Plants vs. Zom­bies: Gar­den War­fare

Plants vs. Zom­bies: Gar­den War­fare finds fer­tile ground on­line.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Robert Hathorne

Sprawl­ing bat­tlescapes, the clat­ter of small arms, thun­der­ous mor­tar fire—all things we ex­pect from our Call of Du­tys and Bat­tle­fields, not so much from PopCap, cre­ator of Be­jew­eled and Peg­gle. Yet not only does Plants vs. Zom­bies: Gar­den War­fare de­liver the grandiose spec­ta­cle of com­bat en­demic to its block­buster cousins, it man­ages to take the modes, up­grade tracks and classes we’re fa­mil­iar with and make them feel fresh.

It is, how­ever, on­line-only. If your in­ter­net con­nec­tion drops, you won’t even be play­ing the menu screen. This also means there’s no co-op LAN play. Now onto the fun part.

Packed in the cen­ter of a crum­bling grave­yard pav­il­ion, my three co-op part­ners and I are barely cling­ing to life. The bug-eyed zom­bie on­slaught swells around us. Their orange road cone hel­mets and de­tached screen doors de­flect clip af­ter clip of green peas and elec­tri­fied cac­tus nee­dles. The gar­den we have to pro­tect is safe for now, perched atop a small knoll and sur­rounded by pot­ted de­fense plants such as Gatling Pea Shoot­ers and Bonk Choy melee tough guys who pum­mel any­thing in range. This is four player co-op mode, and on higher dif­fi­cul­ties, it hangs in there with the best ‘horde mode’ and third-person tower de­fense games.

PvZ’s great­est strength is va­ri­ety— in ev­ery­thing from char­ac­ter cus­tomiza­tion to its 11 maps. Plants and zom­bies have four char­ac­ter classes each and six vari­ants for each class, such as Dr Toxic, a Zom­bie Sci­en­tist in a haz­mat suit whose ra­di­a­tion gun causes dam­age over time. Add the vari­ant on ev­ery class’s three spe­cial abil­i­ties and hun­dreds of cos­metic items, and ev­ery match be­comes a new spec­ta­cle of goofy scenes and team com­po­si­tions.

You get pal­try four game modes in which to ex­press that va­ri­ety. Four player co-op, 24-player team death­match, cap­ture/de­fend, and Gnome Bomb, where teams must lo­cate a bomb and de­stroy three en­emy bases be­fore the en­emy. One ben­e­fit of so few modes is that I never had trou­ble find­ing a full or near-full match. I also ex­pe­ri­enced only slight and very in­fre­quent lag.

In cap­ture/de­fend, the zom­bies must cap­ture seven lo­ca­tions in se­quence in the al­lot­ted time while the plants try to de­fend them. These matches are chaotic from the start and it’s not un­com­mon to die and res­pawn more than once per minute. Though team­work may im­prove as the com­mu­nity ma­tures, it’s min­i­mal in these early days af­ter launch, and voice chat is mostly used for trash talk. That said, bat­tles are still won by the team that out­co­op­er­ates the other and makes the most of the class sys­tem’s sur­pris­ingly com­plex rhythm.

This is a game I’m go­ing to be play­ing with my friends months from now. So if (and that’s a big ‘if’) you’ve got the in­ter­net con­nec­tion and the stom­ach for nasty DRM, Gar­den War­fare is a no-brainer.

Some­times salad isn’t the safe choice.

PvZ has an eye-in-the-sky role like Bat­tle­field. It’s not fun.

These dead folks are re­mark­ably ag­ile.

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