Review: Worms: Ultimate Mayhem

Having grown up with the Worms series, I’ve been around for their several incarnations over the years and have enjoyed most of them to some degree. However, when it comes to their three-dimensional installments Worms 3D and Worms 4: Mayhem, I’ve had to draw the line. For some reason moving from an isometric view muddles the entire ordeal of worm warfare into something unrecognizable and more like a chore to play. Worms: Ultimate Mayhem brings the two together in one tidy little package for purchase on Xbox Live Arcade, but it’s not exactly the starting point for the series that I would recommend.

From cheesy menus to horrid production values, Worms: Ultimate Mayhem strikes out in all possible ways. The single-player campaign mode splices together stages of different styles and locales with one main objective: obliterate the other team. You can either create your own or choose to play as a preset team with offensively stupid stereotypes: “funky” worms as disco dudes from the ’70s, and so on. Their names and catchphrases just aren’t as funny as they were when Worms first began, and when I chose a preset team I instantly regretted my decision. I guess since I’m not a kid anymore I’ve grown past laughing at a worm’s terrible “Scottish” accent.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Worms series, you’re basically armed with a treasure trove of destructive weapons to use against the unfortunate enemy team across a series of colorful stages. You’ve got a set amount of time where you can move a short distance to reach the enemy, or fire off one shot from your arsenal. We’re not just talking pistols or shotguns, though. Worms do it up much more extravagantly: bazookas, explosive sheep, crossbows, sniper rifles, grenades, you name it. For every combat situation there’s a way to take down enemy annelids who dare cross your path. Unfortunately, constantly battling uncooperative camera angles and tricky controls means you’ll need to try multiple times to take down enemies, quite often damaging yourself in the process, especially when you realize you didn’t toss that grenade you just pulled out, and instead dropped it only a few inches away. Whoops.

AI-controlled opponents are decidedly dim, though, so you’ll find them repeating the same moves over and over again when they find something that works (like tossing a grenade into your group of Worms if you didn’t scatter them across the terrain). Quite often they won’t be smart enough to inch out of the way, either, so multiplayer is where it’s at if you want to glean all the fun you can from Worms: Ultimate Mayhem. Local and online multiplayer is where the game truly shines, allowing you to test-drive deathmatches, destruction bouts, and everything in between. If you can get past the horrible textures and outdated, lazy graphics despite the “HD polish”, then these are the modes you’ll likely spend the most time on.

Neither of the Worms titles included in this package are particularly exciting and demonstrate the pitfalls of transitioning the series to 3D rather than the high points you’d expect from a collection such as this one. Imprecise platforming, uninteresting campaign mode, and finicky camera angles work against you rather than with you, and the cartoonish glee I got from the earlier games in the series just wasn’t here. It’s workable, mind you, and there’s always enjoyment to be had from a bazooka smack dab in the face of an unsuspecting enemy worm. However, compared to prior Worms outings, Worms: Ultimate Mayhem just doesn’t cut the mustard. Strong multiplayer and customization for your own Worms team is appreciated, however, and if you’ve been following the worms from their inception, you might still want to pick this one up. I can’t imagine newcomers wanting their indoctrination starting here, though.

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