Despite the fact that plenty of new games in the Worms series have been released since its debut in 1995, it hasn't exactly been a hotbed for revolutionary gameplay changes. The biggest change for the non-spin-off titles came when the series jumped to the third dimension with Worms 3D. Worms: Ultimate Mayhem bundles together the content from Worms 3D and Worms 4: Mayhem and makes it a little prettier, but it doesn't attempt to fix any issues with the 3D Worms formula. The result is a sizable package that doesn't live up to the great heritage established by its predecessors.
Taking command of a team of worm soldiers, armed to their non-existent teeth with crazy weapons, your goal is simply to obliterate the opposing team. Battles are turn based, with each team getting a set amount of time per turn (typically about a minute or so) to move a worm around the battlefield, make an attack, and cause as much destruction as possible with one of the many absurd weapons at your disposal. It's an addictive formula with some surprising charm and a fair amount of tactical depth. Many weapons are affected by the wind, like the bazooka that serves as your bread and butter. This turns many matches into trick-shot contests, rewarding players who can make tough shots regardless of wind or landscape. This is especially true of the 2D games, where the mechanics and physics of the gameplay have been worked out to a science. In a 2D game like Worms Reloaded, you might see a skilled player use a ninja rope or jetpack to quickly cross the length of the map, make a great shot, and get back to a safe location away from enemies--all in well under a minute. But in the 3D environment of Worms: Ultimate Mayhem, tricky tools like the ninja rope seem even clunkier, because the camera gets in the way and the environment is never your friend. Simply moving around a worm with the analog stick is usually fine, and if you're skilled enough with your weapons, you shouldn't have any problems, but some of the finesse in movement just isn't there.
If you have already played Worms 3D or Worms 4, then you know exactly what to expect in Ultimate Mayhem and won't have much incentive to get this new version. The graphics are a little nicer and there are some nice customization options for your worms, but this is essentially the same content you've seen elsewhere. The primary Story mode in Ultimate Mayhem is ripped straight out of Worms 4, and the Worms 3D Story mode is included for good measure. The same is true of the Challenge mode, which tests your ability with various weapon and item types by making you finish tasks like shooting targets as quickly as possible. The Story mode is a great place to start for people new to the Worms franchise because it does an acceptable job of introducing certain concepts and testing your abilities on movement and weapons. Missions are typically short and sweet; however, the enemy AI in these modes, when present, can be frustratingly inconsistent. Most of the time, the AI is incompetent, missing easy shots and even doing damage to itself. But on occasion, enemies will make shots that seem impossible, making your life harder than necessary.
The weapon variety is great and over the top, as should be expected from a Worms game. Whether you're using explosive sheep (or the more awesome super sheep), tossing holy hand grenades, or dropping concrete donkeys, Worms: Ultimate Mayhem gives you plenty of options. They're not always as satisfying as their 2D counterparts, though, especially with the default damage settings. It can be disappointing to walk up to an enemy worm and prepare to send it flying far into the ocean with the baseball bat only to hit it a few feet. The same goes for the air strike, which was devastating in older Worms titles yet seems subdued and confined in 3D. These changes may only disappoint fans of previous games, but for a game with the title "Ultimate Mayhem," you expect more mayhem. Like Worms 4, you also have the option of creating your own weapon, which is far less exciting than it sounds. You are given a narrow set of aesthetic options and aren't given much control over how the weapon fires or animates. You can only adjust damage sliders and modifiers, but even that is restricted so you don't make a weapon too powerful for multiplayer sessions.
Like all Worms games, Ultimate Mayhem is best played with fellow humans. There are several multiplayer game types that can be played online or locally with up to four people, and most custom matches take place on procedurally generated (and fully destructible) maps that lead to a wide variety of gameplay options. If you get a good group of friends together, you can have a fun time, especially once you tweak weapon loadouts and damage settings to your liking. The game controls pretty well on the Xbox 360 gamepad with the exception of most of the menus, which were obviously designed with the PC in mind. Selecting the large arsenal of weapons during battle is more sluggish (especially considering you're on a timer), and even navigating menus outside of matches can be a pain. Load times can also be long, though you don't encounter them much outside of restarting challenges to go for better times.
Ultimate Mayhem is the definitive 3D Worms experience and is a novel way to kill some invertebrates if you've never played a 3D games previously. It's an inexpensive downloadable game with content that gives you entertaining multiplayer and some appealing single-player components. Still, you would probably be better off with one of the 2D games in the series, especially if you're experienced with the franchise.