So someone was probably sitting around in EA’s boardroom going, “PopCap wants to work on a multiplayer console shooter? Wait, don’t they do mobile games?” Indeed, for the longest time, the Washington-based developer has worked on a number of wonderful mobile franchises, like Peggle, Bejeweled, and, obviously, Plants vs. Zombies. But from out of the blue, they’ve produced a multiplayer experience that’s unlike any other – a “cute” shooter that’s actually approachable for all ages of players. Considering the glut of military-based stuff on the market, this is definitely a welcome one.
There’s plenty of balance between the two teams. On the Plants side – who you’ll be spending a good amount of time with, so get used to them – you have the Sunflower, a support-based soldier that can fire sun beams and drop heal points; the Peashooter, a soldier that’s good at firing seeds and using speed boosts to take out snipers on rooftops; the Cactus, who’s good at shooting spikes from afarat enemies and dropping potato bombs; and the Chomper, a brute character who can chomp zombies into sushi.
Meanwhile, on the zombie side, there’s the gruff soldier with various weapons, the engineer who can strike hard up close and drop off heal points, the support member that can stun enemies from a distance and heal allies, and the All-Star, who can fire a football-laden machine gun like no one’s business. Like I said, nice and balanced.
Garden Warfare comes with three modes in all. The first is Team Vanquish, a 24-player skirmish where you try to get 50 “frags” as quickly as you can. This is a good general mode to learn the basics of the game, and the action is very non-stop, no matter which side you’re on. It also helps that various maps are included within the game, and they’re well sized enough that you won’t complain about getting rushed, but also won’t have to worry about walking 20 miles to get to the battle. (*cough Battlefield 4 cough*)
Next up is Garden Ops. This is a co-op supported mode where you try to fend off waves of zombies before they reach your spawn garden. It’s a good mode to help learn the tactics of teamwork, and is also playable in split-screen co-op, although, sadly, only the main logged-in person will earn Achievements. Too bad the Xbox One’s UI is too limited to fix this problem. Boo.
Finally, there’s Gardens and Graveyards, where players fight on teams to defend their home base while trying to take over their enemies’. This is a solid mode, mainly because there are so many defenses to overcome, including bigger foes that normally wouldn’t come out of the woodwork. If you’re a fan of the series, give this a go.
The gameplay works very well in a third-person shooter variety, and being able to unlock secondary defenses is nice, like an All-Star’s tackle rush and the Peashooter’s speed-up ability. Bonus secondary items can also be picked up in sticker packs, and the price is more than reasonable – you don’t even have to worry about dropping real cash on it right now. There are also additional skins to unlock for each character, so keep buying those packs!
Presentation-wise, the game is a stunner. Frostbite 3 engine technology is used very well by PopCap here, and watching each battle unfold is a fun sight. You don’t have to worry about much carnage either, aside from the purple stuff that comes out of a defeated Chomper. This is vintage PVZ, and it plays out in the same fashion as cartoons when it comes to violence. Also, be sure to watch the cinemas, they’re good stuff. As for sound, the usual PVZ style sound effects and music are here, so fans won’t mind.
There are some online stability issues going on with the game right now, so it may take a bit to get into a smooth running match. However, once you do, you’ll find that Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a rewarding multiplayer romp –and one you can play with the younger set no less. Now go and defend that garden, punk!
- Great fun to play no matter which mode or team you choose
- Terrific presentation is the best yet from Popcap, and a nice leap to consoles
- Plenty of goods to unlock through sticker packs
- Online stability is questionable at times
- No single player content, and split screen co-op is flawed