By: Casey Curran
One thing I have always liked is when a video game franchise takes on a different genre. Whether it is Mario in an RPG or action game set in the Metal Gear universe, seeing established mechanics used in a different context usually yields interesting results. So when I saw Plants vs. Zombies was getting turned into a third-person shooter with Garden Warfare, I was naturally intrigued. Not only does the series tackle the genre exceptionally well, it offers a very fresh, unique take.
Garden Warfare’s controls are very simple, especially for a shooter. The game employs the usual iron-sight setup, with the X button to reload and RB, LB, and Y used for your class’ special power-up. While they do not feel unbelievably polished like a Gears of War, the controls never presented any problems and felt better than most full-priced games; this is about as polished as a $30 game ($40 on Xbox One) can feel.
While not a graphical powerhouse, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare nonetheless looks fantastic. I have always loved the 1950’s era aesthetics the series employs, and that feel translates flawlessly in the jump from sprites to polygons. Meanwhile, the game does an exceptional job of creating variety to its locations, so a graveyard or warzone can look just as fitting in this universe as a suburban area. The sound effects and music both compliment the music flawlessly; creating a game that nails it both in the visual and audio departments.
Garden Warfare employs several modes in a class-based multiplayer shooter. There is a co-op horde mode known as Garden Ops, which has you play as a plant to protect a garden from a variety of zombies. This mode offers pots for you to place a variety of plants, which act as turrets, medical stations, and other allies tracing back to the series’ tower-defense roots.
The Welcome Mat gives a multiplayer mode that offers extra health to those not playing well. It is a good way to get newcomers used to the game, but after a while you will want to move onto Team Vanquish. The goal there is very simple: Get 50 kills. The final mode, Gardens and Graveyards, varies from map to map, but revolves around the zombie team trying to destroy an area the plants have to defend.
The game does a good job of keeping the teams different but still well balanced. Each one has half of its members given a unique weapon the other side does not have. Both the Sunflower and Foot Soldier Zombie have machinegun-like weaponry, with the former acting as the medic while the latter is the standard infantry. The Peashooter and Engineer Zombie meanwhile have a rifle-like weapon, which is fairly powerful but not that rapid of firing with the former acting as infantry and the latter as more of a tank.
The other classes, however, are unique to their respective teams. The Cactus has a sniper-like weapon that reaches greater distances than any other class. The Chomper is a melee-based class, capable of burrowing underground to help the assault. The All-Star Zombie has an extremely bulky build with a Gatling gun. Finally, the scientist is a medic with a shotgun.
The differences in sides both help the game stand out from other shooters and have an excellent amount of variety if you switch sides often. The maps are also well made, allowing any class to succeed if you play smartly. The game is so much fun, in fact, that whenever playing Team Vanquish, I never paid attention to the score, just trying to play as well as I could. It did not matter how invested I got, I still never cared about how I did in that match, and I mean that in a very good way.
The only real complaints present have nothing to do with the gameplay itself, but with the game’s overall setup. For starters, the game has ridiculously long load times. There’s also no option to join a friend’s game for a competitive multiplayer match. There is a workaround to join the game using Xbox Live (unless the game is full, which, thanks to long load times, can be irritating), but if you want to specifically play with a large group of friends, this game is not for you.
The horde mode does let you invite friends, but it does so in a kind of bizarre way. The game does not allow you to return if you fail to revive yourself, meaning game over. In fact, it even kicks you out if this happens, further making the game hard to play with friends. Hopefully both of these matchmaking issues get sorted out with a patch later, but as of now Garden Warfare is not a good choice for game nights with friends.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is not a game for those who play multiplayer games to play with friends. If you just want a fun shooter, however, then I cannot recommend this game more strongly. Its colorful, lighthearted approach to multiplayer shooters is not only a blast to play, but it’s also really refreshing.