| paleface [sys=PSP; cat=Strategy; loc=NA] |
|For an overview of what the Worms series is all about, check out entry 1043. Here, I'll just skip ahead to the particular points of this five-years-later reprise.|
The graphics have improved in five years. The widescreen format fits the predominately horizontal earthy stages perfectly, and the landscapes and backgrounds are by far the usually spartan series has seen. The backgrounds are 3D, but with this unusual fuzzy blur to the, that makes their gentle swaying something distant and gentle to the eye. Really keen. The landscapes themselves are very colorful, and the worms animate well. The explosions themselves deserve particular mention, featuring huge billowing clouds of cartoonish smoke.
On the other hand, the framerate seems really iffy. Or maybe it's just something about the scrolling... Well, no, because it's hard to see what goes where when a big explosion goes off. But the worse is when scrolling with the analog nub, the whole thing just feels really laggy and icky trying to move the view around. It's worlds away (and below) the instant, snappy scrolling seen in Worms World Party (entry 1043 again). If this lag is caused by the 3D backgrounds, well, I sure wish there was an option to turn 'em off.
On the other hand, you can zoom the view in and out with the shoulder buttons. On max out zoom you can see almost the full map, which comes in very handy. I wish there was one more step of zoom-in, as even at the full zoom, the worms are kinda tiny on the portable screen.
Open Warfare has the core of a solid Worms game, with one rotten part: the AI. Previous installments of the series usually had "stupid" settings available for AI, so the dumber enemies would just foul up, miss you completely, blow themselves up, and so forth. Well, they sometimes do stupid things here (so do the smart teams), but mostly you'll notice how they can land a grenade perfectly at rest right on your worm's forehead from all the way across the map, even banking it off one or more surfaces first, if necessary. They can't aim bad. It's really disgusting, and just no fun to play against when they're doing stuff like that.
Fortunately, you can edit weapon sets, and I found that the ones I set up ("Shotgun," "Boom," "Bananas," etc) had the lobbing weapons (bazooka, grenades) conspicuously absent. Take that, stupid AI aimbots! :P
Again, though, something odd; this game has less than half of the weapons seen in Worms World Party, which came out five years ago. What the hey? It's almost a throwback to the weapon set of the very first Worms game...which is kind of nice in that the fat of redundant/unbalanced weapons has largely been trimmed out, but still, you have to wonder why they didn't roll in at least a few more of the wacky weapons they added in all the previous sequels in the series.
Speaking of weapons, there's a significant problem with that most utilitarian of weapons, the double-barrel shotgun (which gives you two attacks rather than just one, oh how sweet). The problem seems to be that after explosions and blasts and whatnot, you can end up with sub-pixel bits of landscape hanging invisibly around, and shotgun blasts have a horrible knack for hitting these little blockades, instead of hitting your target on the other side of them. So you end up firing into nothing, or even backfiring a bit on yourself if you're close to the hidden bit, rather than doing damage to your enemy, and you've just been screwed out of a turn; this is incredibly frustrating. Not only that, but shotgun shots also seem to get blocked by (the indestructible) grave stones from deceased worms, which is just plain silly.
While I'm complaining, I'll also just lay out here that the game is rather low on modes. No Infrastructure WiFi play, for one, which is a disappointment, considering that the turn-based nature of the game is one quite suited to internet play, and that Worms has had internet play since Worms 2, ages ago. Le sigh. You can do 1-4 player Ad Hoc WiFi, according to the box, but that's probably never gonna happen for me.
The only other mode aside from the bog-standard "create a match" Worms thing (I'll just include WiFi in there), is a Challenge mode of 20 matches that get tougher and tougher--not AI-wise, unfortunately, but in terms of the amount of health and teams the enemy has. One thing that's particularly unnerving about Challenge mode is that while you may face up to three enemy teams, they almost never shoot at each other; so infrequently do they do so, in fact, that I almost think those few times were just accidents. No, usually they all just gang up on you, and in the later stages you have to get pretty devious, often going to the "Dark Side," ie finding a high hole to shut yourself up in, then waiting for time to run out and the water gradually to rise, so that all the other worms either drown or squirm into easy firing range. Remember also that the AI will be balancing grenades effortlessly on your forehead all this time.
Still, I somehow found myself sucked into the challenge stages--primarily because it's so rare that a game has a short enough single-player component that I can actually have a chance of finishing it, I suppose, but even so, and having to restart most of the later stages lots of times, I found I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I'd thought I would given the AI, the sluggo camera, and the limited weapon sets. You kind of get caught up in the strategy of it, planning out various schemes beforehand, hording your special weapons, cursing the AI as it wastes your time standing there thinking for thirty solid seconds before shrugging its non-existent shoulders and balancing a grenade perfectly on your forehead.
Finishing all 20 stages was a relief, though, and now I can just goof around with custom-configured one-off rounds whenever I like (I could have done that without finishing Challenge mode, of course, but now I feel I've earned it). Since you can get rid of the lobbing weapons the AI is so ridiculously good with, this is where the real fun of the game comes in, and it's a mode that can probably last me a good long time, albeit in small bursts.
Sound deserves some mention, too. Each worms team can be set with one of an umptillionth (mostly from the previous games in the series) voice sets, which helps give them an adorable personality. The music is actually very soothing, and most of the sound effects pretty good. There are some that are oddly muted, though, and sometimes sounds sort of cut out--it seems like maybe there are too many sounds playing, and it runs out of active sound channels, or something. You don't really expect that sort of thing in a 2D turn-based game, so it's a bit of a head-scratcher, expecially since the sounds themselves are so well done.
In certain very significant ways (few weapons, shotgun flukiness, bad AI, few modes, lack of internet play, cruddy scrolling, sometimes spotty sound), this is a disappointing installment in the long-delayed series. On the other hand, after playing it for a while, I grew rather fond of it, which goes to show that maybe, just maybe, the really important part of the series' original inspiration has survived.
|Download added: 02_weapons.jpg (23176 bytes)|
"The weapon selection panel. So tiny!"
Ah, the game is also low on some options. You can't turn off weapon crate drops or instant replays, for instance, and you can't set how much health the worms have in the create-a-match mode, which is a shame.