Preview: Worms 4 Mayhem (PC)

Who’d have ever thought that watching teams of invertebrates wandering around with noutsides guns and killing each other would be such fun? Team 17 did, and the result was the hugely successful Worms franchise. Now, the WorMania is set to hit again, as the second incarnation of tri-dimensional Worms jumps onto your PC, PS2 or XBox and starts waving its bazooka around (ahem). Subtitled Mayhem, this new instalment promises to improve upon its immediate predecessor, Worms 3D. And with a new demo freshly released, we finally get the chance to see for ourselves.

For those who are unaware, the Worms series is a turn-based tactical strategy game, where the teams of the aforementioned Worms battle it out against each other, using various high (and not-so-high) powered weapons. The series has won many fans over the years, thanks to a combination of simple-to-learn gameplay and a stupidly-addictive multiplayer mode.

For all my Worm-fondness, I have to admit that until I sat down with the Mayhem demo, I’d never played a 3D incarnation of Worms. Luckily for me, this isn’t a problem; anybody who’s ever played the 2D games will feel right at home. The switch to using FPS-style ‘WSAD’ keys is instinctive, and works well. Q and E take you to alternative camera angles, ‘first-person’ (complete with aiming crosshairs) and ‘blimp’ (overhead) views respectively. The mouse controls the main camera, and is inverted aircraft-style, which can take some getting used to (or you could just change the settings).

Graphically, the game represents a tweaked version of Worms 3D. The character models have been cleaned up a bit and given a whole new slew of different hats/glasses/gloves/etc, although the worms can look a bit “out of place” against the backdrop. Music-wise, it’s very much the standard Worms fayre; no soundtrack per se, just the “incidental music” and more sound effects than any one game should lay claim to. Disappointing? Not at all – as any worms player knoews, you barely notice any sounds, because you’re far to concerned lining up the perfect shot that’s going to send your opponent’s worm off the ledge and onto a mine.

Players of the demo can chose from a Quick Game (standard Human vs CPU match), Story (basically a training exercise) or everybody’s favourite, Multiplayer (up to 4 human-controlled teams). Slightly disappointingly, there’s only one battle map, but it’s got more than enough on it for everyone to enjoy and destroy.

Fans will be pleased to know that the game’s trademarked humour is very much in evidence. From the absurdites of the character spirtes (fear the Disco team and their scary afros!) to the pleasing overkill of the weapons (Hallellujah! It’s the Holy Hand Grenade!), the distinctive flavour that makes up so much of the Worms experience is everywhere.

Sadly, the demo doesn’t offer a trial of the much-touted Weapon design system. Nor is there any evidence of Dark Side play. However, the sheer number of gaps in the weapons menu hints that there’s so much more to come in the way of arsenal, especialy with the ‘?’ slot, which represents your team’s “signature weapon”.

All in all, Worms 4: Mayhem, even in its demo form, is a fine piece of game. If you’re a Worms fan, it’ll be a must-have, and those who’ve not experienced the carnage would do well to investigate.

Worms 4: Mayhem is due for release July 29th, for PC, PS2 and XBox. You can download the demo here