Last week, PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES came to consoles as PLANTS. VS. ZOMBIES: GARDEN WARFARE - currently an XBOX exclusive, although multiple indications persist that the title will make its way to PS4 and PC in the not too distant future. My XBOX ONE review copy arrived over the weekend, hence this report is slightly delayed, but I wanted to take a few moments to tell you about it all the same.
It’s fun. Sometimes, it’s a lot of fun.
In short, GARDEN WARFARE transitions the previously established PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES universe into the world of third-person combat shooters, ala CALL OF DUTY or BATTLEFIELD. Players on either side of the tumult can revive fallen comrades during combat and increase one’s score exponentially.
Like other on-line shooters, both plants and zombies features characters with unique abilities which can be upgraded and expanded upon over time: one plant...
...burrows under the ground (you guide it), popping up to bite the head off a zombie…who may or may not have tossed this game’s equivalent of grenades at you in an effort to blast you from the ground and smite you beforehand. The same plant subsequently develops an immobilizing ooze which incapacitates prey, allowing for easier consumption of the dazed undead.
Another plant, a Sunflower,...
...ultimately develops an intense and dangerous cutting beam which fries pretty much anything in its path. A third plant (a cactus)...
...is more of less the long-distance sniper - these shots are often tough, but they work wonders. Amongst the zombies, there’s a scientist who offers an ability to teleport short distances...
...a football player who can gather steam for a sudden burst of velocity forward...
...jet/jump packs are also thrown into the mix, and both sides sport an array of traps and devices (ground and aerial) to complicate life for opponents.
While the PvZ brand is all over the place here, this online experience is very much like the aforementioned CALL OF DUTY and BATTLEFIELD (to a lesser degree) - but infinitely more colorful and cartoony, and roundly more mental. This is a twisted, Looney Toons, Matt Groening version of online shooters - and if one can accept its quirky proclivities, the game works very well.
And herein lies a necessary qualification: despite the change in overall PvZ in formatting here, the in design and tone of PvZ verse still remains hugely evident (even down to the franchise’s iconic theme music). However, in gameplay, this game is wildly disparate from what many established PvZ fans may be hoping or expecting to find: as an avid player of console players…and as someone who had admittedly limited experience with PvZ titles beforehand…I had no trouble adapting to this particular title’s universe or mechanics. However, a few non-console players I know who played previous PvZ games on iPhones and whatnot? Had no clue what to do with this, and did not feel compelled to learn. So, unless you’re a full-on console player, you may find PvZ: GW frustrating: its familiarity might seem tantalizingly with reach, but frustratingly alien all at once. In short: it often feels geared for a different audience than its title might suggest on first impression. Consider this a re-interpretation of the franchise rather than an effort to port it to consoles. This isn’t a criticism as far as I’m concerned - just a heads up.
It’s also worth mentioning that PvZ: GARDEN WARFARE is a multiplayer/online-only title. Like the soon-to-be-released TITANFALL (also on XBOX ONE), there is no single player/campaign mode here. While I begrudgingly anticipated this trend some time ago, I hope it doesn’t take too strong a foothold. Sometimes, online gameplay simply can’t match the more relaxing solace one might find working through a single-player campaign. That’s not a slight against this game, as much as a lamentation of current and potential trends.
A consistently fun title with many moments of humor, cleverness, and even beauty (approaching the tangle of plants and zombies blasting the crap out of each other can be strangely, compellingly beautiful at times), PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES: GARDEN WARFARE is now available for download over XBOX Live, can be found physically in stores, or is available HERE.