Everyone loves Plants vs. Zombies.
It’d be easy to assume that there are only a small percentage of people who are interested in both the casual tower defence game Plants vs. Zombies and more hardcore shooters like Battlefield.
But PvZ game developer PopCap seems to transcend boundaries that are normally strictly drawn between casual games and serious gamers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered that my hardcore gamer friends love Peggle - I even took part in a Peggle tournament at a BarCraft event once. Let me reiterate that: at freaking BarCraft.
Why is almost every PopCap game a smash hit, even amongst the snobs? Because the company takes a look at proven mechanics and well-treaded ground and says, “We can do that simply, cleanly, and broaden the appeal.”
Which is exactly what they’ve done with Garden Warfare.
PopCap’s latest creation, a multiplayer, class-based third-person shooter which predictably pits various different types of plants against hordes of different zombies, has the shortest learning curve of any shooter I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. That’s not to say there isn’t more to unlock and discover as you play, but rather that every time you discover a new ability you can pick up how to use it as quickly as you can press a button.
There’s no campaign in Garden Warfare, just a series of game modes which are all designed for multiplayer (although there is one game mode, Garden Ops, that can be played solo). Garden Ops is a horde mode, wherein you play only as plants holding off waves of AI zombie opponents who are trying to attack a base - pretty much the same horde mode you’ve played in many, many other shooters. It’s fun, but not as great as when you get to play against real people.
In multiplayer mode, you play as either plants or zombies. Both sides have several different classes that are familiar in many ways - medics and heavies and soldiers, oh my! - but each one is drastically simplified and, because of the art and subject matter, sublimely ridiculous. Both plants and zombies have extra abilities that can be unlocked by completing goals and earning stars. Most of the goals are fairly easy - you might have to use an ability four times - but as you level up your plant or zombie they get a tad more difficult.
When you’re playing competitive multiplayer there are two main game modes - Team Vanquish, wherein two teams fight to get to 50 kills before the other, and Gardens and Graveyards, which is a capture-the-point game mode. As zombies, you try to take a series of points from the plants. As plants, you do everything you can to defend those points.
As you play, you earn coins. These coins can be used to buy different booster packs which will unlock summonable plants and zombies that help you fight, and also help you to unlock extra characters. These extra characters are all some variation on the existing eight characters - Peashooter, Sunflower, Cactus, Chomper, Foot Soldier, All-Star, Engineer, Scientist. Unlockable characters are generally more powerful, however.
That might seem a bit unfair on newbies who are just getting into the game - those who have played a while could be pretty OP - but if you’re struggling to keep up, there are ‘classic’ versions of the two game modes which don’t feature any customisations or unlockables.
Clearly I loved Garden Warfare, so what’s it’s problem? PC gamers will not be surprised by the answer: the problem is Origin. In order to play any game mode at all in Plants vs. Zombies - even if you’re playing solo - you have to have an Origin account and be logged into it. It’s not so hard if you just need to sign up, but if you already have an Origin account you can’t connect it to your Xbox Live account from your console. Annoyingly, you have to do it from your PC. Of course, the game doesn’t actually tell you this.
It took probably half an hour to get over that hurdle and actually start playing the game. Classic EA, huh?
This is going to seem strange, but my other main concern with Garden Warfare is that it may be cannibalised by coming out so close to the release date for Titanfall. In my experience people tend to play one multiplayer game at a time, and let’s be real here: for almost every Xbox One owner that multiplayer game is going to be Titanfall, probably for some time.