Saturday, 29 March 2014

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

In 2009 PopCap Games released the first entry in their Plants vs. Zombies series; a 2D tower defence game that spread like wildfire across almost every hand-held platform. Followed by a direct sequel in 2013 that (despite some controversy) was downloaded like hot cakes, the newest entry into the franchise has arrived in the form of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a fresh take on the series. But the question is - will Garden Warfare appeal to the fanbase that fell in love with the series and its tower defence roots, or was it a mistake to mess with the already popular formula?

Developed by PopCap Games and out now on Xbox 360 and Xbox One (out on PC in June!) is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, which trades up the 2D tower defence genre for a third-person  shooter vibe. For far too long have the zombies in the series merely shuffled towards the plants, only to get completely obliterated in the process. This time the Zombies are fighting back, and compared to previous instalments, the action is more in your face that ever before.

There are four classes for both the Plants and Zombies factions, with each one having a vastly unique role within in a squad. When playing as the Plants the player can choose from the Peashooter, Sunflowers, Cactus and Chomper, while the classes for the Zombies come in the form of the All-Star, Engineer, Foot Soldier and Scientist. While at first the names of the classes can be a little confusing, once into the game Garden Warfare's classes pretty much fall in line with 99% of every other multiplayer shooter out there. For instance on the Plants team, the Sunflower heals other members in the squad, while the Cactus class is essentially the sniper of the group. This also extends to the Zombies, as players will notice that the All-Star is basically like the Heavy from Team Fortress, complete with an oversized weapon.

Despite the fact that they're the run-of-the-mill classes just neatly disguised, each has a number of attacks at their disposal and the ability to upgrade their weapons further as the game progresses. This itself opens up gameplay immensely, and it seems that PopCap Games have taken a page from Valve's book when it comes to creating a successful competitive shooter. Needless to say, the teams and classes in Garden Warfare are expertly honed into a fantastically compact selection that will suit any play style or strategy. 

There are a few modes on offer here, but if you're looking for a solely one-player experience, then only one mode will cover those needs, Garden Ops. However, going into Garden Warfare looking for a one player experience is a bit like playing Heavy Rain and hoping Ethan's dead kid will pop up out of his grave at the end and say, “LOL! I was only pretending, Dad!” It just won't happen. Nope, Garden Warfare is solely focused on multiplayer and this is most evident when playing the Gardens & Graveyards and Team Vanquish modes. 

Team Vanquish is a typical team death-match mode, but with a maximum of 12 players a side, it makes for an incredibly fun, hectic and insanely replayable head-to-head monster mash. Gardens & Graveyards is a bit more in-depth, but has its feet planted firmly in the classic “capture the flag” mode. In this mode Zombies will need to take over 6 consecutive gardens, while the Plants will need to defend them within the space of 5 minutes. The game modes on offer here, though pretty scant compared to other online shooters, are fantastic and will keep you hooked for ages.

Garden Warfare could have been a cheap cash-in. It could have been PopCap Games' shitty venture into the world of the online shooter. It could have been a lot of things, but it's none of those. Instead Garden Warfare is an incredibly fun, colourful and, believe it or not, deceptively difficult take on the genre. While newcomers to the genre will have quite a lot of fun in Welcome Mat mode, a mode that eases new players into the idea of an online shooter, gamers already familiar with the formula may be surprised how in-depth Garden Warfare is. 

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare infects us all and gets a 4/5, [★★★★☆]

Denis Murphy

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare at CeX

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