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Rating: +12 (from 14 votes)

Sometimes games take themselves too serious. Multiplayer shooters in particular are guilty of this. With the rare exception of a game like Team Fortress 2 or Battlefield Heroes, most online shooters are hard to get in to and hard to love. Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare takes the road less traveled and attempts a lighter hearted and colorful spin on this competitive genre and comes off surprisingly well. Does this undead flower fight have staying power or will it shamble off into the night?

The main modes of play are multiplayer online combat, either in Vanquish mode (basically team-based deathmatch) or Gardens and Graveyards (a capture and defend variant). Vanquish matches are short first-to-50-kills affairs between teams of plants and zombies. It’s also my most played mode so far since matches don’t last that long and the quick respawn times make for non-stop action. Gardens and Graveyards are more stressful with a timer counting down putting constant pressure on the attacking zombies. In Gardens and Graveyards zombies have to assault a series of gardens, beating the plants back to a final stand with a unique goal, such as taking down a giant sunflower.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare

The only other mode is Garden Ops, which reminds me a lot of Dungeon Defenders as a 4-player, co-op tower defense mode. Playing either solo or co-op (split screen or online) you plant your garden in one of three locations on the map before holding off 10 waves of zombies, with a few boss waves mixed in. Bosses range from the giant Gargantuar to the dancing Disco Zombie, each requiring some real effort to take down. If you survive all ten waves, you than have to run across the map to Crazy Dave’s flying RV to evacuate, Titanfall-style. Garden Ops has some challenges that are nigh impossible to handle solo, such as the bomb zombie, which hurts the mode for those who want to play alone. Of course, that’s not the market Popcap was targeting so concessions like that are to be expected.

As you play you earn coins that can be spent on one of several sticker packs. Each level of pack (for increasing costs) includes some mix of minion zombies/potted plants, cosmetic pieces for your characters and pieces for unlocking new character variants like the Dark Sunflower or Ice Pea Shooter. Some variants are primarily cosmetic while others change the play style of the class. The aforementioned minion zombies and potted plants are AI controlled characters that are able to be summoned or planted in Garden Ops and Gardens and Graveyards modes. The plants can be placed in pots scattered around the map to defend choke points and the zombies can be spawned at key points after which they shamble towards the map’s garden, and both are limited in quantity based on how many you’re earned through sticker packs. Thankfully the cheapest sticker pack includes strictly summonable minions so they’re easy to keep in stock.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare

The graphics aren’t that technically impressive but are attractive and make good use of color and light to bring the world to life. The environments are clean yet sparse with a surprisingly level of destructibility, and the character models fit the series’ signature art style to a tee. The sounds are also classic Plants vs Zombies, especially the musical score.

One of my primary complaints is the aiming reticule being centered on the screen but up and right from your avatar, which sometimes makes it hard to aim since it feels like you’re always aiming up and right of where you should be shooting. I would prefer either the character to be centered horizontally or the aiming reticule to be closer to the character. Stability is also an issue, as the online servers have crashed on me a number of times mid-match, costing me coins and experience.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is surprisingly fun. The action is fast and easy to control, and the friendlier aesthetic makes it a good family game. The classes aren’t as balanced as they could be and the aiming still gives me trouble, but I’ll be playing this long after this review is posted, and I’d recommend this to both Plants vs Zombies fans with an interest in shooters and casual shooter fans. Those who need their maturity validated by something gritty like Gears of War will probably be unimpressed, but for those of us who are not afraid of bright colors, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is a good time.

Final Score

7.5

Pluses:

Minuses:

+ Good, fast-paced action

+ Attractive graphics

– Aiming reticule could be better

– Server stability is suspect

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