One of the bigger surprises at the EA press conference last week at E3 was the reveal of Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare, which is a tongue-in-cheek parody laden action experience set in the zany PvZ universe. PopCap did a fabulous job keeping this project under wraps, because no one in the industry really knew about it until its E3 reveal. Garden Warfare had a private gameplay demo (not playable) room setup on the show floor, and I was fortunate enough to get a front row seat for it.
What instantly stood out in the demo is this game’s humor. PvZ: GW makes an outwardly attempt to parody some of the largest action gaming franchises on the planet, with Call of Duty being the most recognizable juggernaut getting portrayed in the PvZ style of humor. From the gameplay to the cutscenes, PvZ: GW does a bang up job making you giggle. Considering that we only got to see 15-minutes of what this unique take on the popular franchise has to offer, there’s a great chance that Garden Warfare will pack more laughs than any game before it.
The gameplay itself is also quite humorous, but that’s not the focus. Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare is without a doubt a deep class-based third person shooter. The demo featured a horde-like battle where waves of zombies had to be wasted before they reached the home base. To prevent them from doing so gamers can team up with up to 3 other live humans in a co-op setting to take down the brain lusting horde of zombie rejects. To do so, teams must utilize the various plant class abilities in a symbiotic manner with their team to ensure success.
Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare features four distinct classes that aren’t too different from other class-based shooters in the market, but they’re definitely rooted in the PvZ style, and not exact clones of the familiar multiplayer classes.
The first class shown at the E3 demo was the Pea Shooters. These are your front line first assault troops just like they are in the traditional PvZ tower defense game. This class is quite mobile and can drop chili bean bombs, as well as jump great distances to get around the map as quickly as possible. Their main attack is the ability to fire pea bullets from their snouts, which can make short work of the encroaching zombie horde.
The second class shown featured the Chomper, which is a close combat plant warrior that looks like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. Chompers can lay booby-traps to take out zombies, and they can also burrow underground to spring up and chomp attack the enemy forces. They seemed to move slower than Pea Shooters, but their devastating up close attacks are extremely deadly when used on the undead.
The third class in the Garden Warfare demo was the Sunflower, which is the healer class. Sunflowers can drop healing plants around the map to refresh the health of the other classes, and they can also directly target friendlies to heal them. These plant-based medics also have a sunbeam attack to help take out zombies en route to healing squad members. Although, even with a weapon, the Sunflower class is still predominantly meant to be a medic, so their attacks aren’t quite as strong as the other classes.
The final class in Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare is the Cactus, who are ranged attackers. The Cactus class can plant mines around the battlefield in addition to having a projectile attack. However, their true power lies in the ability to launch a Garlic UAV drone that can scan the battlefield and provide air support. At one point in the demo the Garlic UAV called in a popcorn airstrike to take down one of the dynamically generated zombie boss characters with authority. This class seemed to offer the most variety in regards to attacks, so it’ll be interesting to see what other strategies can be implemented with the Garlic UAV ability.
All four of these classes are mobile, and can move about the map in a third person manner, but they also all have rooted abilities. These attacks can be used when the specific class plants itself in a particular location on the map. While rooted each class gains a bit more power to their attacks, and some even offer new types of attacks while in this mode.
All of the classes need to be used effectively to succeed in Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare’s co-op mode. The zombie hordes definitely provide a great challenge, and when things seem like they’re going your way this game will drop a dynamically generated boss battle to amp up the challenge. The developers said that no two games of co-op will ever be the same as most of the enemies and bosses are generated on the fly, and aren’t pre-scripted moments.
This game also will feature 24-person multiplayer matches, but this game type wasn’t shown during the E3 demo.
Overall Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare looks to be a very special game that knows exactly what it needs to do to entertain the masses of PvZ fans who undoubtedly want to get their hands on it. It will release sometime during the spring of 2014 for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 first. From there it will then be made available on PC. The PopCap rep at the demo also said that there are plans to roll it out to other formats, but he couldn’t elaborate on which ones.
MS took a beating at the show, but they’ve locked up some great timed exclusives that could give jaded fans a reason to pick up the Xbox One after all, and PvZ: GW is definitely a game on that roster. Its unique brand of humor, solid class-based gamely, and overall presentation are just a few reasons to own it on the franchise’s launch day.
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