Review by horror_spooky
The epic battle continues...
One of the better surprises at E3 2013 was the announcement made by EA and PopCap about the future of the Plants vs. Zombies series in the form of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Taking the tower defense game and turning it into a third person shooter was a move that no one saw coming, but it wound up being one of the more talked about games at the show, thanks to its quirkiness alone. Garden Warfare has since launched for Xbox One, and while there are a few questionable design decisions here and there, it's a mostly great shooter that should please the early Xbox One adopters.
Garden Warfare pits the plants and zombies against each other in third-person shooter action. Each team has a variety of classes that can play off each other very well if people actually take the time to play as a team. The lone wolf mentality of Call of Duty can still work here though, with the deathmatch style games featuring this style of play dominating the proceedings, which is perfectly fine because the shooting in Garden Warfare is so fun that you won't even care who wins.
That being said, there are definitely balance issues. It seems that plants win almost every single time, and I think it's because their abilities play off one another better than the zombies. The zombies have more health than the plants, but the plants are easier and more entertaining to use, you can upgrade them faster through other game modes, and they are simply more effective than the zombies most of the time.
I hardly cared about the balancing issues, though. The game is just weird as hell, and people that play it expecting for an ultra competitive experience are likely to be disappointed. But what's here is a quality shooter that features a variety of different game modes and a very addicting progression system combined with achievements that make this a highly replayable little package.
The game mode that was talked about the most is Garden Ops, which is a spin on the classic Plants vs. Zombies gameplay. This is a tower defense mode where the plants defending against waves of zombies, and it comes complete with the ability to plant other plants into flower pots to have them defend your base, similarly to the original Plants vs. Zombies games.
This mode is a fun little distraction, and the progress you make here translates to the versus multiplayer. It's a shame that the zombies do not have a game mode that is equal to Garden Ops, because it really does tip the odds in favor of the plants since the plants will have more abilities most of the time, at least in these early days of the game's life.
The split-screen in Garden Warfare is stupidly limited. Garden Ops is the only game mode that allows players to use split-screen, and even then the split-screen player is restricted from leveling up or earning new abilities. It pretty much makes the split-screen pointless, which is a shame because Garden Warfare could've been exponentially better if the split-screen was competent.
The best game mode is the standard team deathmatch, called Team Vanquish in this game. The maps are varied and very well designed. Seeing the Plants vs. Zombies art style translated into a 3D setting produces gorgeous results, with fantastic lighting and highly detailed and well animated character models. There's also an objective based game mode, but it is so stacked in favor of the plants and it drags on for so long that it is not really much fun at all...though that being said, it is good for grinding levels for plants.
The progression system is simple enough. Players can complete challenges to level up the plants and zombies and therefore earn new abilities, different characters for each class, and more. The player themselves has a separate rank, so you're basically leveling up like 10 different things at once, which is very rewarding and makes it so even when you've done badly in a game, you still feel like you've accomplished something and made progress.
Eventually microtransactions are going to be added to the game, but I don't think they're going to break anything or make it "pay to win". The game uses trading card packs that players can purchase using in-game currency (and eventually real world money) that give random boost cards, characters, and more. The money is earned without too much play time so that I don't think I'd ever be tempted to spend real money on this game, which I think is the best microtransaction model; the kind that is absolutely not intrusive to those not interested in spending more money and functional for those that just want to buy their way through to getting access to all of the game's content.
EA has had terrible luck with launching online multiplayer games with their last few releases, with the most notorious example being Battlefield 4, which has been an absolute nightmare for both EA and DICE. Luckily, I had zero problems playing Garden Warfare online. I never even so much as experienced lag, so it seems that EA is finally getting their stuff together when it comes to providing a competent and functional online experience for their games that feature online multiplayer.
With Titanfall right around the corner as of the time of this writing, I feel that Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is going to be criminally overlooked. The game is a great shooter that, while definitely in need of some tweaking to balance it better, makes for a breath of fresh air in a genre full of generic, boring military shooters.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare (US, 02/25/14)
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