Also On: PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: PopCap Games
Medium: Blu-ray DIsc/Digital
Somewhat surprisingly I actually disagree with one of our previous reviews here on Gaming Age. Aaron gave Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare for the Xbox One/Xbox 360 a “C” grade when it was released back in April, describing the game as being a third person shooter which is “perhaps too casual” and uncompetitive. I understand his reasoning there, though after spending a solid amount of time with the recently released PS4 version of Garden Warfare, I found myself enjoying the game precisely due to those very traits. In a world of hyper competitive shooters and gamers who apparently can play these games 24/7, it’s nice to be able to enjoy a multiplayer shooter experience without feeling constantly outgunned and under-ranked. So with a colorful, humorous theme and accessible gameplay, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare certainly fills that niche and scratches that itch.
Plants vs Zombies is a unique, family friendly IP so it was actually nice to see that PopCap Games was able to think outside the tower defense box and successfully devised a way to repackage it as an action shooter. That’s not to say that Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has left behind its strategy roots (pun intended), because thanks to a few gameplay twists, they still do exist to an extent.
Garden Warfare is first and foremost a multiplayer shooter. There’s no story or single player campaign, although at least one mode, Garden Ops, can be played solo. The Garden Ops mode is designed for co-op (2-4 players online, 1-2 offline) and is most similar to the traditional PvZ experience which puts gamers in the role of the plants trying to defend their garden from waves of zombies. The core gameplay mechanic revolves around fairly straightforward 3rd person shooting action with a few of the more well-known PvZ plants including Peashooter, Sunflower, Chomper and Cactus. Each of the plants have their own special abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and they all can be ranked up and decked out in some rather amusing attire and gear. The controls are fairly typical and easy to pick up with the ability to shoot/attack, jump and let loose a trio of rechargeable, character-specific special moves. The horde-style waves of zombies don’t go down without a fight in Garden Ops and are far more crafty and strategic then they are in the tower defense titles.
Beyond Garden Ops, most gamers will likely spend a majority of their time with the proper competitive and team-based multiplayer modes in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. There’s an adequate variety of game types, stages and options, and the matches generally support up to 24 players in total. Players joining a multiplayer game are split up amongst the plants and zombies depending on the mode, game type and whatnot. Like their leafy counterparts, the zombie characters are broken into classes and feature the same level of customization, progression and unique special abilities. The gameplay is essentially the same as a plant or a zombie and it’s honestly difficult to choose which side is more fun to play as.
If you have a PS Vita, Android or iOS device with the PlayStation App installed you can assist your team by taking control of the battlefield from above using Crazy Dave’s RV or the Zomboss blimp. From this “Boss Mode” (which can also be played from the console) you can rain down attacks on the enemy or call for support for your own team. It’s not a terribly deep addition, but it’s not a bad way to take a break from the action and mix up the matches a bit.
By playing matches and completing objectives, players can earn coins and purchase sticker packs which unlock a cache of helper plants or zombies with special abilities that can be planted in pots or summoned from dirt mounds scattered around the environment. Coins can also be spent on a variety of goofy gear for your customized plant and/or zombie characters.
The PS4 version features enhanced 1080p visuals and pretty much all the available DLC updates and modes including some exclusive PlayStation-branded in-game accessories. It’s not the most technically impressive PS4 game out there, but it’s colorful, smooth and well animated, and overall enjoyable to look at. Most of the PvZ trademark music, sound effects and voices are present and accounted for.
If you have totally avoided the Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts or other similar hardcore multiplayer shooter experiences and/or have been looking for a fun, accessible and less violent alternative, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is definitely worth a look.