynamite...

...and then run away before it explodes.

Afterwards, play is given control to another team and they take their turn in the same fashion. And so on. The team with the last worm standing is the victor. Worm elimination can be performed by knocking them off of the stage into the water (instant death), or reducing enemy health down to zero, causing them to explode, potentially taking out even more worms. But you must be careful as you can easily kill your own teammates as well.

The weapons are ridiculously fun and many are overpowered (especially the titular weapons of mass destruction). Weapons range from bazookas, uzi gun, battle axes, broken cell phone batteries, holy hand grenades, poisonous exploding sheep, kamehameha beams, and my favorite W.M.D. a satellite that uses a doomsday laser to clear out a third of the map.

All of these are fully customizable. You can entirely make your own weapon sets and can make the game as overbearingly crazy or traditional artillery as you like. Personally, my buddies and I play with all the super weapons but have a gentleman's agreement that we can all deploy only one per game. But your mileage will vary as you find the custom settings that you have the most fun with.

Another addition to the formula is the fact you can now enter buildings. They're no longer just shapes in the terrain used in the environment. If there is a house you can now enter it and peak out of the window to fire your trusty shotgun. This is pretty great and in my opinion a nice step forward for the franchise without going overboard and without damaging the core fun formula by having just enough shelter.

And yet another new edition is the crafting mechanic. You can create crazy new weapons by combining base materials and other weapons. For example, you might discover a banana bomb in a crate but desperately wanted a holy hand grenade instead. Well you can now enter the crafting mode, dismantle the banana bomb, dismantle a cluster grenade, and combine the resulting materials into a brand new holy hand grenade. Neat! You can also modify existing weapons, such as making the bazooka spray napalm blasts after crashing into a wall, craft a super flying sheep that farts out gas as it flies, and even create an explosive turkey dinner. True insanity in the best Worms fashion.

The rest of the game is pretty much what you expect from Worms if you are familiar with the series. There's a halfway decent single player campaign to mess about in with challenges and practices, etc. Online play for the Switch should be coming soon. I can't wait.

You can also customize your team with a fair amount of funny voices, hats, and custom tombstones, etc. All in all, it is great fun.

The game runs absolutely great on the Switch's hardware. The ability to pass the system around in handheld mode on say, a long road trip, can only enhance the amount of fun.

The only negative thing I have to say about this crazy and strategic game is that I am not a fan of the new art direction. Previous games portrayed the worms as soft and silly while surrounding them with insanely dangerous weaponry and locations seeped with danger. The art uses hard corners, meaner looking worms, and less dangerous-looking terrain. Ultimately that is all just cosmetic though, but it does need to be noted.

I cannot recommend this game enough if you are a fan of slow-moving tactics genres. If you aren't, well, I would still give this a try if you have some cash burning in your pocket. It really is just that much fun!

Besides, how can you not want to knock your enemy into the briny deep with a baseball bat while the fans cheer?