Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare review: seeds well planted

Multiplayer shoot-em-ups are rarely considered "family-friendly." Ever since its bizarre debut, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has subverted what we can expect from PopCap, from PvZ, and from shooters in general. Remarkably, PopCap has managed to create an experience that delivers all the strategic twitch combat of a shooter, presented with PvZ's unique charm. The game launches with three modes: Team Vanquish, Gardens and Graveyards, and Garden Ops. Garden Ops is a variation of the classic Horde mode, where up to four players can take part in defending their home base garden from oncoming waves of zombies. This is a great mode to get introduced to the four different classes of plants available: Cactus, Chomper, Sunflower, and Peashooter. The Peashooter is a basic grunt, but can activate a hyper ability that allows it to jump on rooftops and get a jump on snipers. The Cactus is the sniper, shooting zombies from a distance and dropping potato bombs as traps. The Sunflower can drop healing points for fellow soldiers to regain their energy. Finally, the Chomper can swallow enemies with one well-timed gulp, either sneaking up behind them or popping up out of the ground.

The Chomper's good at devouring the competition

No class trumps and they're all worth experimenting with, just to see who "fits" best. Like the best of class-based shooters, each class plays a valuable role in a team. But it's not just the Plants that are having a party, as the Zombies get their fair share, too. You'll be able to play as them in the other two modes of the game, Gardens and Graveyards and Team Vanquish. The engineer serves as a tech agent that can strike from a distance and aid fellow teammates with support; the scientist can drop health orbs and use melee strikes; the All-Star carries a machine gun that can rapid fire footballs; and the Soldier carries a basic machine gun and moves at a fast pace. They're analogous to the plants, which means each class works well as part of a team. Gardens and Graveyards pits teams to infiltrate the others' base. Team Vanquish is a team deathmatch mode where 24 players attempt to get 50 "frags" first. Garden Warfare is light on modes, but the matches are exciting and fun. As in other shooters, you'll soon develop tactics that pay off, like hunting down enemies from behind or luring an enemy into the open with a health spawn point. The balance enables each match to turn on a dime, so both teams always have that chance to win. Each map feels appropriately sized for combat. They're not so vast that you're separated too far from the action while at the same time, they have enough space for you to plan your next assault. On top of that, they retain the charm that the PvZ series has become known for, right down to the appearance of Crazy Dave and his flying camper at the start of the match.

Just because you're dead doesn't mean you don't need a belt, dude

The controls may take a little getting used to since the pacing is slightly slower compared to the twitchy shooters that lead the market. Garden Warfare also introduces its own unique ideas as well. For instance, you can actually take away an enemy "kill" by healing one of your fellow soldiers when they're down and out. In addition, pots can be potted to activate defenses, including fellow spitter plants and other turret-like traps. These are unlocked through the game's Sticker Mode. Here, you can unlock weapons and new outfits for soldiers through pack purchases, using coins earned in the game. It's great incentive to keep playing, and it also enables you to build a huge arsenal of secondary aids to win the match. Garden Warfare is a surprising addition to the Plants vs Zombies series, and PopCap Games has succeeding in creating a pleasant and wildly enjoyable shooter that all ages can enjoy. While it's short on modes and maps, the core game should entertain long enough for PopCap to work on expanding the game via DLC. [7]
This review is based on a retail Xbox One copy provided by the publisher. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is available now for Xbox One and Xbox 360 for $39.99 and $29.99, and will be released for PC this summer. The game is rated E10.