When PopCap announced Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, I found myself filled with both excitement and skepticism. Plants Vs Zombies is easily one of my favorite games of all time. I beat the original on every console it’s been released on, and still often revisit the co-op challenges on my 360. After seeing some footage and reading up about Garden Warfare, my anticipation started to grow, and I really went into the experience with high expectations. I was certainly not let down. I have played this game on both Xbox One and Xbox 360. They play very similar, with the exception of some polished graphics and the addition of local co-op in the Garden Ops mode on the Xbox One title. The following review is for both versions of the game.
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is a multiplayer-only, third-person shooter that pits, you guessed it, plants against zombies. There are two game modes in the game. There’s Garden Ops, which is a wave based game you can play online with up to four friends (or 2-player, locally on an Xbox One), and there is Multiplayer which has multiple different match types. Garden Ops lets you choose any variation of the four different plant classes (I’ll touch on the specifics of classes a bit later), and you must defend your Garden against multiple waves of everything from plain, defenseless zombies, to the fan-favorite Yeti Zombies and Gargantuans. There are many different ways to approach the Garden Ops mode, as it offers various difficulties and maps, and you can strategize where you want to plant your garden and additional defenses (another thing I will touch on a bit later). The Multiplayer in the game offers your basic Team Deathmatch (dubbed “Team Vanquish”), and some other game types like Gardens and Graveyards that are fun twists on familiar game types from other game franchises. The multiplayer also offers “classic” mode and a standard mode of all multiplayer match types. Classic allows no character customizations, which allows for less madness, but more balanced gameplay. Another noteworthy asset to the Multiplayer is the Welcome Mat game mode. Welcome Mat is geared towards beginners. It is a Classic Team Vanquish game type played on only one map, and although anyone can join and play, regardless of their rank and experience, it still offers a mode that is geared towards giving those beginner players a better way to hold their own and gain some experience.
Garden Warfare offers an expansive gaming experience that’s on par with games that are often sold for twice the price. One of my favorite features of the game are the sticker packs. Every time you finish a match, regardless of what game mode or type, you get coins that are used as currency to purchase sticker packs in the game. Sticker packs give you an array of customizable items for your characters, new outfits and weapons for your classes (cannot be used in “classic” game types), plants and zombies to summon in Garden Ops and Gardens v Graveyards, and some other goodies. One of the most rewarding feelings in the game, second to annihilating your opponents, is getting enough coin to buy a really good sticker pack and unlock some new stuff. There is also a really great stats chart where you can track your Vanquish/Vanquished (kills and deaths are referred to as vanquishes in the PvZ universe) ratio, accuracy, what you’ve done with individual classes, and basically any other stats you would typically want to see in a multiplayer title. The variety and balancing of classes in the game is something that really adds to the longevity of the experience because the game encourages you to experiment with different classes and take different approaches. You can see what class all of your teammates picked, and if you’re late into the game, you might want to pick a class you don’t generally play with if your team is stacked with a certain class, or if the enemy team is stacked with a class that puts yours at a disadvantage. The zombies’ four classes consist of a Foot Soldier (Assault), an Engineer, a Football Player (Tank), and the Scientist (Healer). The plants have the Peashooter (Assault), the Sunflower (Healer), the Cactus (Sniper), and the Chomper (Tank). Each class has a different weapon, a different level of health, and three different abilities. For example, the sunflower has a standard 100 health bar, an automatic fire of sun sprites with a mag of 50, and three abilities that include directly healing a nearby teammate, dropping a healing flower, and a limited, high damage sun beam whereas the Foot Soldier zombie has a health bar of 125, a machine gun with a 30 round mag, and the abilities to launch in the air, throw a smoke bomb, and shoot a rocket. All of the abilities can only be used a limited number of times before they must go through a cool down period, which just further balances the abilities and class variations. The outfits you unlock from the Sticker Shop can be used to alter both your classes’ appearance and, in most cases, their weapon. An outfit like the Mystic Sunflower make the Sunflower a glowing yellow, and change the weapon from an automatic fire to something similar to a shotgun blast. Following every match, there is a “Cool Stats” chart that breaks down your individual match stats such as vanquishes, coins per minute, and medals for accomplishments like ‘most revives’ and ‘first strike.’
Garden Warfare offers one of the most fun-filled multiplayer gaming experiences I have ever endured, but a lot of ups doesn’t mean that there aren’t any downs. Most notably, are the graphical glitches that will find you stuck in a rut, often leading to an unfair death. Sometimes you will find yourself turning a corner in the heat of battle, and then the camera pans to uncharted territory, and it takes a moment to adjust and get back; sometimes resulting in a death or a failed attack. There’s also the issue of host migrating. It seems as if anytime the host leaves the match, you lose connection, causing you to lose all your progress from the match. This is especially frustrating when you’re in a lengthy game mode such as Gardens and Graveyards, and you’ve racked up a nice quantity of kills. There’s not a considerable amount of gripes about this game, but the aforementioned ones can prove to be quite frustrating and untimely.
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare really exemplifies PopCap’s genre diversity when it comes to creating video games. It is a full, fun-filled multiplayer experience that offers character classes, customization, different match types, a ranking system, and all current and future content FREE for the price of almost half what another brand new, full-length release costs. Whether you’re a lover of multiplayer shooters, a casual player, or just someone who’s trying to get into the genre, PvZ: Garden Warfare is a great place to start. I highly recommend this title.