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Worms 2: Armageddon – XBLA

Developer: Team17 Software Ltd / Publisher: Team17 Software Ltd

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Creative weaponry, silly voices, and carnage – no it isn’t a gamer speed-dating event…everyone’s favourite invertebrate slaughter-mongers are back.  Worms is one of those games so firmly entrenched in gaming culture that whether they have played it or not, most gamers will at least have heard of it.  Originally springing fully armoured from the head of Andy Davidson for an Amiga Format competition, it was eventually snapped up by Team 17 and in 1994, a classic was born.

Many incarnations later, squatting firmly in the bunker of the artillery genre with strategy as it’s boot boy, Worms 2: Armageddon builds upon the strengths of it’s predecessor and ups the ante with a handful of Banana Bombs for good measure.  The aim of the game is simple – your quartet of plucky annelids have to obliterate the opposing team by any means afforded to them, and believe me, the range of weapons should satisfy even the pickiest general.  Traditional staples such as the Bazooka and Cluster Bomb are all present and correct and fan favourites such as the Holy Hand Grenade and the Concrete Donkey make a welcome return after their bitter absence from the first XBLA game.  As ever, strategy plays a big part in a player’s choice of weaponry and the usual Girders and Blowtorches remain for the ‘Dark Side’ players.

The environment may look stunning, but isn’t always friendly – water means sudden death and wind sheer will affect most shots (though more practised players will learn to use it to their advantage to pull off some nasty kills).  The cartoon style backdrops now also appear in vertical form, lending a new twist to some challenges and are as fully destructible as ever, with the added hazard of fire weapon fallout eating insidiously away at it, scorching Worms as it goes.  The lush palette and over the top themeing make the crisp landscapes a pleasure to blow apart and along with the expanded cacophony of ridiculous voices and sounds, imbues the whole thing with a genuine sense of addictive fun.

Everywhere in space is made of cheese, it's the law

Everywhere in space is made of cheese, it's the law

35 single player levels will more than keep a player’s hands full and completing these earns gold which can be spent at the in-game shop on special weapons, silly hats, or even extra levels.  The single player campaign also includes puzzle levels which are both innovative and frustrating, requiring the player to solve problems or traverse the level with only limited weaponry or utilities, but which offer a welcome respite from the rigours of war.  Anyone venturing into the invertebrate strewn no-man’s-land of Live will find four new multiplayer modes, including Forts, with a flotilla of customisation options for those four player death scrums and of course, ranked two player matches which come with some gritty achievements.  Even the training levels have been given a lick of paint with some nifty extras such as Worm dummies to abuse (and if you’re devious, use for achievements).

It seems that the whole game is brimming with new features, meaning that new additions to the voice sets and landscapes, unlike the first game and it’s iffy requirement for the player to pay for extras, are packed in here as standard.  In fact, choice seems to be very much the name of the game with the player given a wealth of cheeky customisation options ranging from bizarre hats, victory dances, and skins to add to the usual wacky voices and gravestones.  A ‘cheese head’ hat or a ‘Grandpa’ speech set may mean nothing to some but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to crack a grin at the zany buffet laid out here.

Watch that wind sheer unless you want a Bazooka blast in the back of the head

Watch that wind sheer unless you want a Bazooka blast in the back of the head

It isn’t all brandy and cigars before curfew though – multiplayer is still proving buggy for some, several achievements are glitched and the rather bizarre intrusion of avatars between turns is both pointless and irritating, seeming oddly out of place  and serving only to slow down play, even if it is by one more button press.  For the more cynical, this is essentially more of the same -  anyone that has played any of Worms’ past incarnations will know the drill and when you strip back the baubles and new modes, it is the same game.  Again.  But it’s a damn good one, which makes all the difference.

Whether you’re dedicated carnage creator or simply fresh meat, you’ll find something worthwhile here.  The thought that has gone into refreshing a game which (let’s be honest) has not really changed for over 15 years, is obvious and appreciated – especially as we are once more being asked to pay 800MSP.  So leave your cynicism at the door, don your Alien Antenna and prepare to take cover, because there is a pale sheep trundling over the horizon, the Worm that sits on him is Death, and Armageddon is following with him.

Summary
Fan favourite weapons and a wealth of new modes and enhancements will please both veterans and newcomers alike. With a strong single player campaign and expanded multiplayer mode complimented by a range of customisation options, this may be just a slightly fleshier Worms but it still blows chunks out of the opposition.

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