Digital distribution has been a boon for companies with back catalogs of popular franchises. Sega has re-released many of its classic titles for current-generation platforms, with Guardian Heroes and Daytona USA next up the list. Nintendo, once the poster child for the anti-emulation front, has wholeheartedly embraced emulation with its Virtual Console on the Wii. Capcom is bringing back the past with its Street Fighter III and Resident Evil ports, and now Team 17 is doing the same with Worms. Unfortunately, Worms Ultimate Mayhem feels more like a haphazard port than a proper update.
A compilation of two games, Worms Ultimate Mayhem bundles Worms 3D and Worms 4: Mayhem into one 1,200 MSP ($15 USD) downloadable title. Both games remain true to the original versions, and that's a big part of why it doesn't feel like a worthwhile package. Neither one sees much in the way of improvement from the original.
Based on the classic 2-D strategy game, Worms 3D took the franchise from a 2-D plane into a fully rendered 3-D world. Instead of simply accounting for up and down when firing your weapons, you now also have to worry about left and right. Characters can also shift into a first-person view, giving you a look at the battlefield from the perspective of a worm. There are some new weapons here, along with a set of campaign missions featuring specific goals, but the big draw remains multiplayer.
Worms 4: Mayhem brings in a new story mode, led by a crazy professor worm with a time machine. Goals here are more objective oriented, though that can lead to frustration based on the somewhat imprecise movement controls. It also introduced custom weapons, but the effect is more visual than anything else. Don't expect to create any weapons of mass destruction.
Given the age of the game and the relative simplicity of both the levels and the character models, we would have expected to see better performance out of the Worms 3D engine powering the game. Instead, it feels a lot like playing on the original Xbox, especially with the loading times. Levels take at least 30 seconds to load, sometimes longer. Individual character animations also seem to have a loading delay, as you'll shoot a worm, watch him fall down, wait a second and then see the damage indicator pop up. You can't quickly skip past any of these, which means even more waiting time.
Graphically, textures are clean, but basic. Polygon counts are low, and model detail leaves much to be desired. Clipping and collision issues are not uncommon, with the camera appearing to have a mind of its own. There were times when the camera dipped below the level and other times when it would swing around an object, completely obscuring the view of the active worm. Watching a wood floor while stuff is happening elsewhere in the level isn't that exciting.
Visual effects are also basic, with shadows being the most noticeable. They end up looking like flat textures with noticeably pixelated edges. The story mode videos from Worms 4: Mayhem are included, but don't seem to have gotten any special treatment. They're not remastered in HD, and they're not running in full screen. Instead, the story videos simply run in a window in the center of your screen.
The single-player modes also suffer from a lack of intelligent AI. Rather than provide credible competition, the best the AI can do is slow you down a bit. It never seems to employ any strategy, nor does it know what to do if your worms are not within line of sight. If the AI can't see you, it won't go looking for you. It will just skip its turn. Challenge in single-player comes from trying to beat the clear times more than anything else.
With all that, Worms Ultimate Mayhem does have one saving grace: the multiplayer. Supporting up to four players across a variety of game modes both locally and over Xbox Live, multiplayer can be a blast. Deathmatch is the traditional last man standing game type. Destruction has you competing to destroy your opponent's base. Homelands is similar to deathmatch except you start in your fort instead of random placement. Statue Defend has you trying to keep your team's statues safe while destroying all others. Survivor is a deathmatch variant that only puts one worm from each team on the battlefield at any time. Upon death, the next worm spawns in until you're all out.
There is a limited selection of maps available for online play; however, you can purchase a handful more from the in-game shop using coins you earned in the single-player mode. Some of the online modes also allow for the use of randomly generated maps based on one of five themes.
Games over Xbox Live were easy to set up, and we quickly found players when testing out the multiplayer modes. Because Worms Ultimate Mayhem is a turn-based game, lag is not an issue while playing.
Despite the enjoyable multiplayer, there isn't enough polish in the single-player game to either justify the cost or pull this one out of purely average territory. Unless you've got a strong hankering for the 3-D world, you'd be better served with either Worms or Worms 2 in all their 2-D glory.
More articles about Worms Ultimate Mayhem