Worms Forts: Under Siege Review
In Under Siege, you have four worms under your command, and as you have in the past, you will spend your time trying to destroy the computer, or up to three friends. The game begins with a tutorial that teaches you the basics, from moving your worm around, to building different structures and firing weapons. Generally, tutorials aren't very entertaining, but the different lessons here take boredom to the next level. Part of the reason it's so painful is that it moves along at a worm's pace, showing you how to pick up a crate, and then forcing you to do it. It's a safe bet that 99.999% of gamers are able to push the analog stick forward and run into a box, so either showing how to do it, or simply telling us to go get it is enough. Team 17 apparently thinks they got a huge variety of weapons, and yes, while some like the crazy old lady and the fridge are unique, the other are not, and they force you to fire weapon after weapon training you on each. You'll quickly realize that most of them are exactly the same, but the game keeps forcing you to shoot each one like you've never shot anything like it in oh, say, the last thirty seconds.
The actual battles are turn-based, and the keys to victory are to either destroy your opponents' structures, or to simply annihilate their little worm army. You'll have to build your fort as the battle rages, but you have to be careful when you build, because one weak link in your structure, if destroyed, can result in a good portion of your fort going down as well. Not only do the different structures have different strengths, but each can have different weapons fired from upon it. You can get buildings of various strengths by securing victory locations, which are spread amongst the battlefield. Building new structures and coming up with an effective way of placing them is a fun new aspect of the game, but it's just buried under so many problems it never gets a chance to shine.
The worms are as slow as worms are in real life, so moving them around is incredibly cumbersome. For some reason, the worms can jump really high and even do double jumps on top of buildings, yet they move like they've been dipped in cement - it's quite painful. The only saving grace with the worms moving so slowly is that it allows you to compensate for the game's sloppy controls. Precise movement is difficult, and performing a successful jump is a matter of luck, since sometimes your guy will double jump, and sometimes he won't. It seems like the developers realized how lousy the controls were, but instead of fixing things, they simply allow you to stick your landing as long as you have one pixel touching the structure or ledge you were trying to jump on.
Aiming, shooting, and even selecting weapons are all far more difficult than necessary; a continuing theme with the game. Certain weapons can only be fired from certain structures, some have power meters, some are affected by wind, some explode on contact, and some have detonation timers, which make it tough to keep things straight. It's so tough to aim weapons that if you stink it up in the training mode, the game gives up on you succeeding and simply moves on, telling you that you stink. Even selecting weapons is a chore, and the tiny little icons, despite them having some sense of organization, don't get the job done.
The concept behind the combat is solid, but the execution kills any chance that you might enjoy it. For starters, the battles are far too long, and the "sudden death" does very little to speed things up considering a game in sudden death can still go another half hour. The game's flaws are so prevalent that matches that of 30 minutes or even an hour are like getting teeth pulled. The A. I. is nothing short of pathetic, often wasting turns doing nothing, at least until the match nears its end. When faced with defeat, the computer will suddenly get phenomenal aim, and will spring to life accomplishing more in a few short turns than it has done the whole match.
You can play against friends, and that makes things a little more enjoyable, but learning the game is such a tedious process that you're probably not going to have anyone that wants to play. Of course the game's online mode solves that problem, right? Nope. There is no online mode to speak of; absolutely none. Worms is a game that begs for online play, but for some reason, Team 17 has denied people the chance of having any fun taking on Worms fans from around the world.
Under Siege has a simple cartoony style with emphasis on the "simple" part. The levels are sparsely populated, yet the framerate chugs every time the camera pans around the barren, lifeless levels. The textures are muddy, lack detail, and are reminiscent of a PlayStation game. Everything is blocky, and composed of a minimal amount of poorly stuck together polygons. It's tough to look at, which can only explain why the camera is so bad; it just doesn't want to look at the horrible graphics. It's unresponsive, slow to follow the action, and don't even think about using the worthless overhead mode to get a better view - it has its own problems.
The audio is not offensive like the game's visuals, but it doesn't do anything particularly well. The worms' high-pitched catchphrases are amusing for a while, but quickly get repetitive. There's really not much else to say.
If you've got a lot of patience, and you've been longing for a new Worms game, you might get a little enjoyment out of Worms Forts: Under Siege, however, it simply has too many major problems to recommend to anyone else. The game was clearly rushed, which probably explains the omission of online play, but there's no excuse for the lousy controls, terrible camera, and plodding gameplay. Save your money.
4/7/2005 Aaron Thomas