Taking a mobile game and turning it into a full-scale (and full price) console title is quite a big undertaking, so the idea of picking up Plants vs Zombies – a very simple but very addictive mobile title – and making a co-op game in full 3D could’ve backfired spectacularly. Interestingly though it seems the success of the pocket-sized game has continued into the console version, as Garden Warfare is a genuinely enjoyable and colourful addition to your gaming collection.
Garden Warfare (a name clearly taking a swipe at another shooting-based series) blends two popular genres into a single game, coupling elements of tower defence with a third-person shooter to provide something that’s very different to what we’ve seen before. The focus on co-op play is very strong too, and while you’re not penalised for playing alone (in fact your final score gets a sizeable boost after each level if you do that) it makes the tasks ahead of you exceedingly tough, and means you use up more of your precious plants than you ordinarily would. There’s also no campaign mode to speak of, so reasons to play this without other players are thin on the ground.
So with no campaign, just how does this all work? The main Garden Warfare mode is based around one-off matches where someone on the team sets up a garden and everyone then defends it from hoards of incoming zombies until an extraction point pops up and whisks you away from a (hopefully) intact garden. The tower defence elements come into play here, allowing you to position various “weapon” plants in pre-placed plant pots to give some automated fire-power while you and up to three others run around trying to see off a vast range of different zombie types. Occasionally a slot machine appears on screen giving a random selection of bad guys for the next wave, which can be a small amount of respite or an utter massacre depending on what kind of luck you enjoy.
The co-op play itself opens up nice teamwork possibilities, with certain types of plants being able to heal other players, others being better for attacking power and some being more nippy to get around the map quicker. The maps are, incidentally, superbly designed and offer up not only enough routes that you can’t watch every angle at any one time, but also provide some great opportunities to plan carefully where you place your defences to maximise their efficiency. These plants you can place around the map come in the form of cards, packs of which you can unlock using your earned points, much like the Ultimate Team mode in the FIFA games. Annoyingly, like those games, there’s an option for in-game purchasing which is something I never like to see, but as it’s something we’re seeing more of nowadays I guess I need to learn to live with it. Each level completed wins you points to spend on these cards, some of which will provide visual items and others giving you plants to use during the games. By playing solo it’s very easy to use all of these in one go – problematic when your earnings aren’t enough to totally refill your previous supply – but as part of a crowd you’re obviously going to use less yourself and can therefore manage your inventory a little easier.
As well as this 4-player co-op mode though is Garden Ops, some competitive game modes which set you up as either a plant or a zombie across several game modes that not only add deathmatch to the fun, but also games in the style of Battlefield’s Rush and Conquest modes, albeit on a slightly smaller scale than the 64-player war zones offered by Battlefield 4. It’s a nice touch for times when you fancy pitching your wits against humans not just alongside them, and provides addition longevity to something which could have potentially become a little samey over time.
But the fact remains that those people who don’t tend to play socially (and there are plenty of gamers who still enjoy solo games) won’t get the most out of this game, and might find things so heavy going that it stops being enjoyable. The whole point of Garden Warfare is to play with others, and with the idea being so far removed from the mobile original that might be enough to put people off. Add to that the issue of having to occasionally grind a little to pick up the better packs of plant cards and you’ve got a game which is extremely good fun, but not without it’s disappointments. Even so if you’re likely to get involved online or have other friends to join in the fun, you can so a lot worse.
Reviewed on PS4