If you don’t know Worms , you don’t know games. Okay, that’s probably not the most accurate statement I’ve ever made, but this franchise has attained legendary status in my mind. I still remember seeing it for the first time on a friend’s computer way back in the day. At first, as I was in the midst of my RPG craze, I was unimpressed. But as I continued to watch, I quickly began to appreciate the blend of surprisingly deep strategy and cutesy, quirky humor. It got to me. Now, nearly twenty years later, another entry arrives.
Worms Battlegrounds , a console version of the PC exclusive Warms Clan Wars , doesn’t look bad on the PlayStation 4. Believe it or not, games in this franchise do require some hardware power, because there are plenty of dynamic, ceaseless effects in the environment. The PS4 has no trouble handling the task here but unfortunately, the visual presentation isn’t diverse enough to be compelling. There are only five themes and that’s unforgivable for a new entry in the next-gen era of gaming. Sure, there are randomly generated stages but they’re all comprised of those five themes, and that’s disappointing.
The sound is better, thanks to the comical relief afforded by the wide variety of wacky weaponry. The worms utter those same odd squeals and grunts they always have, which adds to the nostalgia and overall charm. The soundtrack is appropriately goofy and it doesn’t intrude on the gameplay, which is good, because an overly insistent score has no place in a strategy game. I’m trying to think , damnit. Here, the music is a nice little addition to the experience, and that’s all we need. Again, nothing too special here, but the audio remains a cheerful highlight.
The game consists of a campaign mode along with robust multiplayer action, where up to four people can throw down in local or online competition. The developers throw in some Worm-Ops single-player missions as well. For the most part, being a lover of great solo experience in the world of games, I was satisfied with the single-player offering in Battlegrounds . I mean, I wish it had been longer, but I knew going in that the game would put an emphasis on multiplayer. Despite my allegiance to solo entertainment, I have to admit, Worms is at its best when played with others.
I suppose my biggest problem with the campaign is that it feels a little bland. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as fleshed-out as the multiplayer but again, I sort of expected this. On the flip side, despite the relatively unimpressive solo levels, I did enjoy the off-the-wall humor, which seemed to be amped up in this new iteration. There’s a whimsical, kooky aura that permeates this franchise with smile-inducing content, and I’m a big fan of that. I should also mention that some of the puzzles you encounter in the story mode are very well designed and appropriately challenging.
Multiplayer is obviously where it’s at, though. There are plenty of weapons and a wide variety of settings, which gives the players opportunities to shake things up. For instance, you can make it so certain weapons are only available after a few turns, and you can even choose the supply drop chances. Then there’s the hefty team customization, where players can name their clan, team and even the individual worms that comprise their team. If you think it ends there, you’re wrong: How’s about the ability to design your own clan emblem and accessories for the worms?
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but I wish they could’ve used some of this effort in the single-player campaign. Accessories and emblems are nice, but they hardly add anything substantial to the overall experience, you know? Furthermore, some settings and options that I remember from previous entries didn’t make it into Battlegrounds , for some reason. You can’t customize a weapon’s strength, for example, and I miss that. If you are going to emphasize the multiplayer portion of a game, don’t spend too much time with the cosmetics and the aesthetics. That’s all I’m saying.
It’s important to talk about the control because after all, this is a PC-oriented franchise. So, how does a Worms game play using the DualShock 4? Pretty well. You don’t feel as if you’re shortchanged just because you don’t have a keyboard under your fingertips, and the game remains as deep as ever. However, there’s no way to turn off the voices that come through the controller, and that got annoying after a while. And I think the game would’ve benefited from a more streamlined shortcut method, akin to the hot keys on a keyboard. Like the rest of the game, the control via the gamepad is competent and reliable, but not necessarily great.
I will also address the price, because it has proven to be a sticking point with the franchise faithful. To some, $25 seems like too much for any Worms game, simply because it feels more like a smaller, downloadable title these days. I agree but only to a certain extent: While I think the sweet spot would’ve been $15 and $20 would’ve been passable, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of content here. If you get involved in the multiplayer, there are potentially many, many hours of entertainment in this package, so I guess it all depends on your intentions. From a single-player perspective, no, it’s not worth $25.
Worms Battlegrounds is a competent entry in a fantastic, original strategy franchise. The latest installment maintains that trademark charm of the beloved series, provides players with a bevy of super cool weapons, and offers several well-designed stages. The multiplayer can be an absolute blast with the right crowd, and there are plenty of customizing options. I would’ve liked to have seen more effort on the campaign side, though, and the missing options (ones fans have seen before) are a mystery. Still, the fun factor remains high throughout and if you’re a long-time follower, you should give it a go.
The Good: Technical elements greatly benefit from the PS4’s power. Quirky, appealing voices and music. Good design throughout. Lots of multiplayer customization options. Gamepad control is good, if not great.
The Bad: Some previously available options are now missing. Too much effort put into cosmetic stuff, not enough in substantial content. Price too high…?
The Ugly: “In reality, worms are always ugly. In this series, they’re exactly the opposite.”