Published by EA and developed by Pop Cap, the Plants Vs Zombies series first arrived for Xbox in 2010 and took XBLA by storm. Beginning with defending your home from a Zombie attack using mutated plants put a new spin on the Tower defense genre of games. Jump to 2014 and ‘Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare’ takes on the Third person competitive shooter genre in the same way as Plants and Zombies do battle across Xbox LIVE. But can it really stand up to such competition from the bigger names already shooting it out?
Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare has two gameplay modes. First up is Garden Ops which is essentially the ‘Horde Mode’ from Gears of War but given the Plants Vs Zombies make over. Playable as a solo mode or up to four player co-op, you take the role of the Plants as you defend your garden for up to ten waves of continuous Zombie attacks. You can host your own private game should you want to play it solo or just with friends or you can take it public over Xbox LIVE were your game will be filled with other players looking for a game. There is a difficulty option from Easy, Normal or Hard to test your skills or just to have fun.
First task is to pick the location of your “garden”, and you get a good amount of time to find the best location to defend it. Finding the right location really is key to how successful you will be. Find one with the best cover and view points to see the oncoming zombies and you have the advantage. Pick a location, depending on which map you are on, where you can be cornered by the attackers and you will find yourself struggling to keep your defences up. Each wave increases in the challenge as more dangerous and powerful Zombie classes are sent out against you. After each wave you have time to heal up and repair or set new defences before the attack begins again. Plant Pots around your garden can be used to plant various defences such pea shooters, Gatling gun plants. The options available to you depend on what you have collected via the Sticker Shop but will come to that a bit later.
After a few normal waves you will be put up against a “Boss wave”, and the way this is done is genius. Just before the Boss wave begins, you or a random player in your team will get to control the slot machine above. All players will see it on screen but only one will have the ability to try their luck by pressing A. There is a chance to win some bonus coins here, which can be used in the Sticker Shop, but the aim of the slot machine is to pick your challenge. First time I got the chance to gamble I ended up battling a Yeti Zombie and a Disco Zombie…tougher then normal zombies and will require team work to take down but it changes up each game you play the gamble always means you will have a different challenge each time.
Once all waves are completed, the final task is to be evacuated from the map by getting to the escape zone and surviving until you are collected. This is a fun last gasp battle as you fight your way to the extraction point and to survive until you are collected. This game mode is really fun, even more so if you are playing with friends and just like with other games that use Horde mode, there is so much depth to this mode that you may not have first thought of.
The second game mode time is the multiplayer mode. In this mode you will get the chance to play as the Zombies as well as this game type alternates which team you are, either Plants or Zombies, each match so you get equal chance to explore both sides of the battle. There are four classes for both Plants and Zombies and different characters can be unlocked through purchases in the Sticker shop.
Starting off with the Plants, the four classes you have available are Pea Shooter, Chomper, Sun Flower and Cactus.
- Pea Shooter – Ground Soldier with Chili Bean, Hyper and Gatling Gun abilities.
- Chomper – Physical attack bases with Ground burrow, Spike Vines mine and Goop attack abilities.
- Sun Flower – Medic Class with Sun beam attack, healing flower and healing beam abilities.
- Cactus – Tank class with Garlic Drone, Tallnut Battlement shield and Potato Mine Abilities.
Each class only has one ability available when you first play as them. Levelling up via play and completing challenges such as reviving team mates or getting a number of vanquishes (kills) will unlock the other abilities during play. Once unlocked the new ability will be available the next time you re-spawn. There is a class for every style of player. For me I really enjoyed using the Sun Flower. Despite being the medic class, its Sun Beam attack which sees you planting yourself in the ground and firing a solar beam at your enemies until your energy drains really makes it an all rounder as you can heal team-mates with your healing beam or drop the heal plant which is a potted sunflower which will dispense health energy every ten seconds. Planting yourself in the ground you turn into a Gatling seed gun able to rapidly shoot Zombies with devastating effect. Chomper is a Venus fly trap character and has only physical attacks. Its main ability is the ground burrow, which can be used to dig into the ground and tunnel underneath enemies to target one and locking on to burst out devouring them whole for an instant kill. The heavy hitter of the team is the Cactus. It has the ability to put up defensive walls and drop the deadly Potato mines. It also has the ability to launch a Garlic drone which is a remote controlled drone which can be flown around the map to shoot the Zombies. The drone is easily shot down though so whilst fun to use it can be taken out very quickly and Cactus is left vulnerable whilst the drone is in use.
Above you can see a video of some gameplay using the Pea Shooter class. Its primary attack is slow but does a good deal of damage. Its hyper speed ability enables you to get around the map quickly with the added boost to your jump enabling you to jump higher to gain an elevated advantage. The Chilli Bean attack is a short range grenade style attack and is great for taking out multiple enemies near you. The Gatling gun will see you plant yourself into the ground and turn into a Gatling seed gun capable of rapid fire attacks against the enemy.
The Zombie team has the four classes of Foot Soldier, Engineer, Scientist and All Star available:
- Foot Soldier – ground trooper class with Rocket Jump, ZPG Rocket and Zombie Stink Cloud abilities
- Engineer – stronger ground trooper class with Zombot Drone, Jackhammer and Sonic Grenade abilities
- Scientist – medic class with Warp, Heal Station and Sticky Exploder Ball abilities
- All Star – Tank Class with Sprint Tackle, Dummy Shield and Imp Punt abilities
The beauty of Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare is that the two sides, whilst having similarities, really have different playing styles with their classes. The engineer is similar to the Pea shooter with a slow but strong primary weapon, the ability to use a jack hammer to travel faster around the map but also has the ability to send up a drone much like the Cactus class from the plants. The Scientist can drop a healing station much like the Sun Flower class but has the ability to warp or teleport short distances to get out of trouble or to flank enemies. The All Star is modelled on an American footballer and is very sports related. Having the ability to drop a dummy shield much like the Cactus class but has a very powerful primary weapon and the imp punt will kick a little zombie which acts like a grenade to enemy plants. The sprint tackle will see you dashing through an enemy often taking them out with the speed of the dash.
The Foot soldier is my favourite Zombie class. As you can see from the gameplay footage above, it is another great all rounder class to use. Machine gun as a primary weapon is a great entry level class to go for. The rocket jump enables you to quickly take the high ground to take out Plants with your machine gun or if you want to do damage to a group you have the ZPG rocket launcher which will fire across the map at them. The Stink cloud is a great little grenade to mess up the enemies in front of you as it will both blind and cause damage but also a great little escape trick to use if you are caught in a jam.
Both sets of teams offer you a different way to play and with the game alternating which team you use per match you really get an overall feel for them as you play. I found my self being more of a medic when on the Plants team but all out assault as a foot soldier for the Zombie team. Both playing styles served me well as I explored the game modes that make up the multiplayer side to the game. Team Vanquish is team deathmatch, first team to get 50 vanquishes wins. The next game type is Gardens and Graveyards, which is a variation of the Rush game type from Battlefield.
Gardens and Graveyards will see either the Plants or Zombies tasked with defending their gardens or graveyards from the other team. Should the attacking team destroy the “station” then the action moves to the next station. To win, the attackers have to destroy all stations and for the defenders to win they only have to successfully defend a station until the game time runs out. This mode requires a good level of team work and communication and like Garden Ops, the defending team is able to use defenses to help in the fight. For the Zombies this means using graves to call upon different classes of Zombie minions to send into battle depending what you have in your reserves. There is also a Classic version of this mode and of Team Vanquish which only lets you play as the basic characters with no upgrades or customization options so just a straight forward no frills contest. If you want to try out both then there is a mixed playlist that will alternate the game types as well.
So, what can you do with all the coins you earn from gameplay then. As above, the game has a “sticker shop”. This is where you can use the in game currency to buy Sticker packs. These packs will give you items you can use in both Garden Ops and Gardens and Graveyards as additional defensive and attacks options. The packs will also contain customization items for your classes as well as unlocking other characters like for example the Fire and Ice versions of the Sun Flower. There are no micro transactions either, so everything is based on what you earn just by playing the game. The packs range from 1000 silver coins up to 20.000 with packs that offer items for both teams or specific to either Plants or Zombies. It is great to play a few games to earn coins and then pop to the sticker shop to see what you can pick up.
With the customisation items you can change the appearance of your characters from hats to glasses to tattoos which can really help you personalize your favourite characters in the game. Some very interesting combinations can be put together and each class has different characters to be unlocked the more you invest in the sticker shop. You really can make this game your own which is one of its biggest charms.
Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare is a sneaky little devil of a game. On the surface you expect an XBLA level game but what it really is, is a deep and well designed third person shooter that has solid and fun gameplay enhancing the basic gameplay style from other big series titles and with a lot of charm and old school fun, brings you a game that is just so addictive to play that you will be smiling in every single match you have. This game is just so awesome to play with friends so enhanced by the silliness of playing as a plant or a zombie that with its less then full AAA price, its value speaks volumes as does its gameplay. This game is perfect for adults and for young shooter fans and a real option to the more mainstream and war focused titles in the same genre. It sows the seeds of greatness and like a Zombie it is relentless in bringing in the fun.