Rating: E-10+
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: EA
Platform: Xbox 360 (also available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC)
Release Date: February 25, 2014 for Xbox Live
Buy it on: Amazon for $29.64

Brains, you say?! No, you cannot eat my garden or my brains!

My girlfriend, Ashtyn, and I had the privilege of working with PopCap Games, back in the days when they were making games like Bejeweled, and Peggle. At the time, the company was a small, casual gaming company. I remember when we were given the chance to review their brand new game Plants vs. Zombies. My first thought was, ” what the heck is this game?!” Ashtyn and I both quickly fell in love with it, and when it came out for Xbox Live, we quickly purchased our copy. This game got played an insane amount of times. We absolutely love the Plants vs. Zombies series, and though we’d lost touch with PopCap Games, and the amazing, friendly people that worked for the company, we continue to purchase Plant vs. Zombies games and merchandise. Since then, EA purchased PopCap Games, and it was only a matter of time before the latest incarnation in the PvZ family was developed. That game is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

What better way to introduce the PvZ formula to the next gen (and last gen) systems than by spoofing one of the greatest FPS game series’ of all time? That series just happens to be one of my favorite FPS series’, Call of Duty. The Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare title is a play on the CoD game, Modern Warfare. The game also takes aspects of play from Battlefield 4. EA was smart, because PvZ appeals to both a casual and hardcore gaming crowd already, but the CoD spoof ensures even the hardest of hardcore gamers can find something to enjoy within this game formula.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare maintains a simple story that is prevalent throughout the entire game series. Plants try to defend their gardens from attacking, brain eating zombies. These hilarious looking, cartoonesque zombies moan and groan about all the brains they want to eat, while they get attacked by pea shooting plants, angry cacti, zombie eating chompers, and healing, beam shooting sunflowers.

The game storyline is relatively simple, with variations on all of these explored through both co-op and multiplayer options. The co-op mode is a tower defense style of game, much like the original PvZ game, though in a much larger, dynamic, 3D world. The multiplayer is 3rd person shooter style fun. In all of the various game options for multiplayer, you can play as either plants or zombies, which is something new and refreshing to the series. Sometimes it’s good to be bad!!

A wild west dressed cactus, chomper and pee shooter, face off to unseen enemies, with a sunflower dressed like Cleopatra.

The four main characters of plants (Peashooter, Chomper, Sunflower, or Cactus), have level upgrades, so the more you play, the better moves you have to fight against zombies. Speaking of Zombies, in multiplayer, your option is to choose from four characters. They are the Foot Soldier, Engineer, Scientist, and the All-Star. While playing in co-op, you are given challenges, which will upgrade you to the next level of character (i.e. Peashooter Level 2 goes to Peashooter Level 3), but that doesn’t mean you get to play a different kind of plant character in the specific character category. You must unlock characters through the card/sticker shop, for this.

In the character menu, you also have the option of changing you plant or zombie’s appearance, adding things like a big hat, tattoos, accessories, or organics (peapods and wheat). You can check out each character’s abilities. You can see a visual showing what they are. Clicking abilities will show a tutorial of the ability, but, sadly, it doesn’t tell you what to do to use the ability. It would be better if it said what button to press, in the tutorial, to make the ability happen. While there is a box in the right lower side of the screen when in-game to show you the abilities, if you can’t see the bottom right of your television (I struggle to see mine), you may have to play around with the button layout to figure it out.

When you play Plants vs.Zombies: Garden Warfare, you will find that there is a lot of different features. When you open up the game, you will be faced with a large menu of options. The first option deals with gameplay. Your first option is called Garden Ops. This is the co-op gameplay mode and you have the choice to play a custom match, that has already been created, or you can create your own match. To customize the match you’re looking for, you can choose your map, the level of difficulty, and go from there. For maps you can go to places like Port Scallywag, Sharkbite Shores, or my favorite, Garden Center. You can also choose between playing a game that is Easy, Normal, Hard, Crrrraaazy, or randomly let the game pick for you!

There are several Multiplayer Options, and many of them are based on the multiplayer modes for games like Call of Duty and Battlefield 4. The first multiplayer option is Welcome Mat. Welcome Mat is the beginner level aimed at introducing new players to the game. It features Team Vanquish play, on one map, with no customization. Team Vanquish, is the next mode. In it, Plants and Zombies face off in a team deathmatch, where you must kill 50 of the opposing teams members, and reviving teammates takes points away from the other team. These were the only modes initially released with the game. Four downloadable packs, which are automatically downloaded with the game now, have enhanced multiplayer, making it better. These modes include: Gardens & Graveyards (zombies try to turn the gardens into graveyards in this expanding match a la Conquest and Rush in Battlefield), Classic Team Vanquish (the difference from regular Team Vanquish is that you can’t use customizations or upgrades), Classic Gardens & Graveyards (the zombies conquer and plants defend, with no customizations allowed), Mixed Mode (blends game modes….you can only play with 16 players, and you switch roles as plants and zombies), Gnome Bomb (plants and zombies fight to secure a bomb that can be used to destroy the other side – it is strapped to the back of a gnome – think Obliteration), Vanquish Confirmed (collect orbs from vanquished enemies to get points for your team a la CoD‘s Kill Confirmed), and Suburbination (gain control of three gardens scattered around the map. Holding a garden gives you points).

After playing the game, you’ll want to stop by the Sticker shop. The idea behind the shop is both cool and sucky. With the points you earn from playing the game, you can purchase sticker/card packs. You want to buy them so you can get the cards/stickers you need to upgrade and get new plants or zombies. You can get items to fill planters with plants to fight zombies or slews of zombies to fight plants, as well. The cheapest pack is 1000 points and gives you potted plants. You need to constantly be buying these refill plants as they will help you. The most expensive is 40,000 points. In it you are guaranteed to have five that are rare or super-rare characters. You earn points by how many people you kill, really the most points are by this, but also by if you get out following the ten waves of zombies on co-op mode, too.

Once you’ve gathered some stickers/cards, you can look at everything you purchased in your Stickerbook. The Stickerbook shows your stats Buy Cialis, such as how many players you’ve vanquished. You can view the stickers you’ve received, what is in your current collection, and determine how many more stickers you will need, so you can upgrade your character.

After dealing with stickers, there is also a selection of options, you can use to change your game playing experience. The look sensitivity option is similar to look sensitivity in Halo. This just basically determines how fast your character can turn to look in a certain direction. You can turn the controller vibration on and off. You can change your view between normal and inverted. While Alexx’s review said the button layout was remappable in the PC version of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, for Xbox 360, I was disappointed to find that the only way to change the button layout was to change between the default and southpaw layouts. Luckily, you don’t have to press down on the sticks, which I find to be nearly impossible to do without a lot of practice. However, it would’ve been better for gamers with less mobility than I have, if the game offered a remappable button layout. The same is true with the stick layout. You can switch between default sticks and southpaw aka left handers, sticks. Personally, as a lefty, I always play with the default sticks and button settings. You can also toggle on aim assist, with both light and heavy assist possible, which is pretty nifty.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare

The menu also has a Game Manual included. The game manual offers instructions on how to play. This goes into a bit more detail than the tutorials available with the characters, which as I previously mentioned, don’t offer information on what buttons to press when you are playing. The menu concludes with the option to redeem codes and a section on credits, listing all the hard-working people who made this game possible.

I personally found the controls to be rather intuitive. If you’ve played Call of Duty, or other similar shooting games, you should not have too much trouble figuring out the layout. Here is a list of the buttons you will need to press and what each button does:

Left Trigger – Aim
Right Trigger – Fire
Left Bumper – Ability 1
Right Bumper – Ability 3
Y Button – Ability 2
B Button – Interact
X Button – Reloads weapons
A Button – Jump
Right Stick – Rotate
Left Stick – Move
D-Pad – Gestures (which I didn’t ever use)
Back Button – Scoreboard
Start Button – Pause

I was eternally grateful that I did not have to press down on the sticks, because I have a world of trouble doing that, due to my disability. If you can use the basic Xbox controls, you should be able to play this game.

I have to say that one of the places where this game shines the most is in its visuals. This looks exactly like you should expect for a Plants vs. Zombies game. It is bright, colorful, and full of zombie loving fun and wickedness. It is cartoon-y casual with vibrant, animated features. Honestly, as you progress through your characters, they start to look fairly badass! I wouldn’t want to mess with some of those fire breathing, zombie eating plants! The zombies look fantastic. PopCap expanded on the look of the original games and made it look even better.

A smiling Sunflower sits in the middle with a chomper and peashooter behind it.

I really found it hard to hear the music or other atmospheric sounds, because it seems like every time I played, a bunch of little kids were on, running their mics. I preferred to just turn my sound off. Everything has subtitles. There isn’t any speaking you need to hear, and I didn’t give two shizzes about hearing the other players scream or screech. It actually was enough to ruin my game. While there is a master volume feature, a separate music volume existed, as well. I can’t tell you much about the music though, because it was not very prevalent and the multiplayer aspect of the game really ruined the sound, for me. I do have to say that the sound effects for the weaponry is pretty brilliant, but there is not a separate control for that.

Being a filmmaker I am use to dealing with dynamic range and various speaker configurations, for sound. I was kind of surprised that you could change the dynamic range from low to high or zombox. I, personally, couldn’t find much difference from high to zombox, but I also found the sound to be a bit muted, for my tastes.The speaker configuration goes between surround and stereo. I have a big screen, so I prefer surround, but that is just me. Overall, I think I was the most disappointed with audio, over anything in this game.

When it comes to accessibility, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is really a mixed bag. I, personally, find the control scheme to be relatively easy to use for my needs, but I believe that the game could be more accessible by allowing players to remap the controls beyond what is available for left handed players. I think it is great that there is an option for inverted look, and I feel the coloring is vibrant, but that is more of an aesthetic thing. Colorblind gamers shouldn’t really have any problems, because none of the gameplay requires that you identify things by color.

A group of zombies stand, with a swirl of fire in the center of the picture. Some of the zombies have buckets on their heads, others have cones. They are shrouded in dark shadow, and the picture has a blue hue.

When it comes to the subtitles, if you played the original PvZ game, the text is in the same style. It’s a specific font, so gamers with a visual impairment may have trouble making it out. The text is a bit small, as well, and there is no option to increase the size of the captions/text. The good news is that sound is not required for you to play this game and enjoy it. I actually preferred it if there was no sound when I was playing. While there are not a lot of quick moves that have to be made, you are playing with other players, so having a decent reaction time is necessary to play in some of the multiplayer games.

I will say that I struggle with multiplayer in many other games, due to poor reaction times. I have a muscle disease, and while I know when to shoot, my hands don’t always respond fast enough to make that happen. I will say that in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, in co-op I never was the top scoring player, but I was often the second or third place shooter, typically second place. I also have never been the lowest ranked shooter. That actually made me feel great, because I often am at the bottom of the scoreboards, on most games. Even in multiplayer, especially with the configuration upgrades, I was actually killing the enemy teams. I call it a success if I get 1 or 2 kills in a game, but in this multiplayer, I actually killed many zombies (or plants!). To me this is very exciting!

I am a huge fan of the original PvZ game. I was incredibly exuberant about the release of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. While I definitely think there are some things that EA could improve on (by the way, local co-op needs to happen on Xbox 360 – one of the bigger downfalls of the game), I absolutely love the overall game concept. Personally, I feel that PopCap really has the potential to make games more accessible for gamers with disabilities. Really, if they took the few negative aspects and turned them into positives (remappable controls, anyone?) this game could be a shining example of where the world of gaming accessibility is going, and where it needs to be.

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