Worms 3D Review

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Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Team 17

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

The Worms series of turn-based strategy games has had gamers leading teams of aggressive annelids to victory against their kin for years, aided by wicked and wacky weapons. It doesn't take much to figure out what Worms 3D brings to the franchise: it's three-dimensional. Worms has always added a sense of the absurd to worm warfare, with weapons ranging from the conventional Bazooka and Uzi to exploding Super Sheep and deadly Concrete Donkey weapons. You can even send the doddering, explosive Old Woman at the opposing forces to blast a crater in the landscape.

Kyle Ackerman

The creative and cartoonish environments are as colorful as in previous games, but the fully-3D battlefields open up a host of strategic options that the Worms series has never before seen. You can send your worms to a high point in the battlefield, lob a grenade into an enemy bunker and then sidestep behind a rock outcropping. The addition of 3D takes a simple, entertaining strategy game and adds depth, without adding much complexity. Of course, to enjoy Worms 3D, you'll have to overcome some annoyances that are part and parcel of an incompletely realized 3D world. Controlling your worms can be difficult; the cameras are imperfect; and to accommodate the destructible terrain, physics only applies to worms and weapons.

That last point is the most disturbing. The fanciful landscapes of Worms 3D typically have a lot of vantage points, high on the terrain, that worms can reach using Jet Packs or Teleporters. Your worms will often perch places such as high atop a giant carrot or rock outcropping. Should the stalk of that carrot or base of that rock be blasted, unless the explosion reaches the top, the top will simply hover in the air, making your worm a difficult target. Destructible terrain is difficult to implement, but the strategy would be so much deeper (and more satisfying) if eliminating a support could destroy a structure. By the end of certain levels, you'll often find multiple worms, hovering on tiny pieces of unidentifiable landscape and trying to judge the wind sufficiently to blast each other into the deep water below. Once you accept that terrain is destructible only in the same way that words on a chalkboard are erasable, you'll enjoy the diversity of landscapes and the ability to easily and randomly generate new battlefields.

In 2D, it was possible to get a quick and complete overview of the skirmish with a glance. Worms 3D poses a greater challenge. The developers have given you three styles of camera to help. The standard, third-person view centers the active worm in your view, and lets you maneuver as you would in a conventional platformer. There is also a "blimp camera" view that lets you see the terrain from overhead, and a first-person view useful for aiming weapons like the shotgun. The blimp camera, in particular, takes some getting used to. You'll need to adapt to the way in which the camera rotates to scout worm positions and target attacks from above, such as the Airstrike. The third-person view behaves most of the time (except when really close to terrain), but the worms can be difficult to control. They don't always move in exactly the direction you intend, and it is particularly difficult to execute jumps accurately.

Get Over the Controls and Grab a Bazooka

Fortunately, Worms 3D is shipping for just under $30, and that's enough to offset the game's problems. Give yourself a little time in the tutorials to get used to the controls and cameras, and head off to war. It's easy to sit back for a short spell and get lost in the fun. Blast enemy worms to smithereens, or just knock them into the ever-present (and sometimes ever-rising) water to eliminate the other side. The AI difficulty isn't excessive – enemy worms will almost always come really close to a direct hit without actually achieving it. Minor tactical forethought is enough to win the campaign, but the AI will put up enough of a fight to make victory feel earned. The only difficulty comes from the controls and camera. Each turn has a time limit under which you must maneuver into position, aim, fire (and sometimes duck and cover). Struggling against controls and a timer at the same time are what create difficulty.

In the single player game, you can play a campaign, challenges or just quick battles against an AI-controlled team of worms. The campaign is well conceived, as it mixes straight-out slugfests between worms, with maps that focus more on exploration and puzzle-solving. For example, an early mission has you searching graves for treasure, while another has your unarmed worm jumping to reach a point on the map without getting killed. Challenges range from target shooting, or using the jet pack, to beating teams of worms as quickly as humanly possible. Quickstart dumps you immediately into a map against an AI-controlled team.

If You Can't Decide, Try The Wormpot

All these modes are fun, but the incredible replayability comes from the multiplayer options. Using it, you can customize nearly every aspect of the contest, to play the worm battle you most want. Two to four teams can compete (creating alliances, if you wish), and the computer can play as any of those teams. You can even use the "Wormpot" function's slot-machine interface to randomly choose a set of options. Unfortunately, the PlayStation 2 version doesn't support multiplayer online play. That's sad, because instant, internet competition would make it possible to play Worms 3D against friends or tough foes at will. The Xbox version should support Xbox Live, so if you have access to both consoles, your decision is clear. As it is, this is a great party game, whether you are part of the juice-box set or need something to go with your beer and chips.

You won't be able to miss the (sometimes sickeningly-sweet) cuteness of the individual worms. The worm models are simple, but extremely expressive. Big grinning faces that are all eyes, eyebrows and teeth, accompanied by hands that float in space nearby, let the worms show terror and excitement. Approach an enemy worm aiming an Uzi at its head, and that worm will show fear. The worms can be assigned any of the many sound sets (such as German or Alien), but while there is tremendous variety, each set has only a few lines of dialog that will grate after endless repetition. The high-pitched quips quickly become more annoying than cute, and the audio occasionally pops. There are also oddly humorous, quick video clips between battles in which worms use, and fall victim to, the game's weapons. These repeat, but can also be skipped.

Worms is simple fun at a fair price. It's particularly good as a two-player, casual contest. You'll be hard pressed to find a better alternative for comic, 3D, turn-based combat on a console. At least until the Xbox version is released with online support.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 4, 2004 10:09 AM.

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