Best Games - Worms 2
In the early 1970s, computers were wildly expensive machines that occupied entire rooms of universities and research centers. Students and scientists would have to book time on them to do their work, often accessing them remotely from terminals. They would have to master early high level programming languages and think in trigonometric functions. With such specialized training and access to rare and costly hardware, they did what anyone would have done. They made and played games.
One of the earliest tasks for electro-mechanical and electronic computers was calculating firing arcs for long range ship cannons. When computers advanced from relays to transistors to integrated circuits, the desire for the navies, armies, and air forces of the world to figure out how to shoot at what they are shooting at didn’t go away. If anything, shooting at things rose to the level of complexity afforded by newer computers. Shooting at things became a science. If it seems like a lot of computer games are simply about things shooting at other things, it might be because that was quite literally what computers were made for. Like it or not, performing ballistic calculations is built into computers from the bones out.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a pervasive shift toward antiwar sentiment in the research centers and universities of north america. And yet they were using computers. Computers for which ballistic arcs and missile flight dynamics were essentially solved problems. A lot of the basic languages included functions to define these arcs. The tools were all there, but the want to use them for their intended purpose was not. So people did what people will always do. They made a game out of them.
Artillery isn’t really a single computer game. There isn’t one monolithic work that you can point to and say ‘that is Artillery’. Instead, artillery was an entire genre of computer games back in a time when genres for computer games didn’t really exist. Two or more gun emplacements would take turns firing at each other. Players would have to adjust the guns power and angle for each shot gradually trying to narrow in on their target. First one hit loses. Everyone programming a computer could play with and modify a version of Artillery. There were ones with changing wind, ones with variable terrain, ones where the gun emplacements could move and ones where they were ships on the sea. All of them variations on the same game.
Sometimes it isn’t the game that explores a mechanic first that is remembered. Sometimes it isn’t even a game explores that mechanic best. Sometimes it is a game that just does it the most. Worms 2 is the most Artillery game ever made.
Now of course, there was a Worms game before Worms 2, but it was really just Artillery in a comedy suit. Worms 2 though, they put everything in there. Every Worm had a goofy name and a slate of ridiculous voice samples for all situations. The amount of tools and weapons at your disposal is staggering, and most of them are bad puns and corny jokes. In 1997, nearly 30 years of Artillery style games were rolled into a single chuckle-worthy package. There have been a lot of Worms games since Worms 2, but not many have captured the joyous chaos of that game. Like using a sword to cut a cake or high explosives to create vibrant fireworks, Worms 2 took the core concepts of Artillery and repurposed them to entertain. What had been developed essentially as a weapon was transformed into whoopee cushions and cartoon googly eyes.
Worms 2 is the most perfect form of the Artillery genre, and a crowning achievement in irreverence. Worms 2 is also one of the best games.