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Worms 4: Mayhem Review
Post by trog @ 11:31am 26/07/05 | Comments
The world's most aggressive annelids are back, this time with a 3D control method that actually works.

The world's most aggressive annelids are back, this time with a 3D control method that actually works.

Worms is the classic PC franchise that has helped many a young IT student through his or her more boring semesters since the late 90s.

For noobs, the game is basically Scorched Earth, heavily reworked. Instead of tanks, you get a team of worms, equipped with various different weapons. The aim is to blast the enemy off a deformable map using those weapons, and a simple aiming system that combines angle of attack and power to deliver death to the opposition.

/Worms 4: Mayhem /Worms 4: Mayhem /Worms 4: Mayhem

Or at least, that's how Worms USED to be. In the game before this one, the wacky lads at Team 17 decided that a 2D turn-based blast-em game was so last millennium, and so created a 3D version called, well, Worms 3D.

It wasn't received particularly well, mostly because the 3D camera was awkward. To Team 17's credit, the deformable landscape that defined the original remained, albeit in a somewhat grid-locked new form where the landscape was obviously made up of pre-defined "blocks" - gone were the graceful curves of bomb craters. Still, destructible is destructible, and it's still possible to blow out the ground from underneath an enemy worm and dump the little blighter in the drink. This second iteration of the 3D version of Worms, (actually the fourth game in the series), does a lot to fix the camera control problems and return the game to its essential roots.

What you get is a bright and cheerful, cartoonish game where teams of worms take each other on and hove to with a bizarre assortment of weapons, from classic grenades to exploding sheep. Hitting a worm with a weapon or with splash damage reduces its hit points, until it hits zero and is knocked out of the game. On the other hand, if you can use a weapon to knock a worm into deep water, it drowns, making for an instant kill.

The levels are the kind of eclectic mix of everyday items taken to bizarre, extremes we've come to expect from the Worms franchise. Moving around them is fairly simple - focus the camera on one of your worms and use traditional WASD controls to wriggle about. It's also possible to jump and perform double jumps to reach out-of-the-way ledges that provide a perfect line of sight on the enemy.

/Worms 4: Mayhem /Worms 4: Mayhem /Worms 4: Mayhem

Power-up crates are scattered around the landscape, which provide access to the aforementioned wacky weapons. Using them is less fun than it should be. Because of the 3D perspective, it's difficult to judge angle and power properly, which is the main dynamic of the original game. This is supposed to be an evolution of Scorch, after all. There are direct-fire weapons such as shotguns and bazookas, but these are less satisfying than watching a grenade sail gracefully in for a direct hit.

As with Worms 3D, using a 3D engine certainly makes the game look at lot more modern (well, it's no Half-Life 2, so maybe more like something a couple of years old), but severely damages the elegant simplicity of the gameplay.

We'd prefer to see a return to "classic" worms, using the 3D engine if Team 17 must, but viewed from side on, so it's easy to line up shots properly. Bringing back the deformable landscape would also be very welcome. And while the deformable landscape is functional, it would be good to see some programming nous applied to make it even more organic, as in the original. Grids are bad, mkay?

That said this is an entertaining game which works very well in classic hotseat multiplayer mode, and it is only $50 after all.

Anthony Fordham

Publisher: Atari
URL: www.wormsmayhem.com
RRP: $49.95

Final Score: 6 / 10