Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare launches Tuesday for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 and I've spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the game preparing for a review. However, there are a few things to be said about the multiplayer-only online shooter based before it is released.
There are no microtransactions
It's sad to say that this is a feature but with the recent spate of full-priced games that include micro-transaction, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a breath of fresh air - especially from Electronic Arts. That's not to say that microtransactions won't come later but, for now, players can unlock new characters, customizations plus plants and zombies to summon by purchasing sticker packs with in-game coins earned from gameplay.
In reality, there are only three gametypes with four different variations
Officially, Garden Warfare comes with five multiplayer modes and two co-op modes. The reality though is that the multiplayer modes Welcome Mat and Classic Team Vanquish are slightly different versions of Team Vanquish. Similarly, Classic Gardens & Graveyards is a slightly different spin on Gardens & Graveyards. The difference between the Classic and regular versions of the modes are that the Classic versions keep you from using any customizations or unlocked characters. Finally, Welcome Mat is just like Team Vanquish but with additional health each time you die.
As for the co-op Garden Ops, the Splitscreen mode is the same but with only two local players (plus a possible third in Boss mode) and the ability to plant more helper plants in pots.
PopCap Games does say that additional content is on the way though.
There is a lot of character customization
What Garden Warfare lacks in gametype variety it more than makes up with the plethora of character customizations that can be unlocked via sticker packs. There are approximately 1,200 stickers in all that can be used to unlock new character variants such as Agent P (a spy version of the Pea Shooter) and the Ice Cactus plus customizations such as hats, tattoos and other items to give the plants and zombies plenty of personality.
Splitscreen only tracks the progress of Player One
The Xbox One exclusive Splitscreen mode includes the somewhat baffling decision to limit progress in the game to Player One. That means that Player Two will have to choose from the Plant characters that have been unlocked and upgraded by Player Two and both players will dip into the same pool of plant helpers to be planted in pots on the map.
In other words, did you spend time maxing out your Chomper to the highest level and gave him a cool hat and tattoo to boot? Well, too bad. Your friend in the Player One position hasn't spent time with Chomper at all and you are stuck with base level version of him while you are Player Two. Additionally, don't expect to unlock any upgrades while you play in the second slot either.
This is one feature I hope that PopCap addresses in a future update as it doesn't make sense to lock progress to one player on a console that's supposed to feature the easy use of multiple gamer profiles.
No Battlefield 4 repeat
The extremely messy launch of Battlefield 4 created many a conversation about whether Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare will suffer from a buggy launch as well since they both share the Frostbite 3 engine. So far, that's not the case during the preview period as everything has ran smoothly thus far with no noticeable glitches or dropped matches.
That may be due in part to the fact that Garden Warfare simply has less going on with the maps since there are no Levolution events plus no vehicles to deal with either among many other things.
We'll have to wait and see how things look after Tuesday when thousands of players start taxing the servers versus dozens of game journalists.
Boss Mode is a blast but only supports larger tablets
When we first started playing Garden Warfare splitscreen, my daughter didn't like it. That was in part because she chose the Chomper off the bat which isn't an easy character for beginners. I was able to get her back into it though by letting her play Boss Mode with an iPad to help my son and I out while we played Splitscreen. Collecting sun and dropping heals, cherry bomb air strikes plus resurrects and radar got her hooked back into the game and willing to try other characters.
The good news here is that while you can't play splitscreen in Gardens and Graveyards or Garden Ops, a friend can join the fun with a tablet to play Boss Mode. As long as nobody else has taken Boss Mode, of course.
Keep in mind though that Boss Mode only supports tablets with an 8-inch screen or larger. We tried on my son's Kindle Fire HD and was told the mode was not supported because it was optimized for larger screens.
The Plants and Zombies look fantastic in the third dimension
The original Plants Vs. Zombies tower defense games were in 2D which left me wondering how well they would make the transition to 3D. PopCap Games did a fantastic job modeling each as fully realized and alive characters and world. Everything from the distinct ways the characters move to the creative maps that breath life into a world inhabited by Crazzzzy Dave and Dr. Zomboss is a visual treat.
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