Plants Vs Zom­bies: Gar­den War­fare

360, PC, Xbox One

EDGE - - PLAY - Pub­lisher EA De­vel­oper PopCap Games For­mat 360, PC, Xbox One (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now (360, Xbox One), spring (PC)

To help while away time spent wait­ing in the lobby for the next spot of Gar­den War­fare to be­gin, PopCap has pro­vided a dis­trac­tion in the form of col­lectible stick­ers. These blind packs are ac­quired with cred­its earned in the main game and pro­vide you with in-game perks, such as vari­ants on the base classes, cus­tomi­sa­tion items, and an ar­ray of plants (or zom­bies) to as­sist you in the more tower-de­fence-fo­cused modes. It’s snappy, mor­eish and im­me­di­ately grat­i­fy­ing; all char­ac­ter­is­tics the main game fails to pos­sess.

Which is es­pe­cially dis­ap­point­ing given that, aside from a few LOD wob­bles, Gar­den War­fare sure looks the part. PopCap’s charm­ing 2D cast has made the leap to 3D al­most en­tirely un­scathed, and these bright, chunky worlds could have sprung from Nin­tendo’s imag­i­na­tion. You’ll have plenty of time to study them, given the gla­cial pace at which you’re forced to move. Some of the as­sem­bled troops can briefly move faster by us­ing one of their abil­i­ties – the Sci­en­tist, for ex­am­ple, has a short-range tele­port move, while the Peashooter can be­come ‘hy­per’ for a short time – but this only makes it all the more ag­o­nis­ing when you’re forced to wait out the cooldown pe­riod be­fore be­ing able to travel at speeds that re­ally should have been the de­fault.

Char­ac­ters not blessed with the ex­tra puff to break into a run must make do with their own be­spoke set of three abil­i­ties. The Cac­tus, whose main strength is pick­ing off tar­gets from a dis­tance with its nee­dles, can place Potato Mines and Tall­nut walls to cre­ate deadly bot­tle­necks, and its Gar­lic Drone can pro­vide air sup­port with airstrikes and an on­board can­non (the zom­bie En­gi­neer has a ro­botic equiv­a­lent). The Sun­flower, mean­while, can es­tab­lish a heal­ing beam link with nearby al­lies, de­ploy heal­ing pot­ted sun­flow­ers or root it­self to the ground and fire a dam­ag­ing sun­beam.

While the as­sign­ment of sprint­ing and even grenades to only cer­tain classes feels a shade too con­trived, the mix of abil­i­ties is still appealingly com­ple­men­tary, and suc­cess­ful team­work is both ex­plic­itly en­cour­aged and sat­is­fy­ing. The lan­guorous pace that makes it so frus­trat­ing to re­turn to the fray in Team Death­match is some­what al­le­vi­ated in Gar­den Ops and Gar­dens And Grave­yards, both twists on tower de­fence that more ag­gres­sively lo­calise the ac­tion.

Sadly, any gains made here are squan­dered by woolly con­trols, a dearth of feed­back and in­fu­ri­at­ing in­ac­cu­racy even with aim­ing as­sist di­aled up to max­i­mum. There’s the seed of some­thing much greater in PopCap’s first foray into team shoot­ers, but it’s telling that the el­e­ments that most closely re­sem­ble the se­ries’ 2D out­ings are the ones that fare best.

When scoped, char­ac­ters ob­scure a huge por­tion of the screen, a prob­lem only wors­ened when you in­tro­duce the large hats found in sticker packs. Keep­ing tabs is al­ready dif­fi­cult thanks to the busy weapon ef­fects

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