Remember the time when Plants vs. Zombies was just an innocent puzzle game that had some witty humor behind it? Even though the humor is still alive in Garden Warfare, PopCap decided they’d throw any amount of comfort out the window. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a third-person shooter where you can play as Crazy Dave’s plant brigade or bear arms as a Zomboss zombie recruit. Either way, you’re bound to develop an addiction through the new entry to PvZ that will leave you as delirious as Crazy Dave.
First thing I noticed when playing Garden Warfare was that there was no solo campaign, or even a multiplayer campaign for that matter. It feels strange, at first, not having any real story to follow through with, which can be irritating. Although, with the game only costing $40, the lack of a campaign is easier to forgive and forget, especially as you begin to dive into the characters.
The aspect of designing and unlocking characters is really the driving point in playing Garden Warfare because it is fun to make a whacky layout for characters, and unlocking anything is always something to take pride in. As mentioned before, you can play as either the plants or the zombies, but only in multiplayer matches for zombies, giving more depth to what you can unlock as you command the ranks between eight different characters.
Starting with the plants, you get to choose between the classic plant characters such as The Peashooter, The Sunflower, The Chomper, and The Cactus. These break down into your traditional four classes of assault, healer, stealth, and tank, respectively. Now throughout the game you will be given challenges that need to be completed in order to continue on to the next rank. Ranking up helps by unlocking new abilities that are unique, but all resemble abilities you’ve seen before in Plants vs. Zombies like Tall-nuts and Potato Mines. Joining this alumni is the Garlic Drone, an ability available to The Cactus, an adorable clove of garlic that instills retribution through its needle cannon.
Similar to the plant selection, there are four different zombies to pick from including the Foot Soldier Zombie, the Engineer Zombie, the Scientist Zombie, and the All-Star Zombie; who also showcase the traditional four classes in games. What’s fun about being able to customize the different zombies is that they feel more personal this time around rather than being defined by a slight variation from the rest of the horde.
Customizing comes at cost though, and you collect coins through playing games that are useable in the card shop. You can buy different packs of cards that vary from a 1,000 coin pack that can give you plants to grow during the game, or a 40,000 coin pack that can unlock ultra rare variations of characters. These different customizations can be silly props that can make your character look adorable or give you ice or fire versions of the separate classes.
The main game mode is in the title, which is Garden Warfare. Garden Warfare is where you can team up with three other people and fight off waves of zombies to protect your garden. There are the common Easy, Medium, and Hard levels, but one helps personify the Plants vs. Zombies franchise as the CRAAZZY level. During certain waves, the Zomboss will leave your fate up to a lotto slot, and depending on how unlucky you are, you could be facing bosses like the Disco Zombie, Giga Gargantuar, or the Yeti Zombie. At the end, Crazy Dave will return to rescue the platoon of plants, it’s just up to you not to die at the end.
Although if some friendly competition is more your trade, Garden Warfare provides three main game types: Welcome Mat, Gardens & Graveyards, and Team Vanquish. These matches are where you can play as one of the zombies, instead of being required to play as the plants the entire time. Welcome Mat is a combination of Team Vanquish and Gardens & Graveyards rolled into one. Team Vanquish is comparable to a team death match mode, whereas Gardens & Graveyards follows more along the lines of capture the flag style, having an objective to complete throughout the match. All three of these games have a classic mode version where everyone is on the same playing field by everyone being restricted to only using the basics upgrades, with no customizations with their character.
Garden Warfare doesn’t utilize the Kinect like other games might have, but the Smartglass capability is some of the best exposure this extra level gameplay deserves. The setup is similar to how the original puzzle Plants vs. Zombies was by how the suns drop down and can be collected to unlock new capabilities. The options that the Smartglass has are exclusive such as being able to heal yourself, call in an airstrike, or revive yourself without using a card. In order to use the Smartglass features you have to first enable the Boss Mode option for it to begin working.
The controls are something to get the hang of, but once you’ve played for a half hour it becomes second nature. Graphics are comparable to any other next-gen title out right now, which is saying something. Although, if you pride yourself only playing story modes then Garden Warfare is not the game you’re looking for. PopCap delivers an adrenaline rush with crazy antics around every corner that will become the staple for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.
Don’t make the mistake of being the guy who holds out on picking up Garden Warfare because it seems childish or some other egoistic reason. It’s good to detox your system from the high octane first-person shooters every once in awhile, and pick up a game that just likes to have fun. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is mandatory for any game collection, so don’t waste time before the zombies come for brains.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game.