Worms: Ultimate Mayhem

Unpolished for a rerelease, but damn addictive.

By Degtyarev, Posted 09 Oct 2011

Before I start, I must admit that I'm a bit of a Worms newbie. For no reason in particular, I didn't look into the series until quite recently, when I discovered the charm of the light-hearted artillery TBS games. As such, I'm both the best and the worst person for the job when it comes to reviewing the recently released Worms: Ultimate Mayhem. The title was marketed as the 'definitive 3D version' of the Worms games, but it is basically a rerelease of Worms 4: Mayhem with an upgraded presentation, added content from Worms 3D and some new features. Having not played the previous 3D Worms games, I will not be able to draw comparisons between this release and the games upon which it was based. On the other hand, I will be able to judge the game based on its own merits and see how the concept holds up in this day and age without any preconceived views or opinions. I ended up spending quite some time on this title, and despite an occasionally worrying lack of polish, I realise I've been missing out.

Spin-offs aside, the Worms concept has barely changed over the years. You control a small squad of Worm soldiers (the default number is  4) and fight against up to 3 other squads until there's only one team left. Each turn, the player gets a limited amount of time to execute an attack on another team. The arsenal that's at his disposal contains a broad selection of weapons covering a range of different types. Most of the weapons fit into one of the main categories: long-distance weapons, grenade-based weapons, melee weapons and airstrike weapons. Weapons may be pretty standard, like a bazooka and a shotgun, or they may be more bizarre such as an inflatable scouser, a concrete donkey, or the fabled Holy Handgrenade of Antioch, which was adopted from the comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Naturally, every weapon has its pros and cons, and selecting the right weapon is an integral part of the road to success.

Worms, Ultimate Mayhem, Review

It came from the sky...

The core gameplay is thus fairly simple, but its versatility makes it suitable for an innumerable amount of different game modes, play styles and scenarios, which, in turn, is the main reason why this game is just so damn hard to put down. Because while a lot of the content has been seen before, the sheer amount of different things to do is impressive nonetheless. For starters, the campaigns from both Worms 3D and Mayhem can be played, with especially the Mayhem campaign still holding up quite well due to the aforementioned versatility of the gameplay. Apart from the normal deathmatch-style combat against AI Worm squads, there's item collecting, target shooting, platforming and even stealth sections involved, making this campaign a varied, surprising and addictive ordeal altogether.

But of course, the core element of Worms is the versus/skirmish mode, in which you settle turn-based battles like men in either local multiplayer (against friends or bots) or online games. The good thing is that, akin to the nature of this release, the number of different play modes, options, maps and modifiers makes for literally unlimited ways to play skirmishes. Levels beaten in the Mayhem campaign can be purchased as multiplayer maps in the item store, meaning you eventually get to choose from dozens of vastly different maps as the setting for the mischief you're about to unleash on your enemies. Unfortunately, Worms 3D campaign maps do not appear in the store, although a Team 17 spokesperson claimed this was due to an unforeseen issue that will be fixed with a patch later on. But even without the Worms 3D maps, it's impressive in itself that you can technically play this game for days without ever having to do your stuff on the same map twice.

Worms, Ultimate Mayhem, Review

Platforming, stealth, and brutal murder: Worms has it all.

Unfortunately, the online multiplayer mode has some serious drawbacks. For one, it can be extremely difficult to find a multiplayer game at times, for even when you choose a server from the list, the odds of a connection time-out occurring before you are even in the game seem to be rather high. I initially attributed this to a local internet connection problem of some sort (you know how it is with those NAT ports), but after reading tons (and I'm not exaggerating here) of complaints of people all experiencing similar troubles with finding an online game, I realised that this couldn't have been the case. As a result, the online activity already seems to be decreasing just a week after the game's release. Lag problems may also occur, and the Wormpot is nowhere to be seen in the online variant, meaning that it's not possible to add gameplay modifiers to the mix (such as double damage, low gravity, etc.).

Consequently, the biggest problem of Worms: Ultimate Mayhem is its lack of polish, which is especially weird considering this game is mainly a rerelease of content we've already seen quite some years ago. Examples of other, less grave but still noticeable technical issues include the absence of explosion effects and instabilities caused by alt+tabbing in and out of the game.

Worms, Ultimate Mayhem, Review

At least these soldiers won't have to worry about losing limbs.

On a brighter note, the presentation in Worms: Ultimate Mayhem has been very well done. The graphics, while not amazing on a technical level, are smooth, bright and coloured, which fits the light-hearted spirit that manifests itself in every element of the game. The cartoon-style artistic design blends well with the often rather stereotypical settings, ranging from the Wild West to World War 2-themed warzones. It speaks for itself that a hyper-realistic approach would not have worked in this tongue-in-cheek game, but aside from that, the bright, simple, cartoony graphics also make sure that attention isn't diverted away from the battling, and that maintaining a clear view of the battlefield is as easy as it should be. Additionally, the soundtrack contains sufficient variation and features quite a few great tunes, some of which reminded me of Alexander Brandon's great compositions in Jazz Jackrabbit 2. The electronic music makes sure to fit the theme of each world, but doesn't end up being too happy, cheery or stereotypical. To top it off, visually appealing and logically structured menus even make navigating through Worms a joy for the senses.

Worms, Ultimate Mayhem, Review

Crawlence of Arabia.

The most saddening thing about this latest installment in the long-running Worms series is that it didn't use its potential to make for a killer game. Don't get the wrong idea, though. In my view, Worms: Ultimate Mayhem still is a very solid, versatile and charming game that offers more content than nearly any other title in its price range (€12-13), but it is just saddening to see that what could have been a near-perfect, imperative downloadable title is held back by a few glaring but preventable flaws. Still, being the Worms newb that I am, I'm most inclined to praise Ultimate Mayhem for having near limitless content and a very appealing presentation, and for featuring gameplay that has such a high tilt value that it's still relevant many years after it was first experienced. Maybe this is, above all, a testament of the greatness of the games upon which Ultimate Mayhem is based. But what would this noob know about that?

Jesse Dolman, NoobFeed.

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Team 17
Developer(s): Team 17
Genres: Strategy
Themes: Strategy
Release Date: 2011-09-28

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