Unless you live under a rock like the franchise’s titular heroes, you know about Worms. Team 17’s long-running series starring surprisingly articulate worms shooting, blasting and blowing each other up with firepower that would frighten the world’s mightiest armies has always had a loyal fanbase despite few significant changes to the forumula over the years. Enter Worms Ultimate Mayhem, an updated port combining 2003's Worms 3D and 2005's Worms 4: Mayhem into a new HD experience stuffed to the brim with content, with six single-player modes and versus mode via local play or over the PlayStation Network for up to four players.
For the uninitiated, Worms is a turn-based game where your army of four worms attempts to take out an opposing squad of worms using a wide array of weapons like bazookas, shotguns, grenades, cluster bombs, mines and exploding sheep. While the series’ calling card has been addictive gameplay that’s simple to learn but difficult to master, the humour and charm of the series has taken good games and made them better.
Worms began as a 2D game, so fan reaction was mixed when the series made the switch to 3D environments, and the problems that originated then still remain now. Aiming weapons is a hassle, it takes forever for your worms to move anywhere on the large maps and the camera is often your biggest enemy. Despite these hefty stumbling blocks, Worms Ultimate Mayhem manages to hoist the essence of the Worms franchise front and centre to remind you that while it’s not perfect, it’s still a lot of fun.
For 2D veterans, the transition to the third D will be a jarring one. There’s a lot more buttons that need to be used and aiming just about any weapon is an exercise in patience. First impressions will tell you that it’s a bad game, but first impressions can be deceiving; after enduring the learning curve, you probably won’t think that Worms is better in 3D but you'll be having a good time regardless.
Worms was never a series focused on solo players, but you lone wolves out there will have plenty to do. Boasting 60 single-player missions, the game will certainly keep you occupied for a long time. The story mode (which actually begins in the tutorial, accessed separately) features goofy cut scenes that feel largely unnecessay and overly goofy, but they will often introduce you to your objectives for that particular level. If you feel like testing your skils, each level has a par time set by the staff at Team 17 as well.
Rounding out the single-player offerings is the challenge mode, requiring you to complete tasks such as hitting a certain number of targets with a sniper rifle before time runs out. They’re very difficult to begin with, but the masochistic icing on the cake is that they also feature par times by Team 17’s finest.
Completing missions in any single player mode earn you coins, which you can use to purchase customisation pieces for your soldiers, offering a wide variety of silly hats, glasses, facial hair, gloves and sound packs. There are dozens of pieces to choose from in each category, allowing you to make your squad as wacky as you can possibly imagine. Want your worms to wear cowboy hats and shades and sport fu manchu mustaches? Make it so.
No Worms game is complete without multiplayer, and Worms Ultimate Mayhem features both online multiplayer in addition to “hot seat” local multiplayer where a single controller is passed back and forth between players. While controller-swapping multiplayer is almost a game design relic these days, it’s a staple of the Worms series so it doesn’t come off as lazy or out of place. Just beware trolling attempts from your opponents, because anyone holding the controller can potentially take someone else’s turn to further their own nefarious scheme.
The game is an HD “reimagining” of two last-generation games and the graphics reflect this. The worms themselves are well animated and look great, but the environments are rather bland and sterile and feature ugly, muted colours. Big explosions also cause the frame rate to nosedive.
The game sounds great, however, with catchy music setting the playful tone. The worms feature a variety of amusing accents that bestow an incredible amount of character on perhaps the simplest video game characters ever. The weapon sounds are loud and satisfying, from the cocking of shotguns to the booming TNT.
If you’ve already played Worms 3D or Worms 4: Mayhem, there isn’t anything new for you here. Even if you’ve played through the single player campaigns of both games, multiplayer Worms never gets old. The series may not have moved to 3D as well as other long-running franchises have, but Worms Ultimate Mayhem is still an incredibly fun multiplayer game for when your buddies are over. Between the limitless multiplayer, bulging single-player content and extensive list of trophies, you’ll be busy for a very long time.