After a very surprising reveal last year at E3 which saw the Plants Vs Zombies franchise move into multiplayer action territory, gamers both young and old were left with a big grin on their faces as they saw the simple 2D affair of Plants Vs Zombies transform itself into a rich, colourful, and cute 3D shooter. After receiving a lot of praise for their efforts at the time, it’s fair to say that there was a lot of pressure on the shoulders of PopCap Games to deliver on a fun, child-orientated multiplayer title that still withheld the quirkiness that PVZ fans come to expect.
With Microsoft striking a 6 month long exclusivity deal with PopCap which saw the game releasing on Xbox 360 and Xbox One in February, the game arrived on PC in June, with the PS3 and PS4 release following 2 months later in August. When the game first launched on the Xbox platforms it was met with mixed reception. While critics loved the art style, the fun gameplay, the character classes, and the level design, criticism was found within the shortage of game modes and appeared lack of replay value. However, since then PopCap have been generously releasing free DLC packs that have included new maps, characters, and most importantly, new game modes. With all this wealth of new content coming as standard to the PlayStation releases, has this patched up the issues that were had previously?
When first booting up the game and jumping into your first match, you are met with what is perhaps the most striking aspect of PVZ: Garden Warfare – its remarkable art-style. The team over at PopCap have been able to perfectly transition the graphics from 2D to 3D without any hiccups. Everything looks fantastic, with every single environment, plant, and zombie oozing with character and bright colour. The cartoon visuals that have always been a part of the series look their best in 3D, with the creative character designs shining through especially. With a wealth of character customisation on offer on top of the already plentiful characters to select from in this game, the visuals never fail to impress. The game also performs really well too, offering a constant 60fps which does well to compliment the fantastic visuals on-screen.
Garden Warfare plays out as a team-based third-person shooter, with each team offering 4 different character classes. What this game does best however, is provide a surprisingly well-balanced asymmetrical experience. While the plants and zombies have some similar abilities between them, each plant class differs significantly from any other zombie class. Having these stark differences between each team works in this games favour, with each character providing a unique experience, and each match playing out differently depending on what team you are placed in. Not only this, but each class requires you to employ a different play-style, meaning that there’s a lot to experience and adapt to here. Each class is built in a way in which they all serve certain purposes with up to three abilities equipped at a time, though that’s not to say that any particular character is less capable on the battlefield. While the Sunflower character is very much a support role for that should be used to heal your teammates, the abilities and attacks of the character don’t hold back, meaning that you are more than capable of vanquishing your foes and staying alive. With each character class differing from its respective opponent class, it opens up for some good tactics and plenty of tension while in the heat of the action. These unique abilities between each team are nicely balanced too with the opposing force being able to dampen, or outright stop them using their own array of abilities. Garden Warfare demonstrates a fantastic way of designing teams with substantial differences, but keeping a level playing field throughout.
Unlike other multiplayer games where your character progression is based off how much XP you have accumulated, Garden Warfare makes use of character specific challenges that must be completed in order to move on and level up. These challenges begin as very basic affairs, but soon become more complex as you level up, adding more challenge and requiring more effort from the player to complete. One challenge might require you to kill a certain amount of a specific character class, while another might require you to utilise a specific character ability to accomplish something. Though some of the challenges overlap to other character classes, they always appear in different orders, and at different times, meaning that even though they repeat, completing them never feels repetitious. Levelling up characters not only grants you with additional abilities that can be swapped in and out for others currently equipped, but also yields coin rewards that are to be spent in the games sticker store.
In-keeping with the quirky and cute styling of the Plants Vs. Zombies franchise, the sticker store is the way in which you can grab consumables, weapon upgrades, character pieces, character customisation items, and super rare items. It’s a really neat way of handling this aspect of the game, and it blends in well with the games aesthetics and theme. Within the store you have the option of buying several different sticker packs, all of which contain a different assortment of stickers, with the cost reflecting on the potential content within. Cheaper packs may only include basic consumables, or common/uncommon customisation items, while more expensive ones may guarantee super rare items, weapon upgrades, or even an entire set of character pieces. While the process of buying a sticker pack containing a random selection of stickers is certainly exciting and can provide you with absolutely anything, it also feels rather cheap. There’s something very frustrating about working hard to earn lots of coins to afford these sticker packs, only to be rewarded with stickers that you didn’t particularly want/need. I feel as though I’m entitled to actually select what exactly it is that I want, especially as it takes a while to earn enough coins to afford the more costly packs. While some packs narrow it down to specific plant or zombie items, this isn’t specific enough.
The meat of PVZ: Garden Warfare is found in the competitive multiplayer modes, though there is a mode that can be played singleplayer. ‘Garden Ops’ is a mode that pits you up against 10 waves of zombies as they fight to destroy your garden. Your job is to play as a plant and work to defend it from the oncoming forces. Consumable items such as potted plants can be used in this mode and set up around your garden to guard the perimeter. Special waves can occur during this game mode, and boss stages are thrown in periodically, pitting you against unique foes that take a lot of power to take down, and require thoughtful tactics to take down smoothly. These boss stages do add a significant jolt of challenge when introduced, and are as enjoyable to complete as they are difficult. Though this mode can be played alone, this does result in a lot of challenge, and it can be really hard to keep on top of the zombie forces coming towards your garden. This mode however is vastly improved when playing with up to 3 other friends where you can help each other out, communicate with each other, and co-ordinate your defence properly.
Other game modes available are: ‘Team Vanquish’ – a team deathmatch mode that has each team fighting to reach the 50 kills limit, ‘Gnome Bomb’ – a mode that has teams fighting to collect a bomb which is used to destroy their opponents bases, and lastly, ‘Vanquish Confirmed!’ – a variant of Team Vanquish where players must kill their opponents and collect the orbs from their bodies to acquire points and reach the score limit of 50. The game also includes a few classic game modes too that abandon customisation options, upgrades, and unlocked characters in order to attain a ‘pure’ experience. All these modes are varied enough and provide a lot of fun, though players are likely to spend a lot of their time playing ‘Gardens & Graveyards’, a lengthy mode that has the plants defending a series of gardens from the zombies who are coming to destroy them. This is actually a very hectic game mode that is fun to play from start to finish. Players need to work together in order to succeed and make the most out of each ability at their disposal to break through the plants defences, or destroy the attacking zombie horde. Plants can use consumable potted plants to aid them, while the zombies can use consumable zombie friends that march forward and attack the plants. The maps used in these game modes are expansive, and have multiple paths and areas to exploit in order to get the best approach on the enemy. Class abilities lend themselves well to the different environments, and zombies even have the ability to use teleportation devices in order to gain an upper-hand on the enemy, and attack from a different angle. There are a nice variety of maps for this game mode, each containing self-contained environments that naturally blend into each other, and offer their own flavours. The map designs for this mode are especially well designed and are certainly creative, though this trend does carry over to the maps used on the other modes, where players can use level events, paths, and their own abilities to their advantage.
Though the game now includes a few more modes and feels ultimately more fulfilling, the concern about replay value still persists. Though the game offers plenty of fun to be had, I can’t see the game having a lasting appeal for any more than a few months. Though part of the reason why the gameplay is so enjoyable is because it’s simple, the simplicity of it all almost becomes detriment to the game. This is very much a casual game, and without all that depth it will unlikely continue to make such a big impact. While the life of this game will be extended by any future content being released free of charge by the developers, this game won’t last as long in your console as other multiplayer titles on the market right now.
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is an insanely fun package that is wrapped up within a lush art-style and a quirky personality. Though it is made to appeal to a much more ‘casual’ market, this is still a game with incredibly enjoyable gameplay that even allows you to employ clever tactics, despite the simplicity. Characters classes are nice and varied, the game modes are now plentiful, and the level design is also pretty great, which all go to making a solid experience. Though concerns are still raised in regards to the replay value of this game, it’ll still entertain you for many hours to come; just don’t expect to be playing this title for months on end.
- Art-style has loads of charm and character.
- Every character class is fun to play as.
- Creative character abilities.
- Asymmetrical teams are well balanced
- Competitive multiplayer modes are very fun.
- Game allows for team tactics.
- Sticker packs are not specific – end up with stickers you don’t need or want.
- The simplicity of the gameplay eventually starts to harm the game.
- Replay value is concerning.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.