EA has an evil plan to hook kids as young as seven on shooter games and create a never ending conveyor belt of gamers that'll buy the likes of Titanfall and Battlefield. That's my theory anyway, after all, why else would it get Popcap, a company known for casual mobile titles, to create one of the most colourful and fun shooters that we've seen in a long time. A game so visually appealing that children can't help but watch the screen as its friendly characters blow each other to bits using all manner of weapons and gadgets. You may think Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is only for you, but you'll soon find out that this is a game which appeals to the whole family.
The very thought of Plants vs Zombies as a third person shooter is quite frankly ridiculous, however for some reason it works. This is no doubt due to the talented developers at Popcap Games, who've took an already winning formula in its popular mobile title and combined it with one of the most popular genres in gaming. Somehow this combination shouldn't work, but it does.
Garden Warfare is split into three different game modes, the first of which is Garden Ops. This mode is the closest to the original game, seeing you defend your Garden from 10 waves of zombies. Before kicking things off you'll be asked to choose from a selection of Plant 'Warriors' such as the Pea Shooter, Sunflower, Cactus and Chomper. Each Plant has its own ability, the Pea Shooter for instance can shoot peas, throw exploding beans, can leap high in the air and can even turn into a gun turret for a limited time. With the exception of shooting peas, all abilities are earned by completing certain objectives, which in turn will help your character gain in experience. Given that Garden Warfare is an online only experience, when playing this mode you'll often notice that other players will jump in and give you a hands.
Garden Ops starts off simply enough, however as you take down the opening waves of zombies, more and tougher zombies start to appear, including boss waves which could be difficult to take down if you were on your own. Thankfully, as well as other players joining in you do have some other options to make things slightly easier as throughout the level are plant pots which you can plant various things in such as sunflowers to spawn health, or warrior plants such as the Gatling Pea which help cut into the waves of zombies before they get to your garden, although you'll still have a lot of work to do once the waves reach you, unless you go hunting for them first of course.
Playing modes such as Garden Ops, or the Split-Screen mode (which sees you play a Garden Ops style mode with a friend but removes the 10 wave limit) will benefit you by the way of in-game currency. This then allows you to choose from and buy various booster packs, which depending on their cost, will provide access to character customisation, new weapons, character pieces and more. These packs feel like a great idea, although the items they offer can often be less than useful, well unless you want a tattoo for your Pea Shooter. Obviously it's always nice to gain new weapons and the ability to collect character pieces in order to unlock new characters is something that seems well thought out. You just get the feeling that later down the line you'll be asked to pay should you really want the cards you need as this system really feels like it has been built with micro-transactions in mind.
Perhaps the most important part to Garden Warfare is the Multiplayer mode. Although it doesn't really feel much different from other shooters in terms of objectives (Vanquish is Team Deathmatch and Gardens and Graveyards is Capture the Flag), it's still a great deal of fun. Whether you end up in a team with Plants or Zombies, each of the character's abilities seems to compliment the other. It's also pretty great that you are rewarded for helping team mates -for instance reviving someone in your team in Vanquish Mode will take away a point from the opposition.
There's a lot more to say about Garden Warfare, although if you're interested you'll no-doubt find that out for yourself, as I don't want this review to turn into a guide rather than a critique of the game. Instead what I'd like to do is focus on what Garden Warfare brings to the genre. In this respect I must say that the most important factor within this game is fun. Garden Warfare doesn't really innovate or surprise, I also worry that unless we are met with a barrage of free DLC, that the severs will be empty within a few months. I'm still also undecided if there is enough content to justify the cost, given that there are only a few multiplayer game modes and around 10 maps. But for all these worries, 'fun' is the one word always shines through. So far I've not been able to stop playing, I've even got to the top of the leaderboard in a few matches, which is unheard of for me in shooter games. I love the fact you can blow up four zombies with one explosive bean; I love the fact you can revive teammates and heal them and I love the graphics, the colourful and fun characters and the fact that everyone playing seems to be having a brilliant time.
Like I say, there is so much more to talk about, such as it being just as much fun to be on the zombies team, or the fact that you or a friend can help the team by healing, dropping air strikes and reviving using Boss Mode via SmartGlass. Garden Warfare is lots of fun, but my main concern would be if the game has enough staying power to keep people on the servers over a prolonged period of time.
There is no doubt that Popcap has outdone itself with Garden Warfare, no-one could have expected the game to come out quite as well as it has. If there is one big negative, it's that there must be an air of caution here, because games are expensive and whether this will only be an investment for the short term remains to be seen.
Words by Joe Anderson.
(Version Tested: Xbox One)
+ Great fun
+ Appealing Characters and Abilities
+ Fast and Frantic
- Questions on Longevity
- Game Modes could be more original