Ok, so saying that the childish-looking Plants vs Zombies game, Garden Warfare, is the “best shooter ever” might be a bit subjective, but I’m not the only one adult with that line of thinking. Sprinkled all over the internet are almost apologetic expressions of this same sentiment from experienced gamers–that is, by older teens or adults. But Game reviewers are less shy in praising Garden Warfare:
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare’s bright colors, cartoon graphics and humorous approach are the antithesis of most . . . shooters. But don’t be fooled. It’s as good as any out there – and very likely an awful lot more fun. (Jaz Rignall at USGamer.net)
William Schwartz at AttackoftheFanboy.com also approves:
Garden Warfare is more deliberate, and involves more strategy than you would think, considering its cartoon exterior. Digging into the different characters and the different special abilities for each, there’s a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay.
What exactly is Garden Warfare (PvZ)?
Garden Warfare, rated “E” (everyone), is a third-person shooter—meaning that you see the back of your character as you blast away (a possible down-side being that the right-of-center site makes aiming less intuitive). It’s populated by cute, weird, and often hilarious characters in seriously well crafted and fun environments. There are 11 maps and two game modes, Garden Ops and Multiplayer. In Garden Ops, up to four plants (players) defend their garden against game-generated zombies in one of six maps; the hosting player chooses from “easy” to “craaazy!” levels of play. (After attempting to complete the “craaazy!” level, my son sheepishly said that is was harder to get through than Dark Souls.) You gain significant bonuses for finishing Garden Ops alone or with one other person.
There are a variety of multiplayer modes to choose from, including Gardens & Graveyards, which is played on four maps unique to that mode, and quirky games like Gnome Bomb and Taco Bandits. Most multiplayer modes accommodate 24 players (two teams of 12 each) simultaneously, and playing alongside an online friend got easier with a post-release update.
“PvZ” is short for the “Plants vs Zombies” game series, which Garden Warfare is oddly a part of. I say oddly—and the gaming world was taken by surprise too—because Plants vs Zombies has always been more like a live-action board game. This new shooter, Garden Warfare, is a whole new thing, and its seemingly childish exterior dares to compete with the “big boys” of shooters like the Call of Duty (COD) and Battlefield series. The thing is, though the characters are cute, they’re neither baby cute nor akin to Disneyesque melodrama. Even the artificial intelligence of the game-generated zombies (“NPCs” in gaming lingo) is of surprisingly high quality.
After playing Garden Warfare since its release in February 2014, I am still delighted over: the way the plants’ “feet” move; the cactus’ stilted swivel movement as it walks and how it crouches stone-like when using its drone (and its eyes still move!); the pea shooter’s big puppy eyes and “ears;” and the contradiction that is the flower. Flowers make heart-warming little innocent and feminine sounds, but can do so while looking like a nightmare. The flower can look like a nightmare and the cactus can look like your eccentric aunt or uncle through the very wide range of customizations you can add to your characters.
Garden Warfare characters and customizations
I already mentioned three of the four plant types: Pea Shooter, Cactus, and Flower. There’s another “man eating” plant, too, called the Chomper. As of this writing, each of these four basic types has seven or eight specialized subtypes, or variants; Garden Warfare has fairly frequent, and free, down loadable content (DLCs, or “expansions”) that may add variants and customizations. The same is true of the zombie classes, making a current total of 67 characters available for play.
Let’s take the cactus as an example. The subtypes of cactus are: Fire, Ice, Power (electric), Future, Camo, Bandit, Citrus and Jade. Each character starts off with three basic but upgradable abilities, and there are three additional unlockable abilities. The cactus currently has 204 customizations to choose from. So, multiplying the nine Cactus characters by the number of customizations, we come up with a total of 1,836 variations. When taking all possible characters into account, there are a whopping 13,000+ variations. The characters, their upgrades and all their characterizations, are found or unlocked through “sticker packs” (the virtual rendition of those baseball or Pokemon “trading” packs bought in real stores). These are obtained by using the coins won in-game, although you can use really money to buy virtual coin for use at the sticker shop. Just a note: one character from the original game cannot be unlocked until a character reaches level 10.
Should you play it?
If you already like shooters, then why not? If you don’t like shooters or are unfamiliar with them, you could be in for some surprising fun. I was never interested in the shooters my son plays, but Garden Warfare was certainly different so I challenged myself to try it. After practicing in Garden Ops for a while, I gained enough confidence to start playing the bedlam that is multiplayer. I found Gardens & Graveyards mode to be especially fun. That mode yields a lot of pay-out, too, which means you can buy sticker packs quickly to satisfy your craving for new customizations! The price is right since Garden Warfare costs less than the typical video game, and additional game content has so far been free. It is now available for all consoles and PC, too. As long as you don’t try the “El Bano Taco” advertised in the Garden Center, you should have a great time! And, for Christians, it’s as clean and inoffensive as any entertainment can be today. For a good laugh, check out the trailer below.
Garden Warfare hilarity (official trailer).
This article is an edited and updated version of Garden Warfare (PvZ): The Best Shooter Ever, previously published at the now defunct Yahoo! Voices.