It has been a while since I last properly played a Worms game. In fact the last one I remember playing for an extended amount of time was Worms Armageddon on the original PlayStation. That game hardly ever left the disc drive because of how much fun it was in both single and multiplayer, with the charm of the the opposing worm armies and the outlandish weaponry. However, a lot of time has passed since then, and I come back to a series that has undergone quite a few changes.
The first thing you need to know is that Worms Battlegrounds is actually a PS4 and Xbox One port of Worms Clan Wars, which was released on PC last August. It is also the biggest entry to the franchise ever, apparently.
The game’s single player has a story starring Katherine Parkinson as Tara Pinkle, a rather strange lady who is a member of the Historical Hooligans society that specialises in stealing rare artefacts from various tribes and museums. In fact, the story for Battlegrounds is set in a museum, with the exhibits of different eras acting as the worm filled war zones, as Ms. Pinkle enlists the help of your worm squad to take out the villain Mesmer and steal the Stone Carrot.
You’ll need to complete 25 levels to do so, which range from standard death matches to maps with puzzles that need solving, and a healthy dose of platforming too. You’re never quite sure what to expect as one mission you could have your whole team together, while the next you’ll have to complete with just one worm. Your worms also have different classes including Soldier, Scout, Scientist and Heavy. Each one is different, with the soldier being a balanced worm, the scientist can heal your team, the heavy moves slowly but is powerful while the scout can see what’s in different crates.
The designs of the maps themselves follow themes from the Stone Age through to Vikings and up to the Industrial Revolution, all with a 3D look to them in that areas you can wriggle about on stand out from the scenery and even a day-night cycle in some levels. With destructible scenery, you have to pay close attention, as shooting out the wrong wall could lead to a torrent of water gushing down and wiping away your worm as well as anything else in its path. However there were times where the design could be confusing with what looked like a ledge actually being a part of the background, leading to my worms falling from a great height.
Generally, the single player is nice and fun thanks to the different challenges preventing it from becoming stale, while the dialogue of Tara Pinkle provides some decent humour with the delivery being top notch. There were a couple of puzzles which really did leave me scratching my head for a bit, and one stage where everything has to be done almost perfectly within a rather strict time limit. Outside of that particular difficulty spike though, there was some leeway in how to complete the levels and how you wanted to dispatch the enemy worms from this mortal coil.
The enemy AI can range from a bit idiotic, blowing themselves up on more than one occasion, to unerring accuracy, able to fire a rocket from a ridiculous angle and down a tunnel to hit my worm directly. Unfortunately, the enemy AI can take ages before making a move, spending most of its time with a question mark above its head working out what to do, which can really take the flow out of a match.
There are a total of 65 different weapons and tools to use in this endeavour, from series stalwarts like the Bazooka and Grenades to super weapons such as the Bovine Blitz. Of course, in single player, these weapons aren’t all available from the start of missions with some appearing in crates and via supply drops, and it really depends on the level design itself what will appear. You can naturally customise the settings for custom matches.
Outside of the 25 story missions are 10 Spec Ops missions which are essentially training missions for the different items you’ll come across in the game. You’ll be rated on a scale of three stars depending on how quickly and efficiently you manage to clear the courses.
Multiplayer will likely be the big draw of Worms Battleground, with local and online modes both supported. In terms of match types you have either the classic Team Deathmatch or you have Forts. Forts is effectively a variant of Team Deathmatch, where the teams have their own bases which protect them from attack. You have to blow holes in the fort walls to get to the worms inside.
It’s a right laugh to pass the controller around with some local multiplayer, but when you take it online you have a choice between playing alone against all comers, or joining a clan in Battlegrounds. I’ve already created a clan for TheSixthAxis – imaginatively called TheSixthAxis – and this section has got quite a decent amount of depth to it.
You can customise the classes of worms that make up your team, give them names, and even dress them up in different outfits. There’s also the option to change their voices and what they’ll say. My current favourite is the movie announcer guy voice over, though other options include pirate, rasta, society girl and boxing commentator, with your team customisation carrying over to other parts of the game too. The customisation continues with the Landscape Editor, letting you add to the standard and generated maps, though I couldn’t see a way to upload my creations.
In the Battlegrounds mode your clan will be entered into a league and here you can battle other clans to reach the top of the leaderboard, though you can play friendly matches too. A lot of work has gone into this but it will require a very active community to keep it alive and challenging.
Worms Battlegrounds is a fun game that can be enjoyed solo or when playing against others. The core gameplay that made earlier Worms titles so great is here, but with many refinement added to it.
In the short term the story mode and Spec Ops missions will provide some decent entertainment, but the multiplayer will need to thrive to help reach full potential. It’s only a few problems, like sometimes not being able to tell foreground from background, the steep learning curve on some puzzles, and a few fiddly controls that holds Battleground from making the leap to astounding. However it is still worth giving this a shot.
Version tested: PlayStation 4