PopCap Games are not known for their cash-ins. While they are clearly fans of the in-app purchase their products are largely considered to offer value-for-money and their sequels show genuine improvement. Publisher Electronic Arts however, is famed for their annual franchises and extortionate pricing of micro-transactions. Somewhere in the middle we find ourselves at Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare; a videogame that reeks of marketing men persuasion while still providing an interesting expansion of the Plants vs. Zombies formula.
For the uninitiated, Plants vs. Zombies is a widely respected tower defence videogame. Though it was far from being the first of its ilk, the original Plants vs. Zombies revitalised the genre both in terms of ruleset and popularity. It was a landmark title, and though Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare will never be able to claim that it made such an impression on the videogame landscape it remains an enjoyable piece of fan service. There’s no harm in simply being fun after all.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare plays on the established rules of the Plants vs. Zombies universe. Players take direct control of the characters that they would normally embed into the ground with combat and defensive abilities that reflect those of the original videogame. Each of the four plant classes has a basic attack and three special abilities (unlocked through a small amount of progress) plus upgrades that become available later (unlocked through a more significant amount of progress). The basic peashooter has a medium range and steady rate of fire, while sunflowers have the ability to heal themselves or others. The other available classes compliment this variety and having a good mixture of abilities is vital for progression through the waves of enemies.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a bit of a one-trick pony in this regard. Its single-player gameplay is effectively online co-operative without any teammates. You can play offline in split-screen but only with two players, leaving you weakened from the start. Exactly the constraints exist to divide on- and offline co-operative modes is not known, but it’s obvious that the experience is weaker because of it.
The co-operative modes offer only playable plants and a maximum of four players as you attempt to defend your home garden from waves of zombies. The competitive multiplayer however, throws playable zombies into the mix. Here the videogame takes on a form not too dissimilar to the multiplayer component of Conker: Live & Reloaded, which is no bad thing. Up to twenty four players can compete in a single match of equal team sizes, typically in team deathmatch (though other gameplay modes are available). It plays exactly as this explanation suggests, and yet there’s more to it than that. It’s more enjoyable than the multiplayer modes in Tomb Raider or Mass Effect 3 – which is a start for a third-person shooting experience – and while this may not be due to superior design, there is clearly a degree of balancing here that is not present in many similar titles.
The visual quality of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare isn’t exactly astonishing but the customisation aspect of the videogame is interesting. It’s item collection system, which entails purchasing virtual packets of trading cards, does suggest some further monetisation down the road, but at present the videogame is without micro-transactions and is reasonably generous with it’s unlocks. Given that it’s also been brought to retail as a mid-price title, there’s very little to argue with.