The best spin-off no-one thought they wanted
That is by far the best way to explain PvZ Garden Warfare. Did anyone play the original or 2 and think that they needed a third person online shooter? No, and they were probably right too but somehow thats not how Garden Warfare turned out, and I’m glad it’s the game it is.
The game is a bit light on maps, spreading itself between Team Vanquish (Deathmatch), Gardens and Graveyards (capture the area) which shares similar locations but specific maps aren’t duplicated. I’d have no problem with them increasing the map count by cutting up the Gardens and Graveyards maps into smaller chunks for a bit of variety, they’re very large as there’s 7 or so capture points and seems a bit of a shame that Team Vanquish has only 4 maps with so much other content available. The last game type is the co-op mode Garden Ops (waves of enemies with bosses) which I’ll discuss later.Mixed playlist is the best way to play as it will switch between TV and G&G which is better than playing the same mode all the time. Team Vanquish is the first to 50 kills and I find the matches are usually over pretty quickly which is a shame, hopefully they will add a 100 kills mode and an “end-game” like Titanfall has in some modes, so that players locked in battle towards the end of a round don’t miss out on any kills they might get as the game ends pretty much straight away when the target is met.
Garden Ops is a co-op mode for up to 4 players on any of the maps for Team Vanqush. The idea is to last out 10 rounds with 2 boss waves and the last wave is getting to Crazy Dave’s transporter and evacuating the remaining plants from the area. It has 4 difficult levels (easy/medium/hard/Craaazy) and unsurprisingly Craaazy is very tough and really needs 4 players.
Creating a good balance in your team is important for Garden Ops, I find a party of a sunflower, cactus and 2 pea shooters is the most effective way of playing. You can plant in pots around the garden you’re protecting and putting Dragon plants, Pea Gattlings and Heal flowers is the most effective way of playing. The boss waves are unsurprisingly the most difficult, a match three reel pops up and spins between different options of bosses or money bags, lucky people will get two money bags and only one boss to fight which obviously makes it easier, 3 money bags will give you a big coin boost but it will then re-roll.
Garden Ops is good fun although not as in depth as it could be, there’s also no zombie equivalent, perhaps they could have you trying to capture the gardens as zombies in a future update with AI plants defending an area? I don’t know, but it’s still good fun.
There is an optional boss mode that is akin to more regular Plants vs Zombies gameplay, in that which is done via Smartglass or on the console (Kinect controls are possible too) you catch sunlight and then once you have saved up enough you have four options: spotter radar to help you find enemies, heal/recovery/bombs are pretty self-explanatory, you have indicators for your teams mates on it which is helpful to decide what you’re going to use, it’s a night bonus but a bit difficult to manage at the same time as playing regularly and possibly a bit boring for a second person to sit there and do by themselves.
Popcap can make adjustments to the balancing of weapons and characters without issuing an actual patch for it which is good and I hope they make some changes because plants are a bit more powerful than Zombies. The peashooter attack chilli bean will kill pretty much anyone no matter how much health they have and other things like chomper burrowing are very difficult to get away from and some adjustments should be made to make sure its fair for both teams.
To increase your rank you need to increase your levels with the different characters, as you increase levels you need to complete more challenges which give you stars and after a certain amount of stars you level up and then you can rank up. In the latter levels there are rather a lot of challenges to complete but I’ve found them a fun addition and skip challenge cards found in stick packs are helpful.
There are 4 classes of both plants and zombies – plants have Peashooter (soldier), Sunflower (medic), chomper (close range), cactus (long-range) and zombies have similar classes: Foot soldier, Engineer, Scientist (medic), All-Star (powerful) of which each has 3 special abilities such as drones, healing, attack and defence focused choice of abilities.
The game uses sticker packs bought in various increments to get various boosters or customisation cards which have different uses. Some cards offer plants or zombies which can spawned on some game types in certain situations – pots can be planted with a gatling pea or others to aid in fighting enemies and zombies can bring other zombies from the ground to help them attack in their waves, it’s a nice addition to the game and you can get coins for the actions of your pots/zombies if they get a kill.
The sticker packs can also help you unlock customisation for your characters such as tattoos, hats, closing, facial hair which allows you to make them look unique but also probably to sell micro transactions down the line. There are also completely new skins for the characters to unlock such as frozen characters and others which need 5/6 pieces to completed which are collected through the sticker packs.
The game runs at 900p and 60fps on Xbox One, I can’t say I’ve noticed that it’s not 1080p native and I have also had no noticeable frame rate issues. The art style and graphics look really good to me and they’ve absolutely nailed the feel of Plants vs Zombies. For a game that can have 12 vs 12 multiplayer teams, Popcap did a great job technically, there’s no problems that I’ve noticed – except for the game using EA servers and even then I’ve not had lag in-game, just the usual issues connecting a few of times.
The DLC plan for Garden Warfare is similar to their Mass Effect 3 approach of release free maps and modes but later I suspect they will add micro-transactions to the game for buying coins to get sticker packs, which isn’t a great practice and I’d never buy them myself but I for a multiplayer only game if people want the choice of buying stuff with real money they should probably have that choice. Microtransactions issues arise when they’re integrated into the game in a way that is obtrusive to the player and makes them feel like they’re constantly being asked to buy them which is how people felt about Forza Motorsport 5, should they be added I hope its in a respectable way.
Conclusion – Definitely worth playing
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is a surprisingly good and compelling game that offers something a bit different from your average shooter. Popcap nailed every aspect of the game and I think it’s a good alternative to the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Titanfall and even Gears in the online multiplayer space. I hope that DLC will come thick and fast so it encourages players to continue going back to it.