Worms 4 Mayhem
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-4
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Back in 1996 a completely original and insanely fun game came out for Sony’s then-risky Playstation console. A game that let you take control of a team of four bizarre but battle-ready worms and go nuts over some very peculiar 2-D environments. Nine years later and Worms returns for its third PS2 3-D instalment, and in the words of Andy from Little Britain: “I don’t like it.”

You can’t help but look at Worms 4: Mayhem and wonder what happened to the once-great cult franchise. It’s conversion to 3-D appears to be one of the biggest problems - it just doesn’t feel right. The worms look really child-appealing, coloured in a bright-pink, given huge eyes and Rayman-style hands. The environments they fight in have gone from cool surreal playgrounds filled with TVs and palm trees to American Football stadia and generic Wild West towns. Everything weird and different seems to have been changed in order to appeal to a mass-market - the kiddies.

The humour has also changed for the worse. Python-esque quips spouted by the worms before lobbing a banana bomb have been replaced by cheesy dialogue and jokes that only kids will chuckle at: “I smell something burning...it’s me, AAHH!” being the most annoying example for the Scottish worms. And if you play this game for more than a few minutes you will hear all of the voice samples - the same hilarious lines over and over. Even the cool weapons like the holy hand grenade seem poor when not accompanied by equally quirky dialogue.

But that’s not to say that none of the humour works on the older generation. As well as the strange classic weapons from the originals (sheep, banana bomb, holy hand grenade) loads more have been made, ranging from dropping a huge fatty on your enemy worms to unleashing an inflatable Scouser, which waddles over to a worm, picks it up and inflates, rising into the air. It then pops, dropping the worm back to earth. They had me at Scouser…

Mayhem also gives you the chance to create your own weapon, tailoring things such as type, power, poison, wind resistance and loads of other elements. This adds to the fun of the game as there are so many weapons to choose from, although trying to figure out what each one does and how best to use them is a bit of a pain, as you’re always under a time limit. As before you get the create-a-team option, letting you pick names, voices, hats, hands and other accessories for your Worms. You can even use the create-a-weapon option to create a weapon just for your team, which is quite cool, and would have been great for online play, which the PS2 version is bafflingly lacking (despite the Xbox version being Live Enabled).

Luckily the game still supports play for up to four players, which is perfect for a post-pub session. Unfortunately this is where the game’s gameplay flaws take hold and shake you like a Birmingham tornado. I’ll let some of their less offensive post-pub banter say it for me:

Friend 1: “Hang on a minute, they’re all bright pink and cutesy. One of them’s even got a beret…”
Friend 2: “Graphics look pretty naff for a PS2 game…”

I told them not to worry. It doesn’t matter if the graphics suck-it’s a kid’s game and, above all, it’s the gameplay that matters, and now they’ve made the terrain easier to traverse, right?…

Friend 1: “What’s going on with the scenery? I think I’m stuck, and every time I try to move it just looks like I’m trying to hump this wall…” - this particular ‘quirk’ can be completely infuriating as your worm falls to another unfair death. Joypads will pay for this.

A grenade managed to dislodge the worm at a cost of some health, but even the destructible scenery seemed to have its problems…

Friend 1: “Uh, I can’t get out of this crater. I’m jumping, but I just keep bouncing backwards. There’s loads of floating blocks of scenery left around too, what’s with that?”

Alas, although pretty much every map can have huge holes blown in it, the damage doesn’t apply to all the scenery, and trouble is, the holes are impossible to get out of once you’re in one, and random blocks from the former-wall/floor stick around floating in mid-air after you blow it up, giving the game that unfinished feel, maybe typical of a kid’s game, but rather disappointing for a quality franchise like Worms. But at least the camera problems have been fixed since the last Worms game, right?

Friend 2: “I don’t like the camera. It’s really close in, or zoomed really far out, and takes ages to swivel round and position where you want to, then just decides to swivel round any way it wants. Look, now I can’t see anything-the camera’s covering a wall. Have you still got Playboy: the Mansion?”

So Worms: Mayhem fails to impress on its main selling point-the multiplayer mode. But what about the story mode? Well, it is pretty tough to think of how you can really work a story mode into a game as inherently arcadey (a gamer’s word for “shallow”), so respect to them for trying to come up with some original ideas. Unfortunately, it tires pretty quickly and boils down to either collecting tokens strewn across the map or blowing up a certain amount of enemy worms. Both involve jumping around an awful lot, enough to make you wonder what genre this game is in now. You know it’s not a platformer because the worms jump about one inch off the ground, making negotiating even the simplest of stairs (which they still get stuck in if you try to just crawl up them) an aneurism-inducing task. The only real reason for soldiering on through the story mode is to use the coins you get for completing a mission to buy extra annoying voices, or multiplayer maps, or differently-coloured wigs for your worms to use in multiplayer, yippee…

Worms 4: Mayhem is an idea that sounds good on paper, but has been poorly executed. Presentation-wise the menus are overly complicated and the loading times are a joke. Some solo-worm missions in the story mode are so mean that you’ll kill your worm within seconds of starting the level, and then have to endure the game returning you to the level select screen before you can restart – WHY is there no ‘retry’ option? The graphics are okay but below-par, the programming is full of problems (floating objects, collision-detection and weapon-aiming problems), the camera still isn’t fixed, and it seems to have lost its cult charm in favour of an attempt at mass-market appeal. The game feels unfinished, like a budget title, but will still retail for full price which is a shame. I think fans of the originals will be bitterly disappointed, but for a new generation of young’uns looking for a bit of silly fun, this could have been right up their alley, if only it wasn’t so fiddly and unforgiving…


Best Bits

- Some cool new weapons.
- Nice create-a-worm option and personalised weapons.
Worst Bits

- Some poor graphics.
- Camera and control problems.
- Weapons are difficult to aim.
- Doesn’t feel like Worms.

by: Crazypunk

Copyright © Gamecell 2005