It has been a whole year since Worms 3D
appeared on the PS2 and GameCube and now it has finally landed on the Xbox. Strangely, it is one of two Worms games to hit the system this month, with Worms Forts Under Siege
arriving in stores on the 15th. It's exciting to see the resurgence of a PC classic that hypnotized gamers for countless hours but has the Worms gameplay has survived the jump to 3D? The answer is both yes and no.
Worms 3D is a turn based strategy game that can be played between two, three, or four teams. A timer that appears at the bottom of the screen counts down each turn and when time runs out the other team takes control. Damage is dealt with a bevy of standard and wacky weapons. Some of the normal items the little green guys have access to are bazookas, grenades, shotguns, and homing missiles. There are also Viking axes, holy hand grenades, and mad cows to be unleashed on the enemy.
Single player mode offers a tutorial, a quick start option for instant action, campaign mode, and assorted challenges. The tutorial is recommended even for Worms veterans due to the nature of three dimensional movement and aiming. The majority of the single player experience occurs in campaign mode across a large collection of maps and clever scenarios. Completing the campaign unlocks new content in challenge mode such as timed target practice with a shotgun. There are also plenty of multiplayer options both on and offline. Up to four players can face off either on teams or with every worm for himself.
In both single player and multiplayer there is a huge amount of customization. Providing game options is one area that Worms 3D definitely excels at -- almost everything in the game can be tweaked to a player's individual tastes. Health, weapon damage, fall damage, round time, and crate contents can all be changed from the options menu and saved to a scheme. In multiplayer there is also a detailed map editor that allows players to change the layout of land masses.
There are so many options that it's easy to become overwhelmed when setting up a custom game. To remedy this, Worms 3D includes a Wormpot feature -- a slot machine that randomly mixes game modes. The Wormpot encourages trying out some of the strange gameplay combinations that players might otherwise ignore.
One reason the classic two dimensional Worms game was so addictive was its accessibility. Players could pick up a crazy weapon, point it at the enemy, and blow them away. The jump to 3D has made this formula slightly more complicated. In most cases the new strategic elements exist at the expense of control. Simply moving your character around obstacles just isn't as easy as it used to be because environments are packed with sloping hills, towers, bridges and pitfalls. Like the old version of the games, falling in water results in instant death so players must navigate the terrain with care. The squirmy troopers can climb slight rises, jump, and double jump over obstacles. Besides weapons, there are also jetpacks, parachutes, and the stretchy ninja rope to get the worms to those hard to reach places.
Luckily there are a series of tutorials that are included in the game to help players adjust to the new setup. What can really hamper movement is the positioning of the camera. There is often a struggle to swing the camera around to a desirable angle, or at least one that doesn't produce a full screen view of a wall. The default camera offers a 3rd person perspective that is located a bit too close to the worm, but there is also a zoomed out blimp view that is activated with the left trigger. What the game needs is a third view that splits the difference between the two cameras. It would be helpful to have a camera that could survey the battlefield while remaining close enough to use while moving my worm into position.
There are also some control issues when launching attacks. Aiming ranged weapons can be frustrating for two reasons: First, the crosshair sensitivity is a bit too high. Gauging the correct height to launch a weapon is part of the challenge of the game. However, placing the reticule at a specific location can become annoying when it constantly zips past your target. Trying to place an air strike or homing missile from the overhead view suffers from the same problems. In the good old days, launching a grenade in 2 dimensions offered an easy to read side view of the arc of the object. Now, with the first person perspective the distance of a shot is controlled by holding down the A button while a meter fills up on the bottom of the screen. At first the meter is difficult to gauge, but after a few games you start to get a feel for each weapon.
This game is online enabled and has a quick match, optimatch, and create a match options. Multiplayer is by far the most fun way to experience Worms 3D and if you and a couple of friends can get over the control issues, there is a lot of fun to be had in the competitive modes. My only complaint with online play is the lack of buddy lists. I may have been spoiled by Halo 2, but its excellent online features set a new standard for what gamers expect games to include.
Worms 3D looked dated on the PS2 and GameCube last year and there have been few improvements made on the Xbox version. The character design is true to the two dimensional and the silly animations fit the overall feel of the game. While the environments are suitable for the colorful cartoon artwork, they still feel a bit blocky. The game could benefit from some better effects and higher environmental detail. There are humorous animations for deaths and attacks but they result in a significant pause between team turns.
Goofy comments and cute voices have always been associated with the Worms series of games and this rendition is no different. There are huge number of worms dialects to choose from including eight different languages and a ton of different accents. Variety is nice, but eventually all of the sound blurbs become repetitive and after a few rounds of campaigning I found myself setting effects volume to zero. The music and environmental effects are subdued and neatly fade into the background. Because sound has little to with aiming or avoiding attacks, this game is best played while cranking some tunes of your own choosing.
Worms 3D is an easy going, fun game that suffers from some control issues. If aiming and movement felt a bit tighter it would be easy to recommend this game to fans of the series. Turn based strategy buffs should rent this title before making a purchase, or wait to see if improvements are made in Worm Forts Under Siege when it comes out later this month.
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