Fertilizer and Braaaains
The world of multiplayer shooters tends to be a very serious one, though exceptions like Team Fortress 2 and Gotham City Imposters certainly exist. Microsoft’s Xbox consoles in particular have a reputation of being the home of the “grey-brown manshooters,” so it’s nice to see PopCap shaking that reputation up with Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare .
Just as one might imagine from the title, PvZ: Garden Warfare is a team-based multiplayer third-person shooter in which players take on the roles of the iconic plants or zombies from the popular tower-defense games. There’s no single-player campaign, simply two modes of multiplayer madness. Players can take on co-op challenges with 1-4 players or fight with up to 24 players in team versus team mode.
Players on the plant side have the ability to personify many popular plants from the series. The four core characters are Sunflower, Peashooter, Chomper, and Cactus. Sunflower is a support and healing specialist who also wields a powerful laser attack. Peashooter is a fast-paced gunner character. Chomper is a melee damage dealer who can tunnel underground to avoid damage while approaching foes. Cactus is a distance-oriented character who specializes in sniping. Many other plants will have roles to play in the game, such as Bonk Choy, Potato Mine, Fume Shroom, Garlic Drone, and Chili Bean.
Zombie players will be taking on both old and new zombie character classes. The Soldier Zombie is exactly what you’d expect, All-Star is a tanky guy who can tackle and fire a football cannon, the Engineer can build support and artillery stations to assist his team, and the Scientist can heal and play nasty tricks on the enemy. Other zombies found in the game include everything from the Backup Dancer to the ever-popular Conehead Zombie. It appears that only the four main classes on each side are directly playable, while other kinds of plants and zombies are found as enemies, summoned allies, or NPC support characters.
Since there will be up to twenty-four players in online versus battles, there will be plenty of customization options available, including four different base costumes per character class (hopefully at least one allows the Engineer to cover his generous zombified plumber’s crack) as well as a ton of tattoos, accessories and organic enhancements. Some of these are unlocked by leveling characters up, while others will be pre-order bonuses and DLC. As they level up, players will also acquire modifiers to their core abilities, allowing them to add elemental effects and other powers to their basic arsenal of weapons and moves.
In co-op mode, players will portray plants and work together to fight off hordes of zombies. The Gardens and Graveyards multiplayer mode is said to be like Battlefield ‘s Rush Mode and Conquest Mode mixed together, and involves attempting to grab territory from the other team with the eventual goal of taking that team’s main fortress. There will be multiple maps available for both main modes, all of which display the colorful and surreal atmosphere that underlies the PvZ experience.
Similar to Battlefield ‘s Commander Mode, the game allows tablet or Kinect users to join the action from a strategic, top-down view, portraying Crazy Dave on the plant side or Dr. Zomboss on the zombie side. Called Boss Mode, this play method allows the tablet player to help his or her team by dropping healing stations and revive stations or by calling in bomb and artillery strikes on the opposite team. Boss Mode plays more like traditional PvZ , with the player collecting sun drops (or perhaps brains on the zombie side?) in order to build up energy for various abilities. Boss Mode can also be controlled via Kinect, though it seems like a more natural fit for a tablet.
PvZ: Garden Warfare is a timed exclusive for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, but will come out later for PC and other unannounced platforms. Boss Mode may remain an Xbox exclusive feature, though it could possibly be made available in, say, a PlayStation 4 version using the Vita as the controller. Work has begun on other versions, but we’re unlikely to hear anything concrete about them from PopCap until after Microsoft’s timed exclusivity period has expired.
Overall, the game looks fun to play, and its developers suggest that it is based on core shooter mechanics but has added plenty of crazy PvZ twists to gameplay in order to appeal to fans and newcomers. It has been well-received at gaming conferences, so we’ll see how the wider community reacts when it arrives in February.