Just crazy enough to Zomboss.
Popcap created a truly wonderful world in Plants Vs. Zombies and turning the game now more popularly known as a piece of mobile software into an explosive third-person shooter only further endeared me to the brand earlier this year. Playing the game on Xbox One offered the kind of fast-paced, action-oriented multiplayer mayhem I wanted on the system at launch even though Call of Duty and Battlefield had the genre largely covered since launch.
Revisiting the pirate ships, shopping centers, and mountainous paths that would eventually rest littered with the yard waste and zombified remains of thousands of souls, I wondered if more franchises and licenses would benefit from taking such a wild leap out of their supposed comfort zones. It’s the same phenomenon that keeps Mario simultaneously hogtied and shielded from critics and Nintendo fans alike. Newly available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare still offers the most readily available step towards “the core” of gaming today while maintaining a family friendly and approachable veneer that gives way to deep mechanics and interactivity.
I wasted no time in praising Garden Warfare’s ability to encourage out-of-the-box third-person combat between the different character classes and that element rings true as the best thing in the experience on PlayStation too. We were sent a review copy of the game on PlayStation 4 and the controls felt immediately familiar, though it seemed like the most intense gameplay moments slowed the frame rate slightly more on Xbox One. This was negligible as both platforms offer a great experience (note: I have not personally had the chance to play the PC version yet).
It’s still true that the best entertainment comes from teamwork and perseverance when up against a truly difficult team either on offense or defense. Gardens & Graveyards mode still offers the kind of semi-tactical combat where groups of players need to push into the objective gardens (or graveyards). Team Vanquish has solid spawns on each map and I never felt like the game failed to balance each side properly.
Family audiences will also feel like they might want to pick up the controller after getting hands-on with Boss Mode, which still offers the choice between controller or tablet-enabled overhead that can mean a team survives a particularly difficult Garden Ops wave or multiplayer assault. From our original review:
In addition to marking enemies, Boss Mode lets you drop healing stations, revive a teammate, or call in an airstrike to devastate retreating foes.
The plant team is made up of archetypal characters, essentially the first Plants you get in any PvZ game. The zombies are an entirely different breed. There’s the All-Star, a brutish zombie equipped with a football-launching minigun, a vicious charge-down attack, the aforementioned exploding fan imp, and deployable cover in the form of foam practice dummies. All-Star could lock down an entire area by himself, but variants cater to more specialized play styles as well.
Zombies also have Foot Soldier, a stable mid-range character not unlike the Peashooter except without splash damage. To balance against the drone-wielding Cactus, zombies get Engineer whose extremely visible butt crack will make it hard to focus on the reticle.
And then there’s Mad Scientist, who counterbalances Sunflower with healing stations of his own. The scuba diver variant comes complete with a dolphin gun that blasts deadly (and probably very smelly) fish guts. Mad Scientist can close distance with a teleport move, but ultimately your favorite character will come down to preferences. If you like hanging back, there’s a character for that. If you like diving into the thick of action (and probably not living very long at that) you’ll have an option as well.
While most gamers have probably already promised their money to other releases later this year, I’d still make the argument that Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare could be the single best software investment for next-gen console owners. With all the playtime, all the free updates, all the unique class-changing items, and the online community that will surely stick with the game post-launch you’d have trouble finding a game with much more to offer.
Copy provided by publisher. Review based on PS4 version. Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.