Worms Rumble Review: Real-Time Worming
The original Worms was released in 1995. A hilarious, turn-based, physics-filled wonder of destruction wherein opposing teams of small, adorable, and heavily armed worms attempt to murder the living hell out of each other.
Worms 2 was a huge step over the original, greatly improving on the visuals and generally making the game better in every way. Since then, there have been quite a few iterations of the game, but all (even the brief foray into 3D) stuck to the turn-based nature of the core gameplay of the original.
Worms Rumble is the first time the series has gone fully real-time. The results are, unsurprisingly, a mixed bag. Taken from the perspective of someone who has played nearly every Worms game since the original, Rumble is a jarring transition. This is essentially an online-only, side-scrolling team and free-for-all battle royale deathmatch-style game.
Worms Rumble Review: Real-Time Worming
Currently, the Worms Rumble supports 32-player battles on the PS4, PS5, and PC in deathmatch, Last Worm Standing, and squad-based Battle Royale matches. The game is cross-platform as well, so if you turn the option on, it will generate random battles against anyone on any platform. This means there’s always a healthy amount of competition to play against. In my testing, there were never any problems finding other worms to kill.
There were also never any hiccups in matches. Running at 4K 60fps on PC, PS4 Pro, and PS5, the game looks superb, like a modern CG cartoon, and it runs buttery smooth. Why the game hasn’t hit the Switch or Xbox platforms is another mystery entirely, but Worms Rumble is most recommendable to PS+ subscribers.
It launched as a freebie on Sony’s service for both PlayStation 4 and PS5, making it an easy sell on those platforms. For non-PS+ players or those that play on Steam, it’s still pretty cheap at around $15, but that cheaper price does come with a lot of flaws.
For one thing, there are only a few maps to battle on. Granted, Team17 has a roadmap of free content drops, including new maps, until March 2021. There’s also “the Lab,” which is basically a daily event with themed matches that focus on specific weapons and objectives.
The maps included are really good. Dockyards, an explosive rocket mall, and other strange locations suit the goofy worm-based combat. Maps are heavily focused on multi-level structures, complete with vent shafts and other hiding spots, and chock full of weapons and power-up items that spawn in regularly.
Shotguns, machine guns, the classic bazooka, exploding sheep, a baseball bat, holy hand grenades… the insane array of weapons this series has amassed is largely intact in Rumble. The game keeps stats on your usage with each weapon as well, and players earn XP for individual weapons.
Your worm character goes up in level too. Aside from showing others your experience and expertise with the game, each new level earns customizable gear for your worm and weapons. There’s a sizable array of new skins, clothes, paint jobs, and more. This provides an insane number of ways to make your worm distinct, from tattoos, hats, and glasses to full-face masks, skins, voices, expressions, and more.
The transition of familiar Worms gameplay to real-time combat is mostly successful. Using classic gear like the grappling hook gun or rocket pack to get around is still a hilarious endeavor. The intensity is amped up since other people are trying to kill you at the same time you’re maneuvering.
One massive omission to the classic game, however, is the lack of destructible environments. In earlier games, you could theoretically destroy the entire randomly-generated battle island. Here, levels are set, not at all randomized, and nothing beyond minor elements like parked cars can be blown up.
This feels like a lost opportunity and takes away from what made those earlier games so spectacular. Game matching is another issue. While you can invite friends to be on a squad, there’s no actual way to host or control a match. You simply pick the game mode and the game just matches you with enough players on a randomly chosen map.
There are no options for match creation at all. Previous games let you customize not just the map (or map theme really, as they were randomly created), but weapons drops, items, time limits, number of players, etc. There’s no single-player component here either, which is also disappointing. Rumble’s multiplayer is also entirely online, so no split-screen matches.
It’s hard to say how many of these issues might be fixed or improved upon in the coming months. Team17 will certainly be expanding the game and adding plenty of content, but taking the game as it stands now is more difficult. The core gameplay here is definitely entertaining. The absurd, non-stop action is fun, challenging, even clever as players learn to manage the insane variety of weapons and items.
Worms Rumble Review — The Bottom Line
- 32-player matches are lively, exciting, and fun across large, multi-story maps
- Tons of ways to customize your worm
- A horde of weapons and weird items to master
- Free on PS+ and regular free content drops until March
- Just not enough content
- No match hosting options at all
Worms works in real-time as a fast-paced, side-scrolling free-for-all, even with all the omissions and limitations. Despite all the complaints, Worms Rumble is a ton of fun.
That said, this feels like a slight divergence from the main series. For PS+ members, it’s absolutely worthwhile but anyone else should approach the game as a work in progress still expanding in, we hope, the right direction.
[Note: The PlayStation Plus version of Worms: Rumble was used for this review.]