Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Team 17 Digital Limited
Worms Battlegrounds is Worms Clan Wars. The name may be different, but this PS4 and Xbox One port is identical to last year's PC release in absolutely every respect. Six months into a new console generation and we're still paying good money for old rope.
However, you could argue that we've been doing that since 1997. Team 17 created the perfect hotswap multiplayer formula in Worms 2 -- deep yet accessible mechanics, crisp eyecatching art style, amazing weapons, exploding livestock and anarchic British humour -- meaning that all future games could do was add or remove content, slightly tweak features and occasionally pretty things up for new platforms. From the magnificent Worms Armageddon to the skinny downloadable and mobile sequels, we've been stuck in that cycle ever since.
And that's fine. Worms is a timeless gaming institution that we want to keep playing on the consoles we own with improved visuals. I don't take issue with Clan Wars making the jump to new-gen machines, since compensating for bazooka windage, deploying sheep and humiliating our mates is just as fantastic fun as it ever was.
What I do take issue with, however, is the fact that Team 17 had the opportunity to fix several flaws and add extra value to their year-old game... but couldn't be bothered.
Worms' legendary artillery gameplay is present and correct, brought into colourful 2.5D life by the Worms Revolution engine. It's instantly accessible as you take turns moving a worm around the level, select a weapon and blast it at your enemies within the tight time limit, but as always the action is underpinned by hectic strategy. Wind must be accounted for. Perfectly placed shots could deal little damage yet knock foes off the map or into water. Destructible terrain lets you turtle up underground or blast new passages towards your foes, while perfectly picking the correct fuse time and judging when to let go of your ninja rope requires serious mental calculation.
As always it's the perfect balance of skill, luck, fun and banter as you pass a controller around a crowded room, doing your best to psyche out your mates as the clock counts down and pass off flukes as dead-eye trick shots.
Worms Battlegrounds correctly boasts to be the most feature-rich sequel since World Party (my personal favourite, though most pick Armageddon), offering 65 weapons and gadgets to choose from. Familiar mainstays such as the bazooka, grenade, dynamite, sheep, super sheep, girders and even the explosive Old Woman rub shoulders with new kit like the teleport gun, which lets you instantly beam anywhere within line of sight. There's a bevy of tactical depth and scope for silly hilarious mistakes here, though selecting a particular weapon from the cluttered menu is a pain on a controller compared to the PC's cursor and hotkeys.
Deathmatch and forts mode both return (with plenty of official and user-made mutators), as do myriad hilarious voice packs and cosmetic customisation. My worms sport enormous moustaches and communicate entirely in cheese-related puns. Team 17's humour will never grow stale.
Unlike the solo offering. Clan Wars' uninteresting singleplayer campaign has been replicated in its entirety, a glum collection of arenas made slightly more interesting with narration from The IT Crowd's
Jen Barber Katherine Parkinson. It's little more than foreplay for the ridiculous hotswap multiplayer, though, which is where Worms always will remain a relevant and hectic parts of our gaming diet.
However, Clan Wars' titular... Clan Wars... beef up the multiplayer options significantly. You're free to set up clans and leagues with your friends and against the world, a fantastic addition based on the good old days of numerous unofficial leagues hosted across the internet. I'm not convinced that Battlegrounds PS4 and Xbox One multiplayer communities will last long, unfortunately, since even the typically loyal PC Clan Wars player base is already dwindling. Get in early to make the most of it.
So far so good, but unfortunately Battlegrounds and Clan Wars were based on Worms Revolution. A decidedly imperfect game that deviated from Worms 2 and Armageddon's formula with mixed results. Team 17 could have addressed these flaws yet left well alone... meaning that we now have to round them up.
Battlegrounds' 2.5D visuals are a bone of contention. Though colourful in the main, it can be incredibly difficult to discern background from foreground at times, while much of the crisp charm, style and personality of the sprite-based titles has been lost. Worse, it looks decidedly limp on PS4 and Xbox One, rather fuzzy and occasionally indistinct, barely better than many XBLA and PSN downloads on last-gen hardware. The new-gen machines barely break a sweat.
For the love of Lightside, beg Ubisoft to let you use the UbiArt engine next time!
Revolution's class system makes an unwelcome return and still ranks as the worst addition to the franchise since Worms 3D's extra dimension. The idea makes sense on paper (four varieties of worm with different movement speeds, health, damage yields and abilities) yet doesn't slot into the gameplay at all. We've already got enough mental gymnastics to consider during our limited turn time, let alone worrying about whether a sluggish Heavy can make it over a jump or a Scientist can deal enough damage to finish off an enemy worm with a particular weapon and oh bugger there's only five seconds left. It feels like a thoughtless gimmick that should have been removed last year.
Speaking of gimmicks, Dynamic Water is still as peripheral as ever. Making small pools of lightly-damaging fluid around the maps is pointless tick-box blurb filler, though some of the physics-based contraptions, lifts and pulleys can be fun to circumnavigate. Yet they're arguably better suited for the original PC release, which allowed you to make your own levels without wrestling with fiddlier controls. I don't want to kick off a slew of 'master race' comments (as an indie and handheld fanatic myself), but as a longtime Lightsider and Rope Race veteran, I can't help but feel that Worms needs to be retooled for consoles, not just ported over. Radial weapon selection menus might have been a good start.
And it's worth noting that Clan Wars includes all of this content already... with Steam Workshop support. Thankfully Battlegrounds only costs £1 more.
It all comes down to whether you need more Worms in your life right now. Battlegrounds is ready and waiting to deliver the fun -- just add mates -- but Team 17 should have brought new content to the new generation, along with genuine improvements to their year-old game. Fun awaits, but we're left wishing that Team 17 taken the time to really deliver the next generation of Worms title, not the most businesslike of port jobs.
Or at least made the effort to give us a handful of new weapons. A couple of new weapons. One new weapon? Come on Team 17, there's lazy and then there's borderline bone-idle.
It's definitely time to take a break. Flockers is looking great, by the way... and Battlegrounds will tide us over for now.
- Evergreeen Worms multiplayer is as brilliant as ever
- 65 weapons and utilities, forts mode is always good for a laugh
- Bountiful customisation options and British humour
- It's Worms. Just add friends, pizza and tinnies.
- No new content or improvements versus Clan Wars - arguably less if you count Steam Workshop!
- 2.5D visuals look primitive on new-gen systems
- Terrible class system is gimmicky and redundant
- Limp singleplayer and no new modes (why no Rope Race?)
The Short Version: Worms Battlegrounds is a no-frills port of Worms Clan Wars, fun and flawed in all the same respects. It's still fantastic in local hotswap multiplayer -- Worms always is -- but lacks any improvements or new content despite releasing a year later on new-gen hardware.
We always need more Worms. It's an institution. But frankly we're not too upset that Team 17 plans to take a break and concentrate on Flockers for the time being.