Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs launched on consoles this week. Everyone who plays mainstream games is neck-deep in that game’s free-roaming campaign, extensive multiplayer modes, and cyberpunk hacking gameplay. Yours truly is still busy with Wolfenstein: The New Order, so the only dogs I’m watching are of the mechanical variety.
Xbox One also has a new indie game to play, courtesy of the ID@Xbox program. Worms Battlegrounds is the latest in the long-running Worms franchise from UK-based Team 17. Although about a million miles away from a free-roaming epic like Watch Dogs, Battlegrounds does sport a fully-voiced campaign, 3D landscapes and physics, local and online multiplayer, and even clan support. It’s the biggest Worms game ever, is what people who measure Worms games say. Read on for our full review with exclusive screenshots and hands-on video!
The great Worms caper
Although Worms games tend to feature fairly lengthy single-player campaigns, they don’t usually have a story or much connective tissue holding them together. Your team competes against one or more AI teams in a series of deathmatches (with occasional puzzle levels or ninja rope challenges breaking things up), but that’s it.
Worms Battlegrounds (an enhanced port of last year’s PC game Worms: Clan Wars) actually starts out with a mildly cinematic introduction voiced by British actress Katherine Parkinson. The evil Lord Crowley Mesmer has stolen the Stone Carrot, a magical artifact that helped create the Worms World. Artifact in-hand, Mesmer and his army of hypnotized Worms have holed up within a museum. Under the direction of the oddball narrator (who ranges from funny to annoying), players must break into the museum and get the Carrot back.
The story’s pretty much an excuse to provide wacky intros for each stage and justify the history-based environments, but it does lend Battlegrounds a greater sense of import than previous Worms games. The actual levels are far more structured than before. You’ll command a single Worm (or a full team, depending on the level), navigate mazes and platforms, and complete various objectives beyond just killing enemy worms. There are even checkpoints now, reducing the frustration of falling into a pit, getting blown up, or otherwise dying.
Whether battling the CPUs or engaging in 4-player local and online matches, Battlegrounds plays just like every mainline Worms game to come before it. Each player gets a team of four Worms, which now come in four classes: Soldier, Scout, Scientist, and Heavy. Players take turns controlling one of their Worms and trying to kill off as many of the other teams’ Worms as possible.
Much of the fun in Battlegrounds comes from the humorous arsenal of weapons at your disposal. Initially, you’ll only have access to basic armaments like the bazooka, grenades, and dynamite. New items include the Aqua Pack, Winged Monkey, and Mega Mortar. With a whopping total of 65 weapons and items to choose from, battles will be even more varied 9and crazier) than ever before.
The Xbox Worms games have always suffered from a somewhat unnatural control scheme in which the X button jumps. You know, like no other game ever. Battlegrounds starts out the same way, but also offers a Modern control option. Pick Modern and A becomes the jump button, which rocks. But B is the fire button and X brings up the menu – those two should really be reversed. Baby steps, I guess!
Good news for local multiplayer fans who haven’t picked up four Xbox One controllers just yet. Worms Battlegrounds allows four players to share a single controller! They don’t even have to have their own Xbox Live profiles, either. Players can sign in as guests, which goes much more quickly than it did on the 360. Guests only have access to the teams the host player has created, so you might want to create a few extra teams before hopping into local battles.
Having set the number of players, you’ll need to choose between Deathmatch and Forts modes. The goal is to kill all enemy Worms in both modes, but Forts puts each team inside of its own base instead of out in the wild. In custom games, players can also choose the type of landscape, switch between landscape templates (shapes), and set the density of explosive barrels and other objects. You can even create your own levels for local games, though they unfortunately can’t be shared online.
No friends? No worries, Battlegrounds supports full online multiplayer as well.
Customization, clans, and new features
Outside of battle, players can engage in the usual customization options like naming their teams and the individual Worms within the team. If your team doesn’t have silly names, you’re not doing it right! You can also dress your Worms in a variety of silly hats, eyewear, and mustaches as well as choosing what gravestones will show up when they bite the bullet. And yes, there are more voices to choose from than ever before. Who wouldn’t want their Worms sounding like comedians, boxing commentators, and movie announcers?
The standout new feature of Battlegrounds is clan support! Form a clan, design an emblem, and assign ranks to its members. Clans can take part in battles and leagues against other clans, bringing new long-term life to the classic Worms multiplayer mode. And of course, we already have a WPCentral clan ready to go! If you’re an Xbox One gamer and a Worms fan, be sure to join up as soon as you buy the game.
Other new features in Battlegrounds include larger environments, more dynamic water, day and night cycles within individual levels, and five new visual themes.
Battlegrounds includes 29 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 GamerScore. Many Achievements revolve around scoring particular types of kills or cumulative kills. Several involve online multiplayer, such as winning five games in a row and winning a Clan League Match. Thankfully there aren’t any grindy Achievements requiring a ridiculous number of online wins, unlike past games.
The most challenging Achievement should be the one for completing all 10 Worm Ops single-player missions in less than eight minutes. The game also has two secret Achievements: one for killing an ally during an online match, and the other for using every weapon and utility in the game. All told, Battlegrounds should be a fun and varied completion for Achievement enthusiasts.
Expensive but good
Worms Battlegrounds is basically a bigger and better game of Worms, building off of the new graphical engine introduced in Worms Revolution for Xbox 360. Like other indie games we’ve seen so far, Battlegrounds doesn’t push the Xbox One hardware. It also takes a bit too long to load, as with practically every Xbox One game out there. Next month’s external hard drive support should help with load times though. Load times aside, Battlegrounds is just a smooth, fun game with serious multiplayer appeal.
The only problem Worms fans might have with Battlegrounds is its price: $24.99. Given that Worms 2 launched at $9.99 and Revolution at $14.99, Battlegrounds is the priciest downloadable Worms game to date. I wouldn't have priced this one above the $20 mark. But with a more expansive single-player game than ever and robust clan support, you’re also getting more bang for your buck than with previous games. If you enjoy Worms or non-FPS multiplayer games, don’t let the price scare you away from Worms Battlegrounds.