Can anyone cast their minds back to when the Worms franchise turned all ‘next-gen’ and released their magnum opus: Worms 3D? I remember myself and my school-friends sunk hours into that little sucker back in 2005 – exploiting every inch of every map for the most satisfying and elaborate ways of murdering one other. I can’t help but sense that’s the sort of vibe PopCap games were aiming for with their new title, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. It takes a similar ‘next-gen’ leap, leaving behind its successful 2D roots to create fully realised 3D environments with a maintained focus on multiplayer mayhem.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the original Plants vs. Zombies games, whether they came pre-loaded on my new PC or downloaded to my phone via the iOS store. They were the perfect blend of tower defence gameplay, quirky humour and Angry Birds-level addictiveness. Never in a million years did I expect EA and PopCap games to make a jump onto our new consoles, or if at all – I didn’t expect it to come in the form of a strictly online, non-tower defence, multiplayer game. Now they’ve made this leap forward the question still remains… does it work?
To put it simply: it works incredibly well. The game is packaged in a way that resembles a tightly knit bit of indie DLC – such as Gotham City Impostors or Castle Crashers. It’s been crafted with love; an intricate bit of family-friendly game design expertly woven with no noticeable lag on the servers, large player vs. player matches and zero micro-transactions whatsoever.
Long time fans of the series may be slightly unnerved to know Garden Warfare primarily consists of two modes, neither of which are strictly tower defence. The closest you can come to battling waves of brain-loving zomboids is via the Garden Ops path. Similar to the popular Horde modes you’ve played before on Gears of War, Left 4 Dead or (more recently) Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark – Garden Ops has you group up with three other mates/strangers to fight increasingly difficult waves of undead moaners. It’s a nice mode that doesn’t tend to outstay its welcome – particularly seeing as series stalwart Crazy Dave pops up at the end to rescue you in hilarious fashion. Unless you’re pretty bad at the game (or partnered with a few cheeky trolls) you’ll tend to outlast the 10 waves every time, although I can’t tell if that’s because it’s an easy game designed for children, or if I’m just in beast mode… I’ll go with the latter.
If Garden Ops doesn’t take your fancy, you can hop online to take part in a variety of diverse multiplayer action. Each multiplayer mode is carefully considered and well balanced, ranging from the usual team deathmatch to the more inventive reiterations of modes like capture the flag. Gardens and Graveyards proved to be my favourite – a variation of team deathmatch that balances four plant and zombie types on each side. You can play as the iconic Sunflowers and Venus Zombie-traps – but it’s the grunt-like Peashooters and standard Zombies that you’ll find you spend much of your time with. You can level-up each class quite quickly, unlocking extra abilities for each Plant/Zombie as you go. Again I didn’t find the online modes particularly tricky, I was able to top the leaderboard on my first go and unlock an additional perk for my Zombie grunt. I couldn’t help but feel I was taking the game far too seriously – destroying the leaderboard with my modern maniacal competitiveness whilst simultaneously making fifteen children bawl their eyes out. Am I cruel? No, I’m a reviewer. Although yes, I’m cruel.
Graphically the game is comparable to many of the last-gen titles, however it’s very clean, simple and does a nice job of appealing to gamers of all ages. It’s not too cutesy or patronising and occasionally a zombie can take you by surprise from behind (that’s not a dirty metaphor) with a legitimate jump scare. It controls like a dream and despite being presented in third-person mode, you can use the LT to lock in and shoot precise bullets/peas/sunflowers rays etc. It’s a fairly simplistic arcade multiplayer title that plays like a dream and I for one am glad it exists on a next-gen title.
The game is currently extremely well priced and therefore I would encourage every next-gen owner to pick it up. It’s one of those timeless titles you’ll always have on your shelf; returning to again and again whenever you’re fed up of losing to adults on Call of Duty and in need of a gaming ego-boost. I suppose the real beauty of the game is that you never really know whether or not you’re playing a five-year old child or a thirty-five year old LARPer; it’s the beauty that keeps me returning to Garden Warfare most evenings (basically whenever I want to see my name at the top of a leaderboard).
Its universal appeal genuinely makes this a game for everyone, even the most hardcore of bloodbath gore-porn fanatics. If that sounds like you then never fear, you’ll be swapping grizzly intestines for pea-juice before you know it.