Can you believe that the Worms franchise is 25 years old! There are few opportunities in this industry where you can write about a game series that is actually older than yourself, and yet still kicking with the spry of a young buck fresh on the scene. That's exactly what Worms is doing these days with its latest title that redefines how the iconic series plays. Still being helmed by the creative chaps over at Team17, Worms Rumble captures all that we've come to know and love about the franchise and has brought it to the modern day by building it around a trendy battle royale design. Needless to say, it's quite a different experience.
Worms Rumble is a multiplayer game, and while a lot of what it offers is BR focused, there is a little more under the hood. Either way, if you are expecting the standard turn-based strategy experience that has essentially been the Worms' calling card all these years, you won't find it here. Gone are the days of intricately planning extravagant ways to blow or launch opposing Worms into the afterlife, as in Worms Rumble, as soon as the game begins, everyone is out for blood until a winner is declared.
The way the gameplay is built due to this switch in focus is simple: it's Worms without turns. But, at the same time, it's a little more as the movement has been adapted to suit this faster style of play. Your Worm can slither at a faster speed, jump with the athleticism of a jaguar, curl up into a ball and roll like more lethal, squeakier voiced Sonic the Hedgehog, and what all of that essentially means is Worms is now a much more chaotic experience than it ever has been. Seriously, you'll jump into a lobby packed with 32-players and in less than 10 minutes, it will be over. It's carnage.
With this being said, the idea of destructible maps, where you can slowly blow your way through the environment is not present here. Mainly because it doesn't need to be due to the faster pace. It does feel strange missing this, especially considering the game is 2D like some of the much older and more recent Worms titles, but unleashing hell fury on the map will be the last thing you worry about when you have six other rival Worms unloading a hail of bullets at you every single minute of a match.
There are some returning fan favourites to be excited about in the weapon choices. A lot of what you use will be newer as they have to be able to work in this much quicker game style, but that doesn't stop the Sheep Launcher, the Banana Bomb, the Baseball Bat or the Holy Hand Grenade from getting in on the action. The new weapons; the revolver, shotgun, machine gun, just to name a few are all of a slightly different style to what you would expect as they have faster fire rates and magazine sizes, and usually in combat they involve you holding down the trigger until your opponent is but a mere pile of ashes. It isn't as subtle as prodding someone into a watery grave.
I will say that the BR mode (Last Worm Standing) does feel quite punishing, and considering the maps are rather small, a lot of games involve action from the second they begin until the moment you die or win. A great alternative to check out what Worms Rumble offers without feeling deterred by BR is to play the Deathmatch mode, which is really just a Free For All. There is a time limit in place and you just have to keep taking out opposing Worms, respawning when you die, until the game ends and a winner is determined. It's a whole bunch of fun and I do think this game mode suits what Rumble offers better than the BR experience.
Now, it wouldn't be a Worms game without a little bit of stupidity in the customisation options. Worms Rumble brings a diverse list of wearable cosmetics for you to earn and flaunt in-game. They can all be unlocked through levelling up your account through playing, with purchasing requiring the in-game currency, also unlocked through playing. So, if you want to turn your Worm purple, give it a single tooth, a cowboy hat, a scarf and bright orange eyes - nothing will stop you, but come on, have a shred of respect for that poor creature.
One quick thing I'd like to gloss over is how well Worms Rumble incorporates the PS5's DualSense controller abilities. The haptic feedback makes the game feel way more alive, and the varying level of resistance when firing a gun thanks to the adaptive triggers gives this game so much more character. The DualSense benefits were actually a really noticeable factor for me when playing, and granted, PC and PS4 users won't have the luxury of this, you should know that on PS5, this title is implemented incredibly well.
For me, I found that Worms Rumble was a really fun game to bash out a few hours on. It's light, easy to pick-up and dive into, looks and sounds great, features a diverse and daft customisation system, and most of all, it captures the essence of what makes Worms so great, its wackiness. But, after sinking a few hours in, I wonder where it's future lies.
The BR, its focal point, is the less enjoyable game mode currently available, meaning you'll probably find yourself playing Deathmatch back to back to back. While this isn't inherently bad, there are only so many games you can sit through before becoming a little bored. To top that off, the weapons are less exciting, since they need to suit this faster game and because of that, older fans of the franchise will probably feel a little disappointed that some old classics have been left out to dry.
I do believe that for anyone who is looking for a simple, easy to understand and fun game, Worms Rumble is a great title to play alone or with friends. But personally, I think some of the charm that made Worms so iconic is missing here, and that Team17 may have leaned a little too far into modernising this franchise. Sure, change is often for the better, but as someone who grew up playing Worms, experiencing pretty much all the franchise has to offer, I can't help but feel like this marks the end of an era rather than a new beginning. Either way you look at it, clubbing a Worm with a baseball bat never gets old.
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