Horticulture With A Twist | Plants VS. Zombies: Garden Warfare Review

This year every man, woman and child seems to be playing an online shooter. Whether it’s Destiny (it probably is)COD, Battlefield, the games market is littered with them and there are many who lap them up like drunks near a pool of beer. Personally however, I feel that the online shooting genre isn’t all that exciting, not anymore anyway. A case of been there seen that, sure these types of games are good for a quick tension reliving blast but after a while they all get a bit samey for me and often a bit too unnecessarily serious, with some people taking their competitiveness to whole new levels of ragey. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare however is an online shooter that shuns the serious and instead says hello to the ridiculous, in the process giving you something to both enjoy and chuckle at.

Presented in the third person, PvZ: GW comprises of the following modes: Garden Ops, where you and up to three others play as plants and try to defend your plotted garden from waves of AI zombies, Team Vanquish, or Team Deathmatch, with the team who reaches 50 kills being the winner, and Gardens and Graveyards, a mode comprising of timed map sections where you can choose to be either a plant or zombie, the former having to defend their gardens from becoming graveyards. There’s Welcome Mat, which is essentially Team Vanquish, except that players who repeatedly die will spawn with more health and there’s no customization allowed for players, Gnome Bomb, where players fight to control one bomb in a bid to blow up the other teams A, B and C points and Vanquish Confirmed! where players collect orbs from deceased enemies and fallen soldiers to both gain and deny points, first to 50 wins.

There are also Classic versions of both Team Vanquish and Gardens and Graveyards, which stops players from using unlocked characters, customization and upgrades and Mixed Mode, which regenerates a different mode and map each turn. The most recent DLC released for the game, Legend of the Lawn, also brought with it one additional mode to users: Taco Bandits, a mode where the plants have to stop the zombies from stealing Dave’s three tacos and taking them to their UFO, and for PlayStation players an additional mode Suburbination, basically Capture the Flag, was also part of the Legends pack (it was already available to Xbox users).

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In each mode players are rewarded with coins at the end and these can be used to purchase stickers at the sticker shop. Consisting of things such as upgrades, character pieces that make up new characters and customization pieces, sticker packs can cost anywhere in between 1,000 to 40,000 with different ones containing different, random things. Reminiscent of the packs in FIFA’s Ultimate Team, EA’s coin idea is a clever one as it gives players an incentive to carry on playing in the hope that they’ll be able to unlock what they want, whether that be the right pieces to make the character they want or, if you’re like me, as many ridiculous props as possible.

Alternatively, players can opt for the much popular, especially with younger players, play-to-win option, with packs being available to buy with real money. Without going too far into my opinion of this model, that it features here makes me, as always, a little sad, as I feel it encourages people to flash the cash rather than try and become better at the actual game and thereby win more coins.. Honestly, it’s a pet peeve of mine in all games that feature it so its presence in PvZ:GW was never going to be well received by me but since coins are quite easy to come by in this game, recently I jumped into a game at the very end, did nothing and still got 2,000 coins, its inclusion here feels more like an unnecessary, money-making feature than usual.

With no campaign or offline option, out of all the modes it’s only Garden Ops that you can technically play alone, as you can create your own match, set it at Invite-Only and just not invite anyone. Like buying a ready meal for two and eating it all yourself, Garden Ops maybe a little too much for one person to handle. With up to four players being allowed to play, I suggest you take the option of teammates or your backside may be getting handed too you. A re-imagined, 3D version of the original game, Garden Ops consists of ten waves of zombies, with every fifth and tenth wave being a boss wave. Featuring such creative bosses such as the regal looking Baron von Bats and the not so regal looking Yeti Zombie, again these buggers are best handled as a team rather than solo.

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There are also objectives every third and eighth wave and here players can opt to do things such as destroying tombstones as well as the usual zombie killing activities, gaining extra coins in the process. A fun and co-operative mode, players can play Gardens Ops on Easy, Normal, Hard or CRAAAAAAAZY! the last being a rather difficult challenge. As well as your fellow human plants, you can also get help by planting plants in the pots scattered around your garden, many of which have been taken from the original game, such as the Ice Peashooter and Gatling Pea. Found in the Reinforcements Pack in the Sticker Shop, these potted plants can be pretty helpful, especially when you’re away from your Garden or needing help stopping the hordes from gaining access to it.

One of the best modes of the game, Garden Ops is both fun and as previously mentioned, sometimes challenging, especially as you’ve got to also trawl through the zombies to reach a landing zone after all the waves have finished. It’s inventive and different, which is something very refreshing to see from an online shooter. As far as the multi-player options go, most of these modes are very entertaining to take part in, although some are essentially the same. Welcome Mat, Classic and Normal Team Vanquish are a prime example of seemingly different modes that actually consist of the same gameplay and objectives, the only real differences coming in the form of a few altered variants. Lacking in variety, there aren’t many modes here to sink your teeth into but despite this, the ones that are more original, such as the recently added Taco Bandits, feel fun and fresh, with silly objectives making things feel light yet competitive.

Out of all the games modes though, personally Gardens and Graveyards is the place where I’ve had the most consistent fun. With different end goals and a timer urging you to either destroy, reach or defend them, I have found this mode to be one of the more engaging ones. Out of the four maps that you are given in G & G’s, I especially like Wall-nut Hills, which could be in part to me getting this map the most often (I’ve only encountered the other maps a few times) but mostly because of the final battle. Having to either stop the zombies getting into a mansion or trying to enter it as one of the undead, the end battle of this map is both aesthetically pleasing and amusing, especially when you shoot a zombie just as they’re about to enter the house. Taking a bit more cunning than simply lobbing something at an enemy’s brain, you have to be a little more team aware if you want to win in this mode, especially when you’re on the plants side.

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Speaking of the plants side, this is also the more of the challenging sides to be on in this mode, as the zombies come to attack you and take your gardens, meaning you can’t just run off and go for kill-streak glory. In fact, just being a plant in general in this game seems to be a harder task than being a zombie. You see you’re given a choice of which team you want to be during multi-player matches, apart from in Mixed Mode which, apart from being my second favourite mode thanks to its random variety, decides what team you’re on, and I’ve been in some games where the zombies outweigh the plants by two or three players. It’s an unfair but fair option this one of choice: on the one hand it gives people the freedom to be who they want but on the other it can sometimes lead to team handicap in games where teams aren’t fully populated. Taking away from the challenge, it can be frustrating to be on either team despite if there’s more or less of you but it is isn’t a frequent enough issue to that ruins your gaming experience.

Two of the finest aspects of PvZ: GW for me are the surroundings and the characters, both of which are very well designed and are funny to play as/in. Starting off with the surroundings, there are eight maps including Sharkbite Shores, a shark bone laden town located on a beach and Port Scallwag, a pirate themed port, all of which are used by Garden Ops and each of the multi-player modes, apart from Gardens and Graveyards, which has its own. Laden with vibrant colours and detail, the maps you encounter feature high places to shoot, low places to hide and are well thought out and sized. One, Jewel Junction, also features a moving train that runs on a track through the middle of an upper area, which gives players even more things to consider when playing. For me there’s no real winner of the maps, they all have their own unique and quirky styles, each of which are fun to battle in but the added extra of the threat of encountering death-by-train in Jewel Junction, does give it that bit of an edge over the rest.

Then there are the characters, which are very humorous to play as, especially the zombies. Taking the role of the following, the zombie class options are: Scientist, Engineer, Foot Solider or All-Star, while the plant classes are Peashooter, Sunflower, Chomper and Cactus. Depending on who you pick in the game depends on what abilities you’ll have, so for instance, both the Engineer and the Sunflower have healing abilities, which can be useful for the players around you. Unlocking a new character means unlocking a new member of the classes and as such your abilities remain the same but your main weapon does change, as does your appearance. You can also customize your characters appearance yourself, with silly hats, facial hair and tattoos all being an option. To level your characters up you must do challenges within the game, such as ‘Vanquish 10 Zombies with the Pea Gatling,’ and this levels up your chosen class, with your overall rank also going up in stature throughout your the time with the game.

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As I’ve already said, being a zombie for me is by far the most fun, especially playing as the Engineer. Sure he isn’t the most powerfully equipped chap in the game and his abilities aren’t the best ones I’ve seen, but one of them does give him the ability to ride around the map, at speed, on a pneumatic drill, which is awesome to watch. He also walks around with his bottom hanging out in matches and the gormless look on his face is priceless. When you’re a zombie you can also look for pits and use stickers that you’ve bought to spawn zombies that do you bidding. From Conehead Zombie to Coffin Zombie, these additions are as equally entertaining to watch roaming around the map. This is what I love about PvZ: GW: the absurdity of the characters. They’re original, funny and the customization options and weapons (one zombie has a gun that fires footballs) are a great giggle, creating an atmosphere for a game that can’t possibly be taken too seriously. After all, it’s hard to get mad at being killed when the perpetrator is an Orange Cactus with puppets for hands and a American football helmet on his head.

Overall Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare does have some flaws but its unique style and light-hearted gameplay, make it a game definitely worth playing. For me this has more originality than 90% of the online shooters out there and while some people may scoff at this title, brushing it off as a kids one, aren’t we all just big kids anyway? No…just me….damn.

Original article first appeared on the BagoGames site on 21/10/14