Shooters are commonplace in the modern era of gaming, with a small number of titles dominating the somewhat cluttered market; Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, Gears of War… the list goes on.
This is more than likely the reason why the announcement of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare came as such a massive surprise when it was first revealed at E3 in 2013. Adding a third-person shooter element to a hugely successful tower defence title seemed like a big risk for a series that is still going strong. But has it paid off?
Exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One (for the time being at least), Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a multiplayer third-person shooter which also embraces tower defence components in certain game modes. Developed by PopCap Games, there are four game modes in total, each of which provides a unique offering that fundamentally sticks to the Plants against Zombies approach.
Firstly, Garden Ops is Garden Warfare’s strongest and only fully co-operative game mode, which sees four players working together to take control of the plants, defending a garden through ten waves of zombies. The waves get progressively harder, with the fifth and tenth wave incorporating boss battles.
The remaining game modes contain support for up to 24 players over Xbox Live. Team Vanquish is Garden Warfare’s team deathmatch variant, while Gardens and Graveyards is a parody of the Conquest and Rush game modes in Battlefield 4, as players attempt to capture (as Zombies) or defend (as Plants) various objectives. Both of these game modes are used interchangeably in the title’s final offering, Mixed Mode.
Like many shooters, Garden Warfare includes a class system, with both the Plants and Zombies having four familiar faces to choose from. For the plants, Chomper is an instant-kill plant that gobbles up enemies; Peashooter is an assault character that fires peas; Sunflower is a healing plant with a weak attack and Cactus is the equivalent of a sniper.
Meanwhile, for the Zombies, the Foot Soldier is your standard infantry; the Engineers specialise in repairing items; the Scientists are known for their quick escape skills and the All-Star are burly characters with a strong attack.
Each of the character types start off with one basic attack, with players unlocking additional attacks (assigned to the bumpers and the Y button) by levelling them up. This works in the game’s favour as it encourages players to try out all of the character types on offer.
The reward for finishing matches and objectives is money, which can be spent on packets of stickers in the in-game shop. Stickers provide players with weapon upgrades, cosmetic customisation items and more. While they are a welcome change from micro transactions, the random nature of which the stickers are given out makes it difficult to obtain specific items, which can be frustrating.
Each map, known as battlegrounds, has been neatly designed to cater for each of Garden Warfare’s game modes. There are ten in total, though you’ll soon know Port Scallywag and Suburban Flats like the back of your hand, as they seem to be favoured over others in the online community.
Gamers racked up countless hours protecting their gardens in Plants vs. Zombies when it was first released in 2009. However, it’s unlikely the same will happen again. While the amount of game modes and customisation options are quite considerable, especially for a budget title, players will quickly run out of things to do. Nevertheless, PopCap Games has already confirmed that all downloadable content for the game will be released free of charge, so there is more to come.
Another problem with the title is the lack of local multiplayer/split-screen, which has been sacrificed to feature as an Xbox One exclusive game mode. While this may not seem like an issue initially, it may prove problematic when the online community inevitably dies down in a few months’ time.
Graphically, Garden Warfare manages to superbly capture the charm that its predecessors have incorporated and put it into a charismatic 3D environment that is bursting with colour. Similarly, the audio is worth turning up the volume for. The game’s excellent soundtrack makes for pleasant listening and there are great sound effects during the gameplay.