By Joe Strange
I’ve never been a big fan of the Plants Vs Zombies games, mostly because I’m not overly keen on tower defence games, and I’m just more of a single player/campaign kind of guy. So you can imagine that it was a big surprise when I really enjoyed the exclusively multiplayer Plants Vs Zombie: Garden Warfare.
Brought to you by PopCap (the developers of the original mobile and tablet games) and EA, PvZ:GW (which is actually more effort to write than the full title) is a 3rd person class based shooter in which the player takes the side of either the Zombies or the Plants by picking one of four different classes, each class has three special abilities and have other varieties that can be unlocked through the game’s sticker system.
On the plants’ team you have the Peashooter, a most typical ‘gunman’ who’s armed with a speed boost, a grenade style ‘bean bomb’ and a gatling gun ability which roots the plant to the spot but is quick and powerful.
The Cactus acts as a type of sniper, with a longer range than any other plant its abilities include a landmine style potato bomb, a blockade in the form of a walnut wall and a controllable drone that is capable of air strikes.
The ‘brawler’ of the plants is the Chomper, able to dig underground and one-hit kill other players the Chomper is deadly in close range but at the cost of no real ranged attack, the only caveat is the ‘goop’ that slows down zombies and speeds up digestion, which means the Chomper can get back to eating quicker.
The final member is the Sunflower, who acts very similar to the Team Fortress 2 medic, a heal beam allows the Sunflower to support its team, while a deployable potted plant allows the plant to heal itself. That being said, the sunflower isn’t a sitting duck and its sun beam is a great offensive tool, turning the plant into a stationary laser turret.
The Zombies have the Soldier who, not surprisingly, is the infantry of the undead. With a rocket jump, rocket launcher and gas grenade, the Soldier is mobile and deadly, able to get to higher places and rain rockets and gas clouds on the plants below.
Next up is the Engineer, like the Cactus this zombie has a drone as well, with its own kind of air strike. The Engineer also has a stunning grenade and the ability to move quickly on its jack-hammer, able to get away from the nasty Chompers below.
The Zombies’ healer is the Scientist, who can drop healing stations in key positions for the team to retreat to and heal up. The Scientist also has the use of sticky bombs as well as a ‘warp’ ability allowing him to get in and out of the action quickly.
The tank of the team is the All-Star, an American football zombie with a football firing minigun, a painful shoulder charge and an exploding Imp that he can kick in your general direction. The All-Star can also place training dummys to help protect the team and hinder the plants’ progression.
You might notice that while the individual abilities sound the same; the two drones, the dummies and the wallnuts, the bean bomb and the exploding imps, the classes aren’t carbon copies of one another. The scientist will last a lot longer in a firefight than a sun flower, while the Soldier works on chipping away health, compared to the Peashooter’s more ‘hit or miss’ approach. This means that getting to know each character is important, learning their strengths and weaknesses is paramount, and also part of the games’ appeal. Don’t assume that just because they have drones that the Cactus and the Engineer are meant for the same role.
While the game types are simple; deathmatch, capture the flag, as well as domination game types are all there, it’s the newer game types that give the variety. Because while deathmatches are good simple fun, and a great way to blow 10 minutes or so, they do grow stale.
That’s where Garden Warfare‘s Gardens and Graveyard game type comes in. The Zombies are tasked with taking an asset from the plants, but in their way are a series of Gardens where the plants can use their potted plants to help defend, while the Zombies can raise the dead to add to their horde.
Speaking of hordes, there’s also a horde mode design specifically for the Plants, Garden Ops sees four plants defending one garden against waves of AI controlled zombies.
On the surface this all seems like the norm for your average shooter, but where Garden Warfare really shines is in its levelling system. You’re given challenges to complete for each class, and to level up you need to complete a certain number of these challenges and each level after level 3 your character receives a sticker pack, which can contains consumables for Gardens Vs Graveyards, accessories to customise your characters or skill varieties and character pieces, (collect five and get a new class modification), so you really want to level up.
These challenges are a great new levelling system; they allow you to experience the game in different ways by giving you certain tasks; as a Peashooter you may have to destroy 3 healing stations, or as a Scientist you might have to kill 5 enemies in a match with your sticky bombs. You naturally try out different play styles and learn that there really is more to each class than there seems.
Of course the downside is that you can get sidetracked by them, spending your entire game hunting down Engineers instead of healing your team like a good Sunflower.
Wow, I’ve really rambled on this week, so a quick summary, Garden Warfare is a surprisingly deep and engaging multiplayer game that still has a large number of players online, and is definitely worth picking up if you can find it at a reduced price and if your multiplayer experience could do with a bit more colour and fun.
Come on, there’s only so many exo-mech-suited soldiers you can kill before you want to blow up a zombie linebacker with a potato. A POTATO.