Plants vs. Zombies is the highly addictive tower defense (or should that be garden defense?) game which has captured the attention of millions. Naturally, a tower defense game about plants fending off the undead is the perfect candidate to get a multiplayer-only, third person shooter spin-off. Right?
On the face of it, what PopCap had in mind should be an absolute disaster of Battlefield 4 launch proportions. Well, it isn’t. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is a surprising game in many ways (and not-so-surprising in others).
Not having a single-player campaign may be of disappointment to some, but it’s really for the best. There’s two modes here: Garden Ops, a co-op mode that has up to four players facing waves of zombies, and a competitive multiplayer mode called Multiplayer. Quite imaginative, that one.
Garden Ops is basically the original Plants vs. Zombies converted into a co-op third-person shooter. The game starts by selecting one of several fixed places to plant a garden and then zombies attack in waves. As you survive the waves, the Zomboss, the mastermind behind the resurrection of the zombies, will pull out an on-screen slot machine to determine what you will face in the next wave. If you survive all ten waves, you’ll have the chance to escape as you make your way to the escape zone where Crazy Dave will pick you up in his flying RV. Here, you get to see straight what makes this game tick–the different, unique classes of plant you can play as.
There are four classes to choose from: the Pea Shooter, which is your run-of-the-mill frontline fighter; the Chomper, which is a Venus Fly Trap that can stun enemies with a green ooze, burrow underground before launching back up and eating any stricken undead; the Sunflower, which is the medic class; and the Cactus, which is your big, heavy-duty defender class.
When playing Garden Ops, you’ll soon see that each class has their distinct use. What you will also find is that Plants vs. Zombies looks and plays great, running at full 1080p and at a rock-solid 60 frames-per-second, which doesn’t drop no matter how chaotic things get. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is also pleasing on the eye. The wacky characters, humourous designs and sharp image quality make for a unique and refreshing aesthetic.
The controls are very easy to grasp, too, with a scheme resembling most third-person shooters. Even with class abilities mapped to L1, R1, and Triangle, the controls are quite easy to grasp and never get in the way of fun. It’s a nice surprise, given how complex the game can seem at first.
Where Garden Warfare really shines is in competitive multiplayer. Here, you see where the balancing of the character classes comes together with the addition of playable Zombies.
To balance out the Plants, there are also four Zombie classes: Soldier, Scientist, Engineer and All-Star. The balancing would appear to be a nightmare from a casual observation, but when playing, it isn’t a problem at all. Balance comes from each class being able to negate a class on the other team. For example, the Engineer can throw stun grenades that can bring up burrowed Chompers. The Soldier and Pea Shooter act in the same way as general foot grunts. The Scientist is a medic class like the Sunflower and the All-Star is a defensive class, like the Cactus. The All-Star also happens to be decked out in American Football gear and carries a big machine gun.
There are several different game modes in the competitive multiplayer realm. There’s Team Vanquish, which is your run-of-the-mill deathmatch. There’s also Vanquish Confirmed, which is identical to the Call of Duty mode it’s based on, Kill Confirmed. The main draw, however, is Gardens and Graveyards. This is inspired by the Rush and Conquest game modes in Battlefield; here, Plants defend their garden from the oncoming Zombies and, if it is lost, the Plants fall back until one team wins. It also plays to the strengths of Plants vs. Zombies as a whole, as knowing each class’ strengths and weaknesses is required for a win. It’s something different in this crowded online shooter space, but it’s also well-crafted, making Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare highly rewarding to play.
Leveling up in Garden Warfare differs from most modern-day shooters in that it’s challenges, not XP, that earn you ranks. Challenges range from using certain abilities to getting kills in various ways. Each class has its own set of challenges and completing those increases your viewable rank in-game. As a result, it’s actually useful to see who has a higher rank because it means that they have unlocked more and complete skill-based tasks.
Let’s touch on microtransactions for a bit. For unlocking new items or characters, there is an in-game currency called Coins. Coins are earned by killing enemies and completing challenges and objectives in the mode you are playing. The coins you earn can be spent on sticker packs, which share a similar function to the card packs in FIFA Ultimate Team and Battlefield 4’s Battlepacks. Each sticker pack contains different items and the more expensive ones contain the more rare items. Here’s where the cynic in me gets critical, as you can also buy Coins using real money. Coin integration didn’t exist when the game first launched on other platforms earlier this year–why is it necessary now?
There isn’t an abundance of content, either. You can unlock a lot of items in a short space of time if you experiment with the different classes, and there’s only so much “Port Scallywag” you can take–it’s the highlight out of a somewhat scant 12 maps.
The positives outweigh the negatives with Garden Warfare, and if you’re jaded on the current modern military FPS and want something different for your online multiplayer fix, then you should give Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare a try. It’s wacky, chaotic, colourful and full of humour, and is far, far better than a casual glance will imply.