The Plants vs Zombies franchise has been dominating the markets for years. With its incredible tower-defense gameplay and colourful art style it has been impossible for players everywhere to resist. Now, in a massive deviation from the norm, the Plants and their Zombie foes have come back with a vengeance – in a third person, squad-based shooter. Now the Plants are mobile and are taking the fight to the Zombies. With a brilliantly coloured backdrop, Garden Warfare makes the shooter genre fun, friendly and approachable for players of all ages.
Garden Warfare is a pretty big deviation from what we have come to expect from the Plants vs Zombies franchise. Instead of a colourful and creative tower defense game, we have a colourful and creative squad based shooter. The game itself plays rather similarly to Team Fortress 2, where each player picks a particular class of plant or zombie and uses that class’ unique skills and weapons to their advantage.
Each side has four different character classes, and each play wildly differently to one another. Plants get their infamous frontline soldier Pea Shooter, the healing Sun Flower, melee-based Chomper, and the sniper-class Cactus. Zombies get a completely different set of classes; their frontline Soldier Zombie is equipped with a machine gun, the Sngineer can build teleporters and turrets, the Scientist can teleport and wield his dolphin shotgun with great skill, and the All-Star Athlete can charge down even the tightest pack of Plants.
The fact that both teams have largely incompatible teams means that each side plays totally different to the other. The plants seem to have the slightly more powerful units, especially the Cactus who can put up walls and mines before sniping enemy zombies from quite a considerable distance. The lack of balance between the teams and classes is somewhat disappointing, but the fact that you don’t choose if you are on the Plants or the Zombies team and instead have to rotate helps to round this out.
The gameplay itself is pretty standard fare for a shooter and contains a Team Deathmatch style game where the opposing teams are each trying to get to 50 kills. You can resurrect your fallen teammates which takes a kill off of the opposing team’s score. These matches tend to go by relatively quickly, especially once players have started unlocking upgrades for their weapons and characters.
Alongside Team Deathmatch is Gardens and Graveyards mode. Here, the Zombies are tasked with claiming certain plots of land in a Domination-style scenario. They have four minutes to successfully take the Plant’s base. If they fail the game is over and the Plants win, but if they succeed then the Plants retreat a short distance and have to cover a new base. Each map has 6 defendable locations and once the Zombies have taken them all, there is a unique challenge that has to be fullfiled before they claim their ultimate victory. These can range from getting 5 zombies successfully into a garden mansion, or by blowing up strategically placed pillars around a building. This is definitely the most fun of the competitive game-modes, and requires a lot of team work and strategy to pull off.
Garden Warfare isn’t all competitive however, and there is one game mode that is all about cooperative gameplay. Garden Ops is a Horde Mode inspired gameplay that pits you and three other team mates against increasing waves of AI-controlled zombie forces. The aim is to stop the Zombies from getting to your garden and devouring it. This mode more closely resembles the tower defense origins of the franchise, and also allows you to plant some of the series’ most famous plants around the map to stop the zombies’ progress.
The plants that can be placed around the map are limited uses. You will start the game with a handful, but once they are gone they are gone forever. The way to get more is by opening Booster Packs in the game’s Sticker Shop. Booster Packs each provide a random assortment of items, either consumable (like plants for Garden Ops), or weapon upgrades and character customisation options.
The multitude of customisation options mean that you can tailor your Plants and Zombies to your liking. Each of the game’s four classes has six different alternate characters that look and act slightly different. For example, the Pea Shooter has the Frozen Pea Shooter and the Chomper has the Hot Rod Chomper. These let you change up your gameplay style and find the character that suits you.
There are no micro-transactions in the game as it currently stands, but EA have said they will likely add them in later. At the moment you earn coins by playing matches which can then be used to buy the booster packs from the Sticker Shop. While you can earn coins pretty consistently (especially in Gardens and Graveyards), this may change when the ability to purchase coins with real-world money becomes available. However, I am not one to speculate and at the moment you wont find yourself struggling to get coins to open new packs.
Visuals & Audio
Garden Warfare is an absolutely beautiful game that manages to not only capture the look and spirit of the game, but also feel like something new. The plants and their zombie foes have all made the jump from 2d to 3d really well, and the new models have captured their look and feel while taking advantage of the Xbox One’s impressive hardware. The fact that you can customise your characters mean there is a great deal of visual difference even between two Pea Pods. So with the game’s 8 different classes, and six variations on this plus all of the customisation options there is a good chance that you will never see the same character twice in a row.
The game’s maps are all wild, varied and a whole lot of fun to play in. Whether it is the pirate cove or the suburban streets, everything is brightly coloured and incredibly detailed. Each of the maps are surprisingly big, and although you will spend a lot of your time battling over the middle, there are enough secret passageways and vantage points for you to twist into in order to surprise your enemies.
The audio feels right at home and straight from the Plants vs Zombies universe. The background music is the same as you would hear from the classic tower defense games, and makes you feel right at home. Of course the tracks have been cleaned up for a higher quality of sound, and it really shows. The sound effects are also taken straight from Garden Warfare’s predecessors, leading to an incredibly authentic sounding Plants vs Zombies game.
Despite the massive deviation from the formula, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare has done an amazing job of staying true to the source material and providing a shooter experience that is approachable, and enjoyable for people of all ages. The plethora of game modes make it so that you will always find your niche. The requirement of being an online-only game can cause some problems, especially during server issues, but all in all it is a great shooter and a great entry into the PvZ franchise.
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