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