I missed the boat on the whole Plants vs Zombies craze on iOS in the early days. When I first met my wife, she introduced me to the game, but I still never quite got hooked. I also missed the boat on games like Gears of War, or Call of Duty or any other number of shooters. So, a game that combines the two should be a surefire miss for me, right? Wrong. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is currently my favorite game on Xbox One.
If you played through last gen, you might think American developers had forgotten about life's brighter hues; instead trading them for variable shades of gray. Playing a nice, bright, colorful game is a breath of fresh air in an industry that at times feel like it's become obsessed with realism and forgotten about escapism. Garden Warfare's characters and environs are bright and crisp, yielding something that looks and feels good.
Garden Warfare offers the ability to select a type of soldier you can play in battle. They don't quite fit a typical class scheme per se, but each unit has its own unique skills you can use in battle, as well as customization options. Each basic unit has five unlockable variants which can be obtained via the game's sticker shop.
As I mentioned before, I don't really get shooters. I don't mind playing through campaign in many of them, but multiplayer is something I never really stray into. The reason why is because I'm riddled with anxiety about the whole thing. Your typical shooter's multiplayer landscape is riddled with highly-skilled players who seem to expect a certain level of performance. Garden Warfare isn't really meant for that crowd, and it shows. Playing any one of the game's three online modes was an immediately enjoyable experience, despite my utter lack of skill.
I spent a good amount of time thinking about where Garden Warfare would fit into my gaming habits. PvZ is similar to its smartphone brethren in that it's the type of game you pick up and play for a quick few matches every now and then. These can be the best type of game to have in your library, an awesome standby for when you want something quick and easy to play.
Call me old fashioned, but I love me some split screen multiplayer. Garden Warfare only supports two players, and only in Garden Ops, but it's still better than getting nothing. Sitting and playing this with a friend at home is a lot of fun, even if the mode seems a bit too hard for just two people.
Further adding to Garden Warfare's casual feel, the leveling system requires goals, not kills. You can also skip some of these goals using cards gained from the sticker system. Having a leveling system that isn't contingent upon massive amounts of kills against other players (though some goals do require kills against players, and in specific ways) makes Garden Warfare seem that much more welcoming.
Unlocking anything in Garden Warfare means you'll be paying visits to the sticker shop, where you'll use coins earned to purchase randomized packs of stickers that may or may not contain something you need. The problem here is for such a causal game, you sure need to play a whole lot to earn enough coins to buy a pack. The best items are in the twenty and forty-thousand coin packs. A match—win or lose—will on average, yield 2,000-3,000 coins. You can see where this might get to be a bit much.
Garden Warfare is a fun game, and I've enjoyed it a lot in my time with it. But with only three modes, you're going to be playing the same matches a lot. Fortunately, those three modes are definitely fun and not one of them feels bad in any way. All in all, this is a relatively minor gripe, but I would have liked to have seen more modes available.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is a game that's simultaneously easy and difficult to classify. It's very clearly a third-person shooter, and it even employs mechanics from some other games in the genre, but its friendly look and feel put it in a class all its own. Sure the classes are about as imbalanced as they can get (looking at you, zombie scientist) and coins are really hard to earn, but this is a game about just picking up your controller, turning your brain off for a bit and having a good time. And in that way, Garden Warfare delivers far beyond my expectations. Don't make the mistake of passing this one up, you'll enjoy it.