Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: EA Developer: PopCap Games
Genre: Third-Person Shooter Platform Played: Xbox One
Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare, somehow, is actually a thing. Developer PopCap took gamers by surprise during EA’s E3 press conference this past year when the game was unveiled. Garden Warfare transforms the Plants vs. Zombies formula from a lane-defense title into a third-person multiplayer-only shooter filled with zany chaos.
The Zombies are equipped with weird guns while the Plants waddle around and shoot projectiles from their mouths. Sounds incredibly bizarre, right? It most certainly is, but it’s part of what makes Garden Warfare a surprising blast to play.
Starting off, you have four different types of classes for the Plants and Zombies: soldier, engineer, healer and sniper. Though both sides have similar characteristics, they are distinctive enough to where you won’t feel like you’re playing as the same character. For example, the Peashooter and the Foot Soldier are both the soldier classes, but the Peashooter has 10 semi-automatic shots with a small blast radius whereas the Foot Soldier has 30 rounds in an automatic paintball gun. The Peashooter can also sprint, but the Foot Soldier can (insert here) instead.
(Editor’s note: The names of the classes are not the actual titles, but it’s the best way to describe them.)
By unlocking sticker packs, which are bought through coins earned through matches, you can not only expand upon your characters via permanent upgrades, but you can also unlock both customizable parts for you characters and new characters with elemental powers. Want Chomper, the Zombie-eating plant, to have a beanie? Perhaps you want the Zombie Scientist’s weapon to look like a dolphin? These types of crazy options are here, and they’re all hilarious while simultaneously giving your character a truly unique look online. With over 1000 stickers, you’ll be occupied for quite a while if you’re hoping to collect them all.
These customizations are unlocked through the game’s three different game modes: Garden Ops, and the two multiplayer modes Team Vanquish and Gardens and Graveyards.
Garden Ops is Garden Warfare’s cream of the crop – rather garden – and the closest you will get to the series’ tower defense origins. You and up to three other players assume the roles of the Plants to defend your garden base against the undead hordes for 11 waves. Plants are not necessarily alone, however. Players can set up extra defenses using the supporting plants they earn from sticker packs. These can range anywhere from an extra set of Peashooters to healing plants. Non-NPC’s will be handling a bulk of the defensive work though.
If you are a fan of defensive game types akin to Gears of War’s Horde or Halo 3 ODST’s Firefight, you will feel right at home here. Players must truly work together in order to succeed, and it’s highly suggested to have one of each Plant class, as they each play a pivotal role in reaching the final wave. Unlike Horde and Firefight, the 11 waves of Garden Ops are at a short and sweet enough length, but not to the point where your clock has added four hours to its time next time you look at it. Seriously, my cousins and I have actually had to plan our days around playing Horde whenever we get together, so it’s nice not needing to do so for a change.
There’s an option to tackle Garden Ops on your own, which also makes it the only part of the game one can play solo, but even on the easiest difficulty, it’s quite the arduous task. Even Normal, just one step above easy, can be challenging with three other allies, let alone the two difficulties above it.
Aside from Garden Ops, Team Vanquish adds a spin to the straight-forward kill-each-other formula. Both sides are trying to reach 50 vanquishes without a time limit – though matches usually last around 10 minutes. However, players can be brought back to life through revival by team players, which in turn takes a point away from the other team. Vanquish undoubtedly encourages team work, but it’s one of the few multiplayer game types where it’s actually utilized more often than not. Sometimes I would have three people trying to revive me while fighting off the other team’s brutal offensive and vice versa. It’s nice to see this teamwork online for the first time since, well, I can remember.
Gardens and Graveyards, the second multiplayer mode, is a King of the Hill-like game type where, through a series of six rounds and a final round, Plants must defend their garden base from the Zombies for five minutes. If the number of Zombies outweighs the number of Plants within the base’ radius, the Plants will lose, but if they can fend off the brain munchers for five minutes, the chivalrous shrubbery wins the round. This mode also brings in a flavor of Garden Ops, as both Plants and Zombies can deploy the defenses and offenses used in Garden Ops. Whether you’re bringing down the garden or defending the greenery, Gardens and Graveyards is quite a lot of fun.
There are a few different variants of both Vanquish and Gardens and Graveyards. Both have Classic types, which disallows players from using any customizable options. Similarly to Classic, Welcome Mat, an introductory mode, doesn’t allow customizations but the more times a player dies, the more health they gain with each spawn, the more health you gain when you spawn next.
Garden Warfare’s biggest hindrance is its lack of content. For a game nearly focusing all of its premise behind a multiplayer-only concept, there is a sad lack of variety. Garden Ops, Vanquish and Garden and Graveyards are all a blast to play, but the problem is they’re the only things to play. Even modes akin to Capture the Flag or Domination would have been welcoming, as it would’ve added a much better amount of choice to the game. The game’s cheaper price slightly makes up for this shortcoming, but not nearly enough to where it can go unmentioned.
You may not have guessed it by looking at it, but Garden Warfare uses the Frostbite 3 engine, the same graphics engine powering the gorgeous-looking Battlefield 4 and other future titles. While the cartoon aesthetics fit the game well, they don’t do anything to push the Xbox One to its potential, but at the same time, they are far from grisly. It’s also a perfect engine to host 24 players online in the multiplayer, as there were rarely any connection problems minus the game’s launch day.
I can oddly say Garden Warfare is one you should pick up for the Xbox One, or any console. You wouldn’t be wrong to think the concept of a Plants vs. Zombies third-person shooter is weird, if not asinine, but you’d also be wrong to not give a try if you’re granted the chance to do so, as the wackiness of the series mixed with shooting elements go together like two peas in a pod (pun intended). With a ton of collectible stickers and fun characters to use, Garden Warfare emerges as a surprisingly fun multiplayer for anyone to pick up and play. On the other hand, the game’s lack of multiplayer modes is disappointing, as it doesn’t provide much variety to what you can play.
+ Zany fun
+ Lots of collectibles
+ Distinctive, yet similar character classes
+ Teamwork is a utilized necessity
– Not much variety for multiplayer-only title
– Garden Ops solo a bit too tough
– Not particularly special visuals
The Score: 7.8
Robbie Key is the Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction, entertainment editor and copy editor for the Pine Log at Stephen F. Austin State University, news editor for Worlds Factory and blogger for IGN. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates, watch his awesometacular YouTube videos, and view his LinkedIn profile.