Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare review

  • Whimsical, charming visuals
  • Ample amount of unlockable content
  • Strong core gameplay
  • Some classes feel overpowered
  • Not enough multiplayer maps

Changing genres mid-franchise is a tough sell, especially when you're taking a popular series and saying "screw it, we're making it a shooter!" Popcap's Plants vs. Zombies is the latest to make the leap, and arguably the strangest example yet; Garden Warfare outright ditches the tactical gameplay of the original for large-scale multiplayer gunfights. No longer are you planting Bonk Choy and standing back as it clobbers zombies--you're in the thick of it, firing peas from your pea shooter mouth and sniping zombies with the Cactus's long-range shots. And though there are some strange design decisions and balance issues, the resulting shooter is charming, enjoyable, and wholly worthy of the Plants vs. Zombies name.

Whereas the PvZ of the past was a lightweight tower defense series, Garden Warfare is a class-based third-person shooter, with plants and zombies going to war in suburban areas with guns, seeds, rockets, and petals. It's a much more action-oriented experience, obviously, but the core of the franchise--the delightful struggle between plants and zombies--is pleasantly intact, and held up by strong core gameplay that's enjoyable in its lunacy.

Garden Warfare lacks a single-player campaign of any kind, instead doubling down on a trio of cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes. Each dips into the same five rural levels, repurposed to scratch a different multiplayer itch, and though none are all that outstanding, they're enjoyable in their own right. Vanquish (Team Deathmatch) and Gardens & Graveyards (Control Point/Rush Mode) are polished and engaging, and take advantage of the idiosyncrasies of the PvZ universe in 12-on-12 battles. While Vanquish doesn't deviate from the team deathmatch archetype, G&G allows the vegetation side to defend its points with potted plants, while the zombies can spawn undead AI to help swarm the enemy's gardens. This minor change makes the already large-scale battles feel even more massive, and gives you additional control over the mayhem.

Microtransactions, incoming?

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare feels like a game that could easily be exploited with microtransactions--the ability to buy the in-game currency would speed up the process of unlocking things significantly. At launch this isn't an option, but even if it gets added I wouldn't worry too much. The new gear isn't game breaking as far as I can tell, and people who spend money to get cosmetic stuff (if that is even an option at any point) will actually be robbing themselves out of the inherent joy of opening booster packs.

Garden Ops flies closest to traditional Plants vs. Zombies gameplay, with a team of four plants fighting off increasingly difficult waves of zombies and battling the occasional boss wave. Sure, it's just Gears' increasingly prevalent Horde mode, but the premise translates perfectly into the PvZ universe. Though it lacks the scale of the 24-player skirmishes, the more intimate setup and focus on co-op make for engaging gameplay--and the ability to fortify your base with potted plants is a clever tip of the hat to the franchise's roots (pun not intended but, wow, that worked out well). Each multiplayer level has a few locations to start the waves from, too, making up for the otherwise paltry list of multiplayer maps.

The Plant and Zombie factions each feature four unique, playable classes, and they all come with a trio of special abilities that help them stand out. While there are some that are blatantly better than the rest, they all have their own place on the battlefield--from the high-damage Zombie All-Star (who can kick explosive zombies, dash, and spawn tackling dummies) to the healing Sunflower (who can fire beams of solar light when she's not healing her allies). There's a good deal of asymmetry to it as well, creating a fun dynamic between the sides and making for chaotic bouts. It also lends itself to some balance problems--good luck finding anything as powerful as the one-hit-kill Chomper on the zombie side. Seriously, that guy's a dick.

These eight classes (and the ability to customize them) is the most surprisingly deep part of Garden Warfare, and adds depth to the otherwise lightweight shooter. Every character has cosmetic slots that can be outfitted with a number of items, letting you don sunglasses, helmets, facial hair, oven mitts, and other random gear to change your class's look. There are also entirely different characters you can unlock that not only totally overhaul the character's appearance, but switches up their play-style as well. Sure, strapping a beard onto the Scientist is cool, but it's even more exciting when you can get a totally new character skin that swaps his weapon for a telekinetic dolphin. There are even passive upgrades that can be unlocked as well, making for a huge amount of content to discover and plenty of reasons to continue playing.

New cosmetic gear, potted plants, deployable zombies, and other items are found via booster packs, which are purchased using in-game currency (at launch there aren't any microtransactions). Yeah, rewards could technically just be doled out for successful play, but locking them behind booster packs makes them significantly more exciting. It's a psychological trick and it works--I'd be lying to myself if I didn't admit to playing a few extra matches just to get the slightly more expensive pack to see what was inside (in case you're wondering, it was a few plants, a pair of goggles for the soldier, and one of six pieces needed to unlock a new Sunflower skin).

There's nothing groundbreaking about Garden Warfare, but beneath the absurd premise there's a clever, polished shooter with heart--even if it's held back by balance issues and a lack of maps. Whether you have a dozen friends you want to play Gardens & Graveyards with or a small group to grind booster packs in Garden Ops, there's a lot to like in Popcap's first shooter. Wow, I really didn't expect to ever write "Popcap's first shooter" in a review.

More Info

Release date: Aug 19 2014 - PS4, PS3
Jun 24 2014 - PC
Feb 25 2014 - Xbox One, Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS4, PS3, PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Animated Blood, Crude Humor

Garden Warfare is a fun, polished shooter, and what it lacks in gameplay depth it more than makes up for with fun cosmetic gear you'll actually want to unlock.

This game was reviewed on Xbox One.


  • GCAnds - December 18, 2014 10:19 p.m.

    This game is loads of incredible fun! I love it and it's a huge improvement from the first 2 installments. Oh well. This is just my opinion though. Anyway, if you guys can suggest other zombie games to me, that'd be great! Thanks!
  • ChrisGamer - December 18, 2014 11:23 p.m.

    I agree! Really liked playing PVZ 2. But hey, you should try Tapslayer: Alice in Zombieland, if you're up for some intense zombie-killing sprees! Let me know what you think! ;)
  • tyroncpo - March 10, 2014 6:52 a.m.

    Hi every one.. I really need help. I have an xbox 360 and have plants vs zombies garden warfare on it how do I split screen.. F...k up am struggeling so much with this can some one please help and advise me how to join split screem please
  • frn_u - March 9, 2014 2:11 p.m.

    I <3 popcap games no ditch here for them but I am very irritated with Microsoft and the Xbox 360 crap I seem to constantly deal with! I purchased this game for my gsons, (ok, well lets be honest here I love PVZ too so I really wanted to play with them....), it stated that it was co op with up to four players so I was thrilled and waited impatiently just like everyone else for it's release! The day finally came on the 28th and so bam we got it, but then we tried to play the co op and guess what? That's when I learned that in order to play we each needed to have a GOLD membership account! PFFT, that's right! Mad? No, I was way past furious!! Why should I be required to buy three Gold memberships, I already have one, why isn't that enough? My grandsons come over every other weekend I don't need four accounts especially when those accounts are a whopping $10.00 apiece!!! It really infuriates me and that is said with much reservation. EA has nothing to do with this game, it's Microsoft so don't let them ditch they're responsibility. I give the game two thumbs way, way up but the loops you are required to jump through for Microsoft for a game you already spent $30.00 on... I am not going to pay for this kind of frustration EVER again!!
  • shawksta - February 27, 2014 12:19 p.m.

    So far I haven't gotten any server problems, if anything only a glitch where someones Sunflower's heal pot spawned side ways but that's it. Regardless, Bladed makes a crucial point, Titan Fall needs to have good servers or else.
  • BladedFalcon - February 27, 2014 11:16 a.m.

    ...Hold the phone, serves problem in an EA game? MADNESS More than for this game, this should be kinda worrying for Titan Fall, being an online-only game and all. One wonders if EA's servers will be able to hold this time around...
  • homestar99 - February 27, 2014 4:43 p.m.

    If I bought a XB1 instead of a PS4 I'd be pretty worried. I don't hate Xbox One, I just believe that it's multiplayer centric and that the PS4 is single player centric. I don't like very many multiplayer games. But if EA is having server trouble on this than Titanfall is fucked. Like the first month of SimCity. Either they've fixed the hammering issues or that game is fucked. Either way Origin still sucks as long as Steam exists. Fuck you Origin!
  • BladedFalcon - February 27, 2014 5 p.m.

    ...And I just remembered that Battlefield 4, EA's flagship title for last year, was also riddled with online problems, wasn't it? So if they weren't even able to have their main bet working properly at least at the beginning, not even being online-only, how are we supposed to think they'll be able to have TitanFall running smoothly at all?
  • homestar99 - February 27, 2014 5:17 p.m.

    We won't know till it comes out. Part of the reason it failed was 'cos Battlefield 4 was broken was 'cos they rushed it out the door to get the jump on COD Ghosts in the sales booth. So unless they rushed it, we won't know till it comes out. I wonder how EA will handle dealing with BF and TF at the same time without rushing one out the door to get the jump on their own product, the idiots. They've already planned a cross platform sequel to TF. Kinda like how the first Saints Row was Xbox only but all the sequels were cross platform.
  • StageFighter64 - February 27, 2014 7:02 a.m.

    Anyone else notice Coop showed up in GT's review of this game? Anyways, cool review. I loved the first PvZ, haven't gotten a chance to try PvZ2, but Garden Warfare looks awesome. Maybe I'll pick it up for PC down the line, since my friends and I pretty much all started PC gaming since we went off to college.
  • GR HollanderCooper - February 27, 2014 2:38 p.m.

    Did I pwn? Or get pwns. This is seriously important to me right now.
  • EAC73 - February 27, 2014 3:03 p.m.

    Just watched the GT review, and you did pwn Coop, don't worry.
  • shawksta - February 26, 2014 12:05 p.m.

    Loving the game, boss mode was really cool, but the controller option was the best, Kinect is still unresponsive, *sigh*
  • shawksta - February 25, 2014 9:55 a.m.

    Awesome, kind of a similar situation with Killer Instinct having barely any single player. Cant wait to play it.
  • homestar99 - February 25, 2014 5:18 a.m.

    Eh, didn't really know what to expect from that review. I'd complain about the fact that it's not on PlayStation consoles but I know the exact reason why. It's a multiplayer game and at this point console specs are about the same so due to Xbox having a better online service it is also the console that you buy if you like multiplayer. I bought a PS3 and PS4 'cos in most cases I think multiplayer can go fuck itself up the arse. To put this in a more legible format: PS4 + Xbox One = About the Same Specs PS4 = Optimal Single Player Utilization Xbox One = Optimal Multiplayer Utilization The game looks okay, it's nothing new but while the review said microtransactions are on the way, it worries me. First, of course microtransactions are going to show up in a game made be EA, those cunts. Second, if some of the classes have balancing issues then what happens when microtransactions enter the fray? If you bothered reading this far then congratulations, you may now reply about something.
  • David_Roberts - February 25, 2014 6:40 a.m.

    Microtransactions look like they're solely be limited to the in-game currency, which is only used to buy booster packs. And the stuff you get from the packs are either cosmetic or slight upgrades to what you have already -- being able to buy these packs with real money doesn't seem like it'll break the game in any meaningful way.
  • homestar99 - February 25, 2014 9:16 a.m.

    EA will fuck it up anyways. They'll probably put in overpriced extra classes or weapons that break the game even further. Also, why the fuck do they call them booster packs if its for cosmetics or differently designed weapons that despite looking different offer the same damage output. The name seems redundant and I'm pretty sure that EA will, like almost always, find a way to fuck it up.
  • shawksta - February 25, 2014 9:54 a.m.

    The game doesnt have microtransactrions, but they did say they will consider them in the future. Basically its like Battlefield 3 Nobody made much of a fuss about Battlefield 3 getting microtransactions because by the them most people already unlocked everything.
  • homestar99 - February 25, 2014 5:22 p.m.

    I know it doesn't have microtransactions. EA will probably add some later anyways was me point. It might fuck everything up. It certainly ruined PvZ 2 with the microtransactions and art style change. I honestly imagine that PvZ 2 doesn't exist. DLC and microtransactions can break a game, and I equate EA and fucking up as an entire universe worth of stupid. Eh, time will tell.
  • shawksta - February 25, 2014 7:05 p.m.

    I know. The difference is that PVZ2 was otherwise built for and with Microtransactions, the entire game was too tedious and forces trying to get Keys and plant food to be REALLY annoying and tedious to otherwise encourage buying them. Garden Warfare however has itself built for getting everything in the game without having to resort to any real purchases. What you do in the game is great enough. The difference here is that Microtransactions is a second thought. Its arguable that Popcap cared more about Garden Warfare than they did with PVZ2, i feel PVZ2 was otherwise forced by EA. But hey who knows, all i know is im enjoying the crap out of GW and arent feeling any force to buy things or feel they are giving me too much work like they did PVZ2

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