An unexpected reaction to a simple question proved to me once and for all that I am getting old. I asked my nephew whether he would like to play some Worms. “I must warn you, I'll kick your fucking ass.” I added. My nephew is fourteen and LOVES the Assassin's Creed series. His reaction: “Worms? What's that?”
For those few of you who are not familiar with the series but are still somehow, surprisingly, literate, the Worms games are turn-based, two dimensional, artillery-style games in which you navigate a team of worms around a platformer-esque map, using a range of weapons to dispose of the enemy worms. The last player with worms left standing wins. (Some of you may remember those dreadful third person shooter styled games they made a while ago, but I choose not to.) After first moving your worm into position, you'll have to choose which weapon to use. These range from standard weapons like bazookas, Uzis and shotguns, to the more bizarre flying monkey, whoopsie cushion and concrete donkeys. It truly is as hilarious as it is satisfying to knock your best friend's last worm off the map with a baseball bat. Satisfying for you, humiliating for him. Does multiplayer gaming get any better than that?
The original was released in 1995 and to a ten year old me it was digitized perfection. I used to walk to my brother's house at the other end of town every day just for the chance to send his worms to a watery grave. The colour pallet created a real sense of otherworldliness and the high-pitched voices added a comical air to the otherwise grizzly massacre taking place on screen. Since its inception, the Worms series has become immensely popular. That is, at least with those of us who grew up with it. The 20th release in the main series is just around the corner and it serves its name well. Compared to some of the classics, however, it feels a bit poor.
Worms: Clan Wars is the second game in the series to use Team 17's new 3D engine. It features the same water dynamics that made a game-changing impact in Worms: Revolution, as well as dynamic objects in the scenery, such as vases that release a gas cloud when destroyed. The major additions this time around come not in the form of game mechanics but in the availability of user-generated content and social features. As the name suggests, Clan Wars allows the players to band together in clans, play ranked matches, or just blow their friends to pieces playing the classic local hot-seat (The way Worms is meant to be played, in my opinion). These options bring the game closer to the e-sports scene and the new Steam Workshop integration allows creative individuals to model accessories and tombstones and share them with other players.
The single player story mode contains 25 comedy-riddled missions, narrated by none other than Katherine Parkinson, who every reader should know from The IT Crowd, a BBC comedy series which proves just how superior British humour is. Parkinson lends her voice to the character of Tara Pinkelton, a posh British treasure hunter who loves stealing priceless and sometimes life sustaining treasures from primitive tribal cultures, leaving a path of destruction behind for her butler to help her ignore. References like these add to the comedy of games when well done and Worms: Clan Wars does it brilliantly. The series has become known for its wacky sense of humour and in that regard Clan Wars does not disappoint.
There are some criticisms to be made, however. First off, I'm a huge fan of the original and Worms 2, and one of my favourite aspects of Worms 2 was that the voices were all in an easily editable format, saved in a folder in the game's directory. This meant that if you'd create a folder there, record your own voice and make sure the files were correctly named, that voice pack would become available in the game. So you could have your own voice screaming as you launched a homing missile towards your enemy, and your friend's voice writhing in pain after having his body blown halfway across the map. It was easy, it added a whole new level of personalisation to the game, and it is sadly not present in Worms: Clan Wars. This may be because of standardisation rules from Steam, or for fear of possible manipulation of the game's code, but I fail to see which vital systems a would-be exploiter would have access to if the voice files were open source.
I used to love playing the game in a cave setting as one of my favourite utilities was the ninja rope. One could use it to fling himself clear across the map, drop a stick of dynamite behind an enemy's tail, and Tarzan himself out again. This time, with the new physics engine, the rope adheres to the same rules of gravity as everything else. Of course, this makes it more realistic, but for those of us who loved the game despite its static, rigid rope (and in some cases, because of it) it feels like it has become less useful. The magic of playing around with the rope in order to get anywhere on the map you needed to go is simply gone.
There are still a few things to iron out before release and I truly hope the team manages to polish the trigger and physics mechanics a bit before then. If they don't, I expect the game will receive multiple patches in the weeks following. Opening the floodgates of user generated content is sure to add a variety of funky stuff to this game and once the clan warfare community gets a whiff of the blood to be spilt on the ranked servers, I'm sure all hell will break loose in the most proverbial sense. For those who prefer blowing their friends to pieces in classic local hot-seat matches, the new weapons, scenery, and physics are sure to entice. Regardless of how you prefer to play Worms, the potential of this drive for e-sports recognition is sure to add months, if not years, to the longevity of the game's popularity. I, for one, will definitely be adding my roster of worms to the virtual soup of manic mayhem that is Worms: Clan Wars.
Classic Worms gameplay, new physics based ways to render your enemies into tiny tombstones, user generated content integration, e-sports lobby sure to appeal to the more serious player.
Ninja rope feels all but useless, some minor fine-tuning needed, fewer customisation options than in some previous releases.