Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is one of the most surprising shooters to launch this year. While it may have been easy to laugh off PopCap’s venture into the third person shooter genre, the results are not so laughable. By most accounts, including ours, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a great game — at least it was deemed so on the Xbox. Very soon, PS4 and PS3 owners will get a chance to jump into the action as well, and it’s safe to say that these new players will be getting a similar experience to what’s already arrived on those other platforms. Better yet, they’ll be getting a game that has been refined, updated, and enhanced in a number of ways since February’s initial launch.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a multiplayer-only game, it allows players to play a variety of modes in either cooperative or competitive environments. There’s no story mode, no campaign, it’s pure unadulterated multiplayer goodness, whether that be local or online. The familiar plants/zombie types and crazy, colorful designs of the tower defense games make up the cast of characters and setting for this team-based shooter. Garden Warfare is not what you’ve come to expect from a Plants vs. Zombies game, this is a shooter through and through.
Each character has a role to play, regardless of the mode you choose. The game is structured similarly to other class-based shooters. You have your tanks, healers, support, and ranged characters. Each has distinct primary, secondary, and tertiary abilities to use. The game is a shooter first though, and each character also has different primary weapons/guns to use. Both the plants and zombies factions have four character archetypes to choose from, and a wide variety of aesthetic upgrade options.
Despite being unfamiliar for Plants vs. Zombies fans, the modes in Garden Warfare will be familiar for fans of shooters. Game modes within both the cooperative “Garden Ops” mode which is essentially a wave based survival mode, and “Garden Warfare”, the competitive mode, are more traditional.
Garden Ops is a third-person tower defense shooter. It has many similarities to other games of its type, the most popular comparison is probably Gears of War’s Horde Mode. Players look to survive 10-rounds of increasingly difficult zombie assaults on a garden. Utilizing both player abilities and consumable items (earned through the purchase of sticker packs), players will set up defenses to stop the zombie invasion of their garden. This mode has a lot of similarities to other Plants vs. Zombies games. You’ll find some familiar items to stop the zombie advance, which include mines, turrets, and other power-ups. You’ll encounter a wide variety of zombies, just like the top down tower defense games. Some are more powerful than others, and require multiple shots and teamwork to take down. Others are dismembered with ease.
The Garden Ops mode plays very similarly to the cooperative modes found in Mass Effect 3. After players survive waves of the zombie assault, they’ll also need to secure a landing zone so that Crazy Dave can swoop in for extraction. Garden Ops features a number of difficulty levels that cater to any skill level, even the most hardened shooter veterans will find some challenge here. On higher difficulty levels, cooperation between teammates is absolutely necessary to survive even 10 rounds, which is the max amount of waves you’ll encounter in Garden Ops. The mode is best played with four players, but can be played solo as well.
Garden Warfare, on the other hand, houses the more traditional competitive multiplayer modes, where players wage war as the Plants and Zombies factions in four fairly familiar online offerings. There’s a team deathmatch mode called Vanquish. There’s an expansive Rush-style mode called Gardens and Graveyards. A mode called Gnome Bomb which tasks players with capturing a bomb and then planting it in the opposing team’s base. And finally, Suburbination, which is basically a control point mode with three zones to capture and hold.
These modes play out how you think they would. If you’ve ventured into any first or third person shooter in the last decade or so, you’ve likely seem some variation of these modes before. Garden Warfare’s draw isn’t necessarily the modes, so much as it is the surprisingly balanced class-based combat. As mentioned above, there a four separate types of characters to use on either faction, and within those eight groups are variations of each character, which are earned through unlocks and sticker packs. Garden Warfare appears a light-hearted affair, but it’s got all the trappings that more serious shooters come with. It’s appropriate for a younger audience, and nuanced enough for an older one as well. Garden Warfare’s competitive modes are perfect for groups and parties, as putting together a group of characters that compliment each other is a fast track to victory.
What keeps you playing though is the deep system of character progression, unlockable items, and new versions of the characters to earn. When the game released earlier this year, the sticker pack system was only glimmer of what it is now. While EA and PopCap managed to incorporate microtransactions into the game, they seem to have been implemented responsibly. Players can play a normal amount of Garden Warfare and unlock high-end items in due time, though buying coins will allow for a faster track to more expensive packs. It’s all done through an in-game coin system. These coins are earned for every thing you do in the game, and can then be put towards sticker packs in the Sticker Shop. These packs can include a number of different items. Less expensive packs give players consumables to be used in-match. While others will include more rare items which change the appearance of the core characters. These core characters also have different variations that can be put together by collecting sticker pieces. Once a new character’s full sticker is completed, they can be used in the game.
PopCap and EA have been adding content to Garden Warfare since February, all of it has been free DLC. While the original game launched with only two competitive modes and co-op, this PlayStation release of Garden Warfare has the game as it stands on both PC and Xbox. It’s got all of the downloadable content, maps, game modes, customization options, and balance tweaks that PopCap has done over the past six months. Plants vs Zombies is still as impressive now as it was when it launched back in February. This PlayStation version just happens to arrive when the game is in top form, ready to quench any type of multiplayer hankering one might have.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
- Available On: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Developed By: PopCap Games
- Genre: Third Person Shooter
- US Release Date: August 19th, 2014 (Original release: February '14)
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "PlayStation fans finally get a chance to hop into the vibrant world of Plants vs. Zombies multiplayer, and the game is better than ever with a full slate of modes, maps, and unlockable content."