The flowers and flesh eaters are at it again, but this time they’re packing a bit more heat. PopCap Games’ tower defense series, Plants vs. Zombies, is fairly well known among the gaming community with releases on PCs, phones and everything in between. The point of the game is to plant as many flowers as you can and strategically place them in positions advantageous to complete zombie annihilation. It’s a fun little game that has you playing for hours with its upgrades and addictive zombie slaying antics.
The original game in the series received a sequel, Plants Vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time, which offered much of the same but was still well received, scoring an 8.6 on Metacritic. A Plants vs. Zombies game was even released on Facebook and Apple chose Plants vs. Zombies 2 as the runner-up for iPhone Game of the Year 2013. So what happens when you take a popular game, combine it with an amazingly popular genre and put the result on new-gen systems? Well, it goes a little something like this…
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare combines the fun-loving, joke-filled personality of the PvZ series and throws in guns. It’s pretty much as easy as that. Despite the overly simplified analysis, that’s not to say this makes for a terrible experience. As a matter of fact, there’s loads of fun to be had with friends as far as Garden Warfare goes, and I think that’s what PopCap really strived for here. There are so many shooters out there that take themselves too seriously; Garden Warfare, as a third-person shooter filled with smiley sunflowers and jackhammer-riding zombies, certainly doesn’t fall into that trend.
The gameplay will instantly feel familiar to anybody who’s played a third-person shooter before and the hit detection is pretty accurate, something that even developers who specialize in shooters can mess up. Both the plants and zombies have four base units they can deploy into battle and each of those units have subclasses with unique attributes; so even if you’re technically playing the same class as someone else, the way each subclass plays keeps the mayhem fresh. PvZ fans will have a permanent grin as they play as the series’ most memorable characters, which have made the transition from stationary guards to fully mobile soldiers.
However, it’s not all run-and-gun as each unit has a set of three cooldown abilities to spice up their strategy. For example, the game’s heavy hitter, the chomper, has the burrow, goop and snare ability. The goop slows enemies, the snare holds them in place and the burrow allows the chomper to move underground and possibly gobble up an unsuspecting enemy. These actions all compliment the Chomper’s namesake attack, the chomp. Not only are the abilities fun and fluid for the most part, but they neatly fit the personalities of the characters PopCap has made popular in PvZ; a fact both players new and old to the series will love.
Garden Warfare is a multiplayer-only title, though it combines both co-operative and competitive modes online as well as locally; enough to keep players entranced for hours. Two people can team up locally to defend their garden against zombies for as many waves as possible. The longer you stay alive, the more coins you get and the more coins you get the more you can unlock in the game. On this premise, players will be at it for hours trying to unlock every last character, item, and skin mod. Stickers can also be used to purchase potted plants in the “Defend Your Garden” mode. Said plants help you mow down your zombie foes and make the overall experience more enjoyable, in a nod to the original game.
Unfortunately, only one player per console can take part in the online play. It seems like a missed opportunity considering the local play is a blast, but the upside is that both plants and zombies are playable in this mode – the latter for the first time – which adds a whole new lineup of characters to choose from. There are also plenty of game types to choose from, including a capture the flag-style game as well as team deathmatch and classic deathmatch where only the base units in the game are playable, which creates a level playing field for first-time players and seasoned veterans alike. Matches go by fairly quickly and the lobby system is both simple yet effective as players can view battle statistics, chat and buy stickers inbetween matches.
Levels are randomly selected, and range from a pirate ship to a mining town with a train running through the middle. Although the maps aren’t anything to write home about and the selection definitely could be better, they do exude the PvZ mood with their vibrant colors, creating a playful and goofy message that adds personality to the play, and that’s what Garden Warfare is all about.
At the end of the day, this smirk-inducing, third-person shooter is a hell of a lot of fun. Silly, laid back, more addictive than crack-fun. But that’s about it. There’s no story (though what would you expect anyway?), local play desperately needs to be upgraded to four players and more maps would be nice, but for $40 ($30 on the PS3) there’s not much to complain about. Despite its February release on the Xbox consoles, there should be plenty of Sony fans happy to see Garden Warfare finally make its transition to the PlayStation systems. So, if you like fun, plants, zombies, guns or any combination of the bunch, pick this up. It’ll certainly be a nice little appetizer until titles like Evolve, Destiny and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain can subdue your hunger. Plus, when’s the next time you’ll be able to say you killed a member of the undead with a potato? Well… besides Dead Rising.