|System: Xbox 360, Xbox One*|
|Dev: Popcap Games|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: February 25, 2014|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Animated Blood, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence|
by Joshua Bruce
I’ve had a theory about video games for some time--given the right amount of creative attention, just about any established game can be retrofitted into any given genre. Well, this theory has been put to the test with Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. I mean, can what is essentially a mobile game really make the transition to a full 3D shooter world, be fun and engaging, while retaining its signature charm? Luckily for us it can.
Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare can pretty much be classified into the basic shooter mold, as far as third-person shooter mechanics go that is. Otherwise, this is definitely the first time I have ever vanquished a Zombie with a Sunflower, or called in a Corn Strike with a Garlic Drone, just sayin’. But that’s how Garden Warfare pulls it off--by taking the zany gameplay concept and characters of Plants Vs. Zombies and (forgive the pun) transplanting it into the tried-and-true shooter formula.
You might be wondering, as I was, how they could capture the Plants Vs. Zombies gameplay within a shooter? Their solution was elegant, yet established--a horde mode. In Garden Ops, you and up to 3 other friends can take on the horde of Zombies attempting to ransack your neighborhood in wave after wave of pea-shooting glory. Basically, you must defend your garden using any means necessary. In addition to the basic shooter controls and abilities you’ll obviously use, you can place defenses throughout to assist you, just like in the original games. You will need to find pots near your garden to plant some friends to make it a little harder on the zombies to get to your garden. These pots are for offensive plants like Peashooters, though you can place Potato Mines or Wal-nut Barriers anywhere to give you a tactical advantage.
Throughout the game, you collect coins to purchase sticker packs, which give you the ability to plant better allies and use rare plants. Common packs only cost one-thousand coins, while others that contain guaranteed rare stickers can cost up to twenty-thousand coins. These will be a necessary part of your gameplay strategy in Garden Ops, so be sure to refill your sticker collection between games if you can. Again, this is a borrowed mechanic from other multiplayer/horde mode games, such as Mass Effect 3.
Of course, the waves increase in difficulty as they progress, as in any horde mode, so you will have to remain vigilant and work as a team to keep your garden safe. Though this gameplay was clearly “borrowed” from many established game franchises, it works surprisingly well and brings a comical edge to an otherwise overly-serious game mode that’s typically crowded with preposterous amounts of testosterone (a.k.a. Preposterone!) which is refreshing.
But its other game modes is where Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare really takes a shot at stepping out of its comfort zone. Gardens and Graveyards and Team Vanquish are interesting takes on game modes like Conquest from Battlefield or Team Deathmatch from, well, any shooter.
In Gardens and Graveyards, you must capture areas on the map to score points. As in any conquest style game, the more players you have in the area, the faster you will capture it, and if there are enemies in the area it will slow you down. The first team to gain the allotted amount of points wins, no surprises there. However, you can still use class abilities such as barriers, healing points, and/or mines to keep an area secure once you’ve captured it. You’ll have to keep these locations under your teams control to have any chance of winning, so defense is a must.
But, while Gardens and Graveyards takes a little bit of tactical prowess, the Team Vanquish game mode is exactly what it sounds like--a team-based free-for-all mode where the team that gets the allotted amount of kills first wins. It’s that simple. Though, a little team-play here doesn’t hurt anything. Classes can support each other to become deadly fire-teams, and while it’s not required, you can still use class abilities to help control the landscape around you. All-in-all, it’s a veritable cornucopia of plant and/or zombie slaying goodness. It’s as competitive and fast-paced as any other shooter, which did surprise me a little.
In addition to these standard game modes, the Xbox One version of the game has two extra ways to play. Boss Mode gives you the ability to control the action via an overhead map. In an interesting spin on the original games, you have to collect suns or brains to earn points to help your team on the field of battle. For reference, this mode is reminiscent of the Commander mode from the Battlefield franchise. The next-gen version of the game features a couch co-op mode as well.