Worms has been a mainstay in video games for close to thirty years now – a quintessential British series that has now put its turn-based roots to one side to try and snag a larger modern audience.
Instead of dropping squads of invertebrates into highly destructible battlegrounds, this new Worms games leans closer to the multiplayer battle royale trend. More importantly, it’s all in real-time, boldly setting fire to the formula that made Worms a household name.
Worms Rumble is best described as a 2.5D shooter that fans of genre will find quite familiar. It’s a lot like one of our PS3 favourites from back in the day, Crash Commando or, to go even further back, a bit like Soldat, but its’ even more like the Worms Rumble open beta that we previewed a few weeks ago. Shocker.
You and up to 31 other murderous minibeasts will battle it out using trademark Worms weapons and, of course, a mixture of traditional and non-traditional Worms hilarity. The result is a combination of chaos and control, where one moment you can cleanly take out a worm with a couple of well placed shots, but in the next stumble into a room like a drunken octopus only to get taken out yourself. It’s certainly different and a lot faster than the turn-based team strategy of the regular line of Worms games, but it still sounds and looks like Worms.
A brief tutorial is on hand, running new players through a brief gauntlet as they learn how to fire guns, lob grenades, and navigate the maze-like arenas of Worms Rumble. For those acquainted with the series, moving your little squishy soldier around will feel familiar though their mobility has been elevated to keep the action flowing. You can roll up into a ball as well as bounce between walls to evade opponents, these techniques also being useful for setting up an ambush. The jetpack is also back, along with a grappling hook, ramping up the tension of those one-on-one duels as you furiously zoom around, trying to clip your rival with a stray projectile.
There seem to only be three maps in Worms Rumble at the moment, which is a disappointment, but the maps that are present are really good at least. In addition to being large and full of varied environments to blow up, they’re also packed full of covered areas for some covert sneakiness, as you can’t see inside places like vents and cubicles unless you’re in them, so you can leave traps or lie in wait. Each map also has some kind of interactive element as well, with one having a giant rocket launch mid-match, changing the landscape. A lot of attention and care has been put into designing the maps that are here, even down to background details like cars driving in and out of the carpark you’re battling in, I just wish there were a couple more at launch.
Similarly, there are only three modes available at the moment as well. There’s your standard Deathmatch with 32 players, whilst the others are Last Squad Standing and Last Worm Standing. The latter two are basically battle royales in which you choose where you spawn, the action gradually focused in one area as map sections get closed off by hazardous gas. All the modes on offer are a lot of fun and you could really do well in a squad of players who know what they’re doing, but some more team based modes wouldn’t have hurt. At least a team deathmatch, maybe capture the flag too.
One place that does feel pretty well filled is your arsenal. There are ten weapons to mishandle in Worms Rumble, from shotguns and assault rifles to Worms mainstays such as the Sheep Launcher and Holy Hand Grenade. Each of the weapons behave and handle differently – the shotgun shoots projectiles in an arc, the hand cannon fires powerful shots slowly, etc. – so players need to adjust how they play according to the weapon they have as if you stumble into a long range fight with a shotgun or a close quarters scuffle with a plasma gun, you’re going to struggle.
It’s important to bear this in mind, because Worms Rumble is not an easy game. There are moments of quiet while you’re looking for a worm to shoot, but even these are punctuated by explosions in surrounding rooms or the telltale sound of a rolling worm somewhere nearby, but most of the time it’s fast, frantic action. There are bullets whistling through the air, bananas exploding, sheep running around, and missiles screeching past in most encounters and that’s just a one-on-one skirmish. Even when you think you’re wormo-a-wormo there’s a good chance three more worms will suddenly appear out of vents and cubicles to join in, bringing their rockets and jetpacks along with them. It’s absolutely glorious.
Worms aren’t the only bugs you’ll find here. Although there’s nothing game-breaking, framerate stutters and the occasional stripe of server instability can upset the flow of matches. Barring these issues, it’s the most multiplayer fun I’ve had in ages. Sure, it’s hilarious and silly, but you can pull off some pretty impressive feats as well. It’s not just the usual long-ranged, high accuracy shots either, as you can literally deflect rockets with your baseball bat, or ninja rope yourself around with amazing accuracy. What I’m getting at is that it’s a skill-based game. It’s not just chaos, it’s chaos you can plan for, harness, or otherwise cut through with skilful play.
There’s a progression system in Worms Rumble, though you’ll only be unlocking new cosmetics and other bobbins for your worm, including headgear, eyewear, skins, costumes, and player cards. It’s a good enough hook to keep players coming back though Worms Rumble could do with more appearance options or maybe even a free battle pass to make that engagement feel more worthwhile.
As for visuals, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Team17 in 2020 – vibrant colours splcied with bold characters and environments. Worms Rumble accompanies its toonish battles with appropriately cute voices and a punchy soundtrack that features a modernised version of that classic Worms theme.