Reviewed on Xbox One
Garden Warfare has a relatively complex class system with all unique classes and abilities on each side. Despite the asymmetry, neither plants nor zombies feels advantaged in any of the three game modes, and it’s easy to jump into. Every class has only three abilities, and each is introduced with short and fun animated tutorial videos as they quickly unlock. So if you have a hunch that the pure-melee chomper class is for you, you only need to play a couple of matches to know for sure.
Of the three modes available, two are pretty standard shooter fare. Team Vanquish is your standard 24-player deathmatch mode, where the first to 50 kills wins. Similar to the ticket system in the Battlefield games, reviving a downed teammate in Garden Warfare subtracts a point from the enemy’s score, which encourages teamwork. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of times I was brought back from the dead without even needing to ask.
Gardens and Graveyards is an attack and defend mode with series of gardens that the zombies need to overtake before time runs out. It's fine, if a bit standard, but the best part is that the final round is always a unique activity like destroying the roots of a giant sunflower lighthouse or getting five zombies into a highly defensible mansion. It’s even more hectic and difficult than the previous stages, and it feels like a finale instead of just an ending. Driving home the last few shots on a final target just before dying is super satisfying.
The last mode is more distinctive, and the closest thing to the original Plants vs Zombies tower defense gameplay. It’s a horde-like survival mode, which is you and up to three other friends against computer-controlled zombie enemies. It’s also the only mode you can play in split-screen. You must build and protect a garden from increasingly powerful waves of zombies. The garden can be planted in various places, which is great for replayability because it doesn’t feel like you’re always stuck in one area of a map.
Flowerpots are littered around the map, and in them you can plant several kinds of plants. Certain combinations work better than others against a given zombie type, and it’s satisfying to figure out which flowers work best against which enemies. The tricky and fulfilling part is rearranging your defenses based on which type of wave you’re fighting. The engineer zombies can teleport right past your pots, so long-range attackers would be more useful, for example. For slower zombies, a fire and ice combination works wonders. It requires coordination of all players involved, and pairing abilities together pays off.
Packs also contain accessories to customize your classes. It’s a simple addition, but it’s satisfying to unlock new glasses, mustaches, and other cosmetic bits to make your characters more personalized.
- +Charming characters
- +Fun modes
- +Solid shooting
- +Good map design
- –Limited split screen