Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare review

Popcap targets the big time with this team-based third person shooter

What is a hands on review?
Image 1 of 4 Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Image 2 of 4 Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Image 3 of 4 Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Image 4 of 4 Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

For

  • Very playable
  • Gentle good humour
  • Solid ideas

Against

  • A little boring
  • No 'wow' factor
  • Lightweight for price

While all eyes are on Titanfall, a rather different kind of shooter is about to sneak in the back door. But will Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare hold your interest past March 11th?

On paper, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare sounds like a really horrible idea. PopCap’s superb tower defence game that pitted horticultural weaponry against undead incompetents was absolutely sublime when it was first released as a PC game and it went on to conquer tablets, smartphones and even consoles. So why would the developer want to ruin it by turning it into a third-person-shooter?

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare: Plot

Short answer: because the result would be absolutely hilarious and presumably heaps of fun to play. We say ‘presumably’ because we weren’t allowed to play it. Like so many games at this year’s E3, PVZ: Garden Warfare wasn’t available for hands-on. Instead we were treated to a brief demo in which the action on screen was explained to us by one of the developers.

Announced for Xbox One and Xbox 360 (and later coming to PC), the game looked like boisterously enjoyable. The mode on show was a riff on the Gears Of War Horde mode in that it involved defending a base from a neverending wave of attackers who increased in strength as time went on. In it, the player was tasked with planting a garden that would spread to the doorstep of the zombie’s brokendown mansion HQ.

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare: Characters

Once the seeds were in the ground, things got real, real fast. Hordes of zombies started lumbering into view and it was up to the player – in this instance the bloke in charge of the demo – to repel them. To that end he deployed four different plants to defend his flag, which players of the original game will recognise instantly – even if the way in which they handle is markedly different in Garden Warfare.

First up, the Peashooter, which was the pea-projectile-slinging stalwart of the original PVZ, has been re-imagined here as a run-and-gun footsoldier. Its primary attack is still a hurled pea, but it’s also capable of hurling an exploding chilli bomb or rapid-fire root at enemies.

Xbox One: Games we want to play right now

The Chomper is now a close-quarters hack ‘n slash character, capable of covering enemies in goo that slows them down and deploying trap plants. The Cactus is a sniper while the Sunflower is a medic. Popcap has worked hard to adapt its horticultural characters to the shooter format and shockingly enough it works!

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare: Presentation

The main reason for this isn’t just the mechanics, although, to be fair they’re the engine room driving all efforts here. But what sells PVZ: Garden Warfare is its visuals, which remain as button-cute as they were in the original tower defence game.

The game’s writers deserve a nod too, because they’ve maintained the trademark humour that’s been apparent in this series throughout. When the first Boss Battle emerges in the form of a Disco Zombie, players are likely to laugh as much at its badly executed attempt at the splits as they are at the fact that its main attack is to swing a disco ball at enemies.

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare: Verdict

The most mind-blowing aspect about Garden Warfare is that if it didn’t exist, there’d be no reason to invent it. The original PVZ was perfect across all the platforms it was released on. And yet after just fifteen minutes of watching Popcap’s new shooter, we’re actively disgruntled that only one mode has been shown.

We know that there’s a campaign and we know there’s a mode in which we can play on the side of the zombie horde. And we want to play them now. Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare looks so good it’s enough to transform cynical adults into petulant children. And we mean that as a compliment.

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare release date: Spring 2014

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare price: TBC

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.