Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (Xbox One) – PC Magazine
I’m suffering from shooter fatigue. I abandoned the genre once the video-game industry became oversaturated with drab, pseudo-realistic military skirmishes that I could only differentiate by the name on the game’s packaging. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon‘s ’80s-tastic neon and synth love letter to classic action movies brought me back to the category in 2013 after a several-year hiatus, but I thought that would be the extent of my FPS playing for the next few years. Wrong. I’ll be shooting well into 2014—and possibly beyond—thanks to PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.
The game takes the popular tower-defense game and merges it third-person shooter gameplay—and the combination works extremely well. Garden Warfare, despite being an action-centric shooter, retains the charm and humor associated with the Plants vs. Zombies brand. Fans of the series and the shooter genre as a whole should give Garden Warfare a go, despite some annoying gotchas.
Online Requirements, Game Modes
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Garden Warfare is an online multiplayer shooter that requires you to be online at all times (much like Titanfall). If you’re looking for a single-player offline mode, the main Plants vs. Zombie series is the one you should play. Personally, I don’t mind the lack of an offline mode in multiplayer online shooters, but Garden Warfare manages to aggravate this by demanding you (and partners) be Xbox Live Gold subscribers to play the Xbox One exclusive split-screen local co-op mode. That’s ridiculous. On top of that, EA—as expected—requires you to create an origin account if you want to play. Sigh. This is next-generation gaming, folks.
Garden Warfare is a multiplayer shooter in which gamers root up or suit up as plants or zombies, respectively. PopCap loads Garden Warfare with several modes, including Garden Ops (four-player co-op), Garden & Graveyards (plants must defend their garden bases from zombies), and Team Vanquish (the first squad to reach 50 kills takes the match). Garden & Graveyards and Team Vanquish support 12 players on each team, so the action gets incredibly frantic. In addition, there are two Xbox One exclusive modes: Boss Mode (which lets gamers use Kinect or a SmartGlass-enabled device to support their team that’s somewhat similar to Battlefield 4’s Commander Mode), and the aforementioned split-screen local co-op.
There’s a surprising amount of strategy and teamwork involved in each match, as each plant and zombie type has specialized move sets. The sunflower, for example, is a healer and therefore indispensable during high-level play. The scientist zombie is an excellent melee character who can warp in and out of close range to inflict or avoid damage. There’s even a zombie with a jetpack who can launch himself in and out of the fray. A zombie with a jetpack!
When you assemble a team with the proper balance of melee prowess, long-distance capabilities, and healing, you feel as if you can take on any foe that comes your way. That’s not to say that Garden Warfare is an easy game—it’s not—but smart play can help your squad conquer the toughest foes. PopCap imbues each soldier with fun, exaggerated animations and color schemes that make Garden Warfare almost look like an interactive cartoon when the lasers, hulking bosses, and disco zombie are in play.
Garden Warfare’s eight maps have many places for you to set up ambushes and lay down traps and support items (such as the series near-iconic peashooter), so level familiarity is an important part of combat. There are few things in Garden Warfare as satisfying as baiting an enemy into a trap and then lighting them up with projectiles.
Although Garden Warfare runs on DICE’s acclaimed Frostbite 3 engine, the game doesn’t have Battlefield’s incredible “Levolution” environmental effects. In fact, there’s very little environmental interaction. Larger structures can’t be toppled as in DICE’s Battlefield 4, and violence as a whole is kept to a minimum in an effort to maintain a family-friendly vibe (though the man-eating plant’s chomping and swallowing animations pushes the boundaries a bit).
Coins earned during skirmishes are used to purchase stickers, which are more than a collectable sub-game. Sticker packs (starting at roughly 1,500 coins per pack) let you augment your forces with reinforcements, power ups, weapon modifications, and specialized versions of the default characters. Coin-collecting is highly addicting, as PopCap rewards you with dough for just about any action of note including putting down enemies and healing teammates. You should have enough coins to re-up on a decent amount of supplies by the time a match wraps, if you’re a half-way decent player.
The Wrap on PopCap’s Latest
Simply put, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is an immensely entertaining shooter that can easily eat away hours of your day. The game will certainly take flack for its online requirements—perhaps rightly so—but it’s hard to dismiss the title based on the merits of its gameplay. In a sea of “me-too” shooters, Garden Warfare stands out for emphasizing fun over grittiness. I hope that Garden Warfare finds an audience so that the suits recognize that there’s enough space in the pew-pew market for different types of shooters.
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