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Worms 4: Mayhem - the big interview

Team 17's Martyn Brown gets down n' dirty with the little wrigglers...

Worms 4: Mayhem is the latest incarnation of the hugely amusing and hilariously violent Worms series, from long time fans of everything earthworm: Team 17. A smash hit on just about every format it's ever been released on, the simple but highly addictive series has been pulling gamers in for years, especially with its enhanced capacity for multiplayer mayhem.

Following the slight departure which was Worms Forts Under Siege, Worms 4: Mayhem signals a welcome return to the series' roots. That's not to say there's not a ton of new features, a host of new weapons and - of course - the stars of the show, the cute little wrigglers themselves.

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We couldn't let developers Team 17 off the hook (careful - Ed), without getting some further details, so we pinned down Studio Head Martyn Brown and invited him to try and wriggle out (you're fired - Ed) of the following probing series of questions.

Here's what he had to say on the genius of everything Annelida to Nematoda and Platyhelminthes (hm, okay, nice use of Latin, a first for C&VG. You're hired again. - Ed).

Phew. If you'd like to check out some of the hot Worms 4 Mayhem action, Codemasters has just released a couple of fresh movies from the game which can check out here.

Worms 4: Mayhem is described as going back to Worms' roots. Was there a conscious decision made to re-introduce fans to familiar territory in the wake of the interesting departure that was Forts Under Siege?

Martyn Brown: We'd always planned to continue the core Worms series. Forts was something else, which transpired through some market research with a publisher some time ago (mid 2002). The real feeling behind Worms 4 is that we wanted to get closer to the type of games that people enjoyed in 2D, which were generally much more strategic. I think we (in hindsight) made things a touch more immediate and action based with Worms 3D and neglected the strategy element too much. However, Worms 4 addresses a lot of the concerns; in particular, water deaths are now much rarer due to some new technology in the engine which provide low beach areas (this makes a HUGE difference) plus some of the weapons have a "Darkside" edge - as well as the level generator creating more strategically interesting areas.

It's a new game, which means lots of new features, but one of the biggest additions appears to be the Weapons Factory. Can you tell us more about how that works, about how it's used in the game and the different components that can be combined?

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Martyn Brown: I think along with Worm visual customisation, this feature has been requested the most. In terms of its application we've had to do something that's quick and easy to produce results. You get to choose your method of attack (by a Strike, launched or thrown) then you can customise how it will explode, if it produces, poison, fire, if it's homing, how big the explosions are, what force it produces, what payload is launched etc etc.

If you create a launched weapon you also get to design your gun from various components. Also, it's worth bearing in mind that people can't just turn everything to MAX and produce some ridiculous weapon, since everything is balanced out (too much power and the weapon fails). Its perfectly possible to recreate some of the weapons in the older games though - as well as a number of bizarre weapons this time round. We plan to have new payloads available in the game shop too, so the more you play the game, the more range of cool stuff you get to see and use.

How many possible weapon combinations are there in the Weapons Factory, and
what's the best/funniest weapon you've designed in the Weapons Factory to
date?

Martyn Brown: There are a lot of possibilities since of the three main weapon types (Strike/thrown/launched) they have a number of possibilities and different applications. You mix this with the large range of payloads which range from Chickens, loo-rolls, baseballs, explosives through to hamsters etc and you get the picture.

I'm sure players will delight in producing their own evil weapons - and the cool thing is that when you play online you'll have no idea what the other player has up their sleeve. In terms of what's the funniest, well that's pretty subjective - you can't create weapons like the major hard-coded stuff we have in the game (stuff like the Inflatable Scouser and Fatkins Strike are one-offs) but I'm sure people will enjoy creating poisonous homing potatoes and exploding snow globes.

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Similarly, what's the wackiest Worm you've created now that there's the ability to customise a Worm's appearance?

Martyn Brown: There are a lot of possibilities - and again one persons idea of sensible is another's idea of wacky. We're adding a lot of possibilities with the customisations and until I can add the Elvis glasses to my afro'd worms, I'm still a bit grumpy. Some of the more crazy things are Frankenstein-like heads, a crocodile face hat and Alien antennae (oh, and a Terminator-stylee half-face/hand combo).

Part of Worms' appeal has always been the generous dose of humour that you've afforded it. Is this aspect built on in Mayhem, and indeed how much of a challenge is it to introduce further humorous elements into the series?

Martyn Brown: Sure, there's new humour in there - but I go along with the notion that generally the humour comes from the game and the players themselves - and we've just got to put enough in to feed this system. The personalization helps (and is massively more interesting this time) since people care more when it's their ideas being blown apart.

New weapons like the Poison Arrow, Sentry Gun, Tail Nail and the Bovine Blitz have been mentioned. Could we get more details on these, and also what other new firepower are you introducing (outside of what can be developed in the Weapons Factory)?

Martyn Brown: There's a host of new weapons/utilities. Poison plays a much larger part in the game (at the time going to press, too much, which will be balanced) and we've added a range of "Darkside" tools which allow you to be sneaky - Bubble Trubble, Tail Nail (it does exactly what it says on the tin) and the Sentry gun being top examples. The Bovine Blitz is a strike where you control the payload dropping from the bomb window under the plane - but there's more besides.

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What new strategies do these new weapons open up?

Martyn Brown: The defensive stuff really harks back to the "Darkside" days - elements of strategy that were perhaps missing from Worms 3D. Coupled with better mission design they make the game play and feel much more akin to the 2D series. Whilst we still don't have tunnelling (for a variety of technical & camera reasons) the game is certainly more edgy now.

What improvements have you made to landscapes/battlegrounds and the destructible scenery?

Martyn Brown: Many, and all of them are major. First off, the most important improvement has seen the introduction of a low-lying height-field material which is used as both ground and beach. As well as fixing the "Legoland" critique we received in Worms 3D (it's now all nice and smooth) it also has the advantage of reducing water-deaths to a much, much more normal level - akin to 2D perhaps. The effect this has on the game is amazing - and coupled with the darker strategies, people will find it's Worms as they know and love. In terms of the landscapes, they're larger too - and richer in detail. In addition, the landscape generator has been really souped up and produces some fantastic levels in a number of different modes. For example, random levels in the western theme see it always produce Arizona style rock formations around a central western street - but when playing in "Homeland" mode, it generates two, three or four rocky outcrops (depending on the number of players) linked by rocks to a central area where the crates fall.

Worms' multiplayer mode has always been the best part of the series for us. What can we expect from this side of the game in Mayhem? Will there be online multiplayer across all formats?

Martyn Brown: Multiplayer is always available offline - and is perhaps the best way to get the most out of the game. It's been a post-pub favourite for years and W4 will only enhance that. It's also going to be online on PC and Xbox.

Worms Mayhem is unleashed on PS2, Xbox and PC, and should be available in spring.

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