Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has arrived on the Xbox One and Xbox 360, with gameplay unlike anything the series has ever seen. It's so wildly different, I thought you folks could use a few tips.
Since Garden Warfare is an online multiplayer game, we're giving our review an extra day to see how servers hold up. Until then, here's some helpful advice to get you started.
Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is an online multiplayer shooter, which is almost the complete opposite of the original game, an offline, mostly single-player tower defense variant. While there is a little planting to be done in some of Garden Warfare's more elaborate game modes, for the most part it's completely unlike the series that spawned it.
So why bother playing it in preparation? For one, it'll help you appreciate the look and feel of Garden Warfare — it's quite impressive, seeing the static locations from the lane defense series coming to life.
Playing Plants Vs. Zombies before Garden Warfare will also give you a leg up when it comes to some of powers the plants and zombies bring to bear on the battlefield. When you do get into a mode like Garden Ops, which requires setting up plant defenses, you'll understand what each unit is capable of.
And finally, it's a damn good game.
Prepare to be one of many. When Popcap and EA said they were making an online multiplayer shooter based on the Plants Vs. Zombies property, those words were carefully chosen. With the exception of a split screen co-op Horde-ish mode, all of Garden Warfare is online and multiplayer. There is no story mode tacked on, no training area to practice in. The closest you can come is starting a round of Garden Ops — plants defending against 10 waves of enemies — and set the room to invite-only.
Everybody has their own particular play style, especially when it comes to multiplayer shooters. If you're new to the genre entirely, go ahead and hop from class to class until you find one that feels right. If you're coming in with a play style in mind, however, read on to see which plants and zombies are right for you.
The Peashooter: The cannon-fodder of the original game is a little bit front-line fighter and a whole lot of scout. The Peashooter can fire bombs, which is nice, but it can also briefly run super fast and jump super high. Coupled with the ability to root itself and become a fixed turret, the Peashooter's primary role is to sit on roofs and be complete jerks.
The Chomper: Possibly the scariest plant to see up close, the Chomper has the ability to burrow underground, popping up under enemy zombies and devouring them in one bite. Normally a player can be bursed back to health when they die — Chompers ensure they have to respawn back in a proper, out-of-the-way location. The trade-off is that once the Chomper eats, it's slow and vulnerable for a brief period, so choose your targets wisely.
The Sunflower: The sweet, innocent Sunflower? Not so much in Garden Warfare. While they do have the ability to heal other players and defenses, they can also take root and fire a devastating sun ray. Nice damage for what's essentially a healer class.
The Cactus: The Engineer of the Plants faction, the Cactus shoots spikes (of course), but he also places Potato Mines, the most curse-inducing ordinance in the game. One minute you're chasing down an enemy low on health, the next you're exploding into the air. And in case that's not bad enough, they can also pilot remote Garlic Drones and place Tallnut Barriers that act as impromptu cover.
The Engineer: The undead side of things is much easier to understand, thanks to the clear labels. The Zombie Engineer is your classic shooter engineer. He's got a shotgun. He builds turrets and fixes equipment. He's got a remote control drone. He rides a jackhammer into battle and lobs sonic stun grenades. His butt crack is showing. I love him.
The Scientist: He's not quite a healer, the Scientist. He can drop heal stations, which players on his team can use or not — he doesn't care. He's too busy using his warp ability to get in close so he can plant sticky grenades on his enemies. An odd duck.
The All-Star: If you like slow-moving characters with heavy weapons, this one is for you. The All-Star carries a mini-gun, which can be downright devastating in the right hands. Get too close and he'll drop a bomb or worse — tackle you to death. He's got a lot of power, but not a lot of speed, which is why his ability to erect barricades comes in handy.
The Foot Soldier: The Zombies' answer to the Peashooter, the Foot Soldier has a rocket jump, allowing him to get up on those roofs to end their rain of terror. Along with the blinding zombie stink cloud and the ZPG — zombie propelled grenade — this little bugger is much more than cannon fodder.
If you've got a split screen partner you can test your mettle out against endless waves of zombies, but for the rest of you your first taste of third-person PVZ action should be Garden Ops.
Garden Ops is a co-op mode where up to four players take on ten random waves of zombie enemies before escaping in Crazy Dave's flying motor home (play the original PVZ!).
This is where players new to online shooters can practice communicating and cooperating in a relatively safe environment. Those two factors are the key to success in other game modes, so getting a handle on them early is key.
It's also worth noting that each class begins with only one ability unlocked. Unless you want to charge under-powered into a full-on death match, get your plants up to speed here.
Your zombies are out of luck.
Use those skills acquired in Garden Ops in Garden Warfare's version of Team Deathmatch to make yourself an invaluable asset. A single Peashooter charging into battle again and again is worthless. A single Peashooter flanked by Sunflowers with a Cactus providing air support? That's a force to be reckoned with.
By following a path through co-op and team death match, you should be perfectly prepared for Garden Warfare's massive objective-based battles.
Gardens & Graveyards is about capturing territory on the way to an ultimate goal. Maybe the Zombies want to get into Crazy Dave's mansion and destroy it. Maybe there's a massive Sunflower to take out. Whatever the situation, communication and teamwork mean the difference between a complete rout and a triumphant win.
I guess I could have just said that in the first place.
In order to unlock cool accessories and character variants in Garden Warfare, you're going to need to spend a lot of coins on stickers.
Sticker packs contain all the magic in the game. There are cool new outfits and accessories, weapon upgrades, seed packets that grant additional troops in some of the more defensive game modes, and even character variants, unlocked piece-by-piece.
Somehow EA and Popcap have managed to not include a method for spending real money on coins in the game. The only way to get them is to play, and the only way to get the best stickers is to play long and hard. It'll be tempting to just spend your coin on the lower priced packs first. Don't do that. It's silly.
Yes, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is an online multiplayer shooter, but we're all friends here — there's no need to get tense or call people names. This is cartoony fun, and you sound terribly silly bitching out a fellow player over chat because they possibly kept you from earning a new color for your houseplant.
Because what's the point if you don't?