This crazy tower defence game has returned for new all-out war, this time in a spectacular 3D third-person shooter in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. It’s time to uplift your roots and rise from the ground as you fight to take over or defend the gardens, but which side will win? Read on to find out!
Game: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Whilst Plants vs. Zombies does not have a story or plot to dig up the basis is this. Lead by Dr Zomboss, he and his army of zombies set out to eat human brains, ploughing through gardens as they go to reach them. The plants, backed by Crazy Dave are the last line of defence in stopping the zombies and protecting the resident’s brains and gardens. Whilst previous games in the series saw you take on the zombies as plants, now you have the freedom to choose which side you fight for, giving players a whole new perspective on this crazy war.
Plants vs. Zombies has come leaps and bounds from it 2D predecessors thanks to the powerful backing from the Frostbite 3 engine, which is also used in other mainstream shooters such as Battlefield 4. Whilst it may be viewed odd by some to use such power in this series, fear not as it most certainly makes use of it. The world has expanded into vast, detailed maps from a flat looking lawn, and every inch is crammed with beauty and hidden gems. Texture is everywhere, and getting up close and hiding in bushes makes this pop out even more rather than fading out to a flat blob. Sunlight is soft and warming as if you can almost imagine yourself lazing in the sun, and plants and surroundings are full of vibrant pop colours which makes it stand out in an otherwise grey and groggy typical environment of the shooter genre.
Now realised in 3D characters just feel so much more alive (or undead if you’re a zombie!) as you get to see them in a whole new light. (Is it me or does the chomper look like a glossy, sweet walking lollipop?) In this cartoon looking world so much effort has been put into its visual style that no back alley has been left untouched and depth is shown by landscapes spanning into the distance, becoming softer so as not to distract you too much from your aim. Due to the nature of the game many will congregate into small areas of battle and can quite easily get lost in the thick gaseous clouds or distracted by enemies flung into the air with bright explosions. Whilst the game does not quite make 1080p it does have 60fps which allows it to handle the magnitude of action in a small area whilst still delivering a smooth, seamless gaming experience. Should you tire of the fighting try exploring the maps surroundings and take in their beauty. With so much going on visually it would be a shame not to see all the detail that has gone in, and finding graffiti on the walls adds a little more humour to this playful game.
Plants vs. Zombies offers a rather unique soundtrack over all those explosions and sounds of gunfire. Characters make strange sounds as you jump in the air or stop to make expressions to fellow teammates. The peashooter for example rather sounds like it has swallowed a kazoo, that or the cast sooty and sweep have taken on roles as voice actors. The main soundtrack is about as crazy as the game itself, utilising a mix of 80’s inspired synthpop with some military action which represents the essence of this wacky shooter. Tracks such as “Bad Juice” add a sense of urgency with fun in the midst of battle. Other tracks such as “Garden Shuffle” and “Lounge Lizard” provide whimsical tunes, with gentle whistles, hums and a cast of human noises that seem to get in your head. You will soon find yourself humming out these tunes as you wait for the next session to start, or at any given moment of your day.
What started out as a rather flat tower defence game has now blossomed into all-out war as a spectacular 3D third-person shooter, whilst still remaining true to its roots but offering so much more. Do not let the cuteness and vivid colours fool you, this is very much a shooter that requires tactical gameplay amid complex class systems. Those comfortable with shooters will feel right at home and those new to this kind of gameplay should have no problem getting settled in quickly. Plants vs. Zombies has certainly taken influences from popular shooter series with its game modes, and also has a Team Fortress feel to its style.
There are 3 game modes available to play, however unlike the previous games in the series Garden Warfare is predominantly multiplayer, PvP gameplay (or should I say PvZ) with solo play taking a bit of a backseat so for those seeking a purely solo experience this may not have much to offer.
Garden Ops is the truest experience to the original tower defence game where you and 3 other players must take on waves of zombies and protect your garden. Unlike the previous 2D versions Garden Warfare brings the fight into 3D, allowing you to freely move around and hunt down those zombies which makes for a great experience for fans old and new alike. In this mode you must fight off ten waves of zombies before being rescued by Crazy Dave. Taking on this many zombies with only 4 players can be rather taxing, and will require good teamwork to make it through. To make things harder every few waves you will encounter Zomboss slots, which will either give you nice rewards or pit you against boss waves to challenge you even further. Slots landing on the same image three times produces a mega boss wave such as Super Disco Zombie.
Exclusive to the Xbox One version is split-screen local co-op and is the only mode available to play offline. Split-screen offers the same gameplay as Garden Ops which pits you and a friend against waves of zombies. With only two players this mode will take everything you have and some good teamwork skills.
Multiplayer offers 2 main modes along with some variants, including a welcome mat for those new to the game and those who want to get to grips with the gameplay. It can also help you find the class that suits your style of play. Multiplayer offers online battles with 24 players, 12 for each side. Here you must pick your side. Will you side with the plants and defend against the zombies or do you fancy a change and side with the zombies and plough through the gardens in search of brains?
Team Vanquish is your basic deathmatch mode. Here the first team to vanquish 50 players takes the match. For those looking to take out players on the opposing team with no objectives this is perfect. This tends to offer this quickest online gameplay but can take a while, especially when reviving a downed teammate takes a point away from the opposing team. So if you see a downed teammate saving them might just save you the match. It was quite pleasing to find that others would heal you without being asked, and it is this team work that is needed if you wish to win.
Gardens & Graveyards is by far the best PvZ experience and really is all-out war. Here you will see most of the action and most fun. In this mode you must fight to protect or take over the gardens across 7 locations. Teamwork here is especially important as things can quickly go wrong, or in your favour in a matter of seconds. As you fight throughout the map you will be faced with a final task which could involve keeping zombies out of Crazy Dave’s mansion or being fired from a cannon to destroy the sunflower roots at the lighthouse which can be a great accomplishment or disappointment after all the fighting.
Another exclusive to Xbox One is boss mode which comes in handy if you are in a pinch and need another friend to help you out or if you would rather support your team in the air. This mode utilizes either Kinect or the SmartGlass app on a tablet or mobile device which sees you command Crazy Dave in his RV or Dr Zomboss in his blimp. In this mode you can drop damaging aerial strikes or provide healing and reviving support, but be warned as you can be shot down from the sky!
The most complex part of the game comes in the form of Character upgrades. On the plants side you have the Peashooter, Chomper, Sunflower and Cactus. On the Zombie side you have the Foot Soldier, Engineer, Scientist and All-Star. Neither side is disadvantaged and plants now have a bit more kick to fight back with. The sunflower may have a smiley, happy face but now has some devastating damaging attacks. All characters have 3 abilities that unlock as you play and comes with a hillarious tutorial clip as you do. The peashooter can transform into a devastating gatling gun whilst the chomper can take zombies out from underground. On the other hand the scientist can warp away from an attack and the engineer can stun with a sonic grenade.
Along with the freedom of choosing which side to play on there is a plethora of character customization options to make your character as unique as you are, and to help you stand out from the crowd. Throughout your many battles you will acquire coins for which you can purchase sticker packs. These packs vary in what they offer and also vary in price, with the more expensive packs rewarding rarer items. These packs offer consumables such as potted plants to use in the various pots around the maps or zombies to summon to aid you in your fight. These however are finite so you must choose wisely when using them. Other items include accessories such as hats and tattoos, all which can give you a distinguished look, to weapon upgrades. Each class has 5 variants, such as the fire pea or artic trooper, which varies slightly to their original forms and may give you an edge. This is frustrating however as sticker packs are random which means that collecting all the parts to unlock that one character you want may take some time.
Whilst the game currently offers only 5 maps they are indeed vast and you are never stuck in the same place, which adds variation to your matches as you move on. Each is unique, offering different advantages in terrain with some offering hills perfect for sniping and others condensed in urban spaces more suited to melee fighting. Each also has unique landmarks, such as a play area or pirate ship.
For those looking for a more solo experience away from online play then this sadly will not hold your attention for long. This game is all about a multiplayer and online experience and is simply captivating. What may start as a quick few rounds can soon turn into hours of gripping gameplay. There is so much fun to be had and quickly turns into a competitive war either against the opposing team or a particular player you set your sights on in a more personal war. It is quick and easy to pick up and is definitely a game to play anytime and will keep you coming back for more, especially if you want to complete your sticker collection!
Whilst the game currently has no microtransactions which may be a good thing, EA will introduce these in the future and have also promised free bi-monthly DLC, including more maps and customization options.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has made the leap to third-person shooter in a truly exciting experience. Whilst it may not be to everyone’s taste, the crazy and bright characteristics of this series makes for a fun shooter for all ages to enjoy. It offers a great experience for keen shooters and for those new to them, with simple controls and complex systems to enhance your experience. As a person who is new and not very good at shooters I have not been able to put this down and I have so much fun, especially getting revenge on players who have taken me down, and will for some time yet! If you are a PvZ fan, then you must have this in your collection. New to the series? This is a great way to get started.