I was recently asked to contribute at Christian Entertainment Reviews, and I gratefully accepted. Below is the beginning of my first post there with a link to continue reading. Thanks for checking it out! You might find other reviews to tickle your fancy there too.
What’s the Best Shooter Ever? Garden Warfare (PvZ)
Ok, so saying that the childish-looking Plants vs Zombies game, Garden Warfare, is the “best shooter ever” might be a bit subjective, but I’m not the only one adult with that line of thinking. Sprinkled all over the internet are almost apologetic expressions of this same sentiment from experienced gamers–that is, by older teens or adults. But Game reviewers are less shy in praising Garden Warfare:
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare’s bright colors, cartoon graphics and humorous approach are the antithesis of most . . . shooters. But don’t be fooled. It’s as good as any out there – and very likely an awful lot more fun. (Jaz Rignall at USGamer.net)
Garden Warfare is more deliberate, and involves more strategy than you would think, considering its cartoon exterior. Digging into the different characters and the different special abilities for each, there’s a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay.
What exactly is Garden Warfare (PvZ)?
Garden Warfare, rated“E” (everyone), is a third-person shooter—meaning that you see the back of your character as you blast away (a possible down-side being that the right-of-center site makes aiming less intuitive). It’s populated by cute, weird, and . . . [continue reading]
Update 10-8-2014: Yet another significant DLC came out on for Garden Warfare on 9-30-2014, called “Legends of the Lawn.” Much of what this content added to the game is integrated into the article. I also did some editing article and added a paragraph on game-playing balance. Thanks for reading! (For anyone who’s visited this page before, all the previous “updates” have been moved to the bottom of this article.)
So how do you like my creepy flower? I’ve been having fun playing PvZ Garden Warfare after introducing it at its debut in a previous post (Garden Warfare: The game for Christians (and others) who prefer bloodless mayhem). In that post I shared that I didn’t like third person shooters but I’d give this game a go, and so I did. It’s an addicting game (like any good game, unfortunately), though I’m not as good at the Multiplayer Modes as my son is.
The scenery in the maps is detailed, always fun, and I simply enjoy being in these environments; quirky humor can be found throughout, like with the billboard that advertizes “El Bano Taco.” I don’t like all maps equally when it comes to actual game play, and players will discover on their own which maps present the best or worst situations for their style of vanquishing, team play (which garden might be best for Craazy! level), etc.
There are two basically different ways of playing Garden Warfare: Garden Ops and Multiplayer (up to 24 players using dedicated servers), and there is no story or separate solo offline gameplay. The XBOX One version has split screen capability, but not so with the XBOX 360. The Zomboss Down DLC added a new “mute all” button option for XBOX One. When the PC version came out on June 24, it contained a new map, Jewel Junction; this map was added for XBOX versions on July 1 with the Tactical Taco Party Pack DLC. This map is used in Garden Ops and Team Vanquish. The “Crash Course” map was added in August.
Garden Ops. Garden Ops is played with up to four players. When you arrive at the map you will find three gardens to choose from to defend. Each has its advantages. With the Suburbination added content, if a “bonus” garden comes up as an option and chosen, the players will be rewarded with loot after each wave (however, it’s gained by whoever grabs the loot–it’s not distributed). Also added with Suburbination is a new, very detailed map called Crash Course, which can be played in day or night modes (Jewel Junction, added with the Tactical Taco Party pack, has day and night options, too). Different waves and bosses have been added to Garden Ops with Suburbination as well, including Vase Breaker, Baron von Bats, and the Treasure Yeti. Baron Von Bats is a difficult opponent, as he moves A LOT and he spawns strong minions. The Treasure Yeti also moves a lot and his little freezing yeti imps devastatingly come out in groups.
Garden Ops can be played in either invite only mode or public mode (if a game ends and you remain in the list, and the host changes to invite mode, you can remain in the game unless specifically kicked off). Either way, Garden Ops is hosted by individuals and when you start a session, as opposed to joining someone else’s session, you start alone. You may remain alone for quite some time, so be ready to go it alone if you start yourself; if you end up finishing yourself there is a 3,000 coin Solo Bonus given. I have no idea how their system works; when a player searches for a session, they will be added to an active session immediately–but when you start your own session you may never have anyone come on. To me, this is a head scratcher.
The upside to starting your own session–of you being the host–is that you’re less likely to be kicked out of the game. Yes, this is a definite problem with Garden Warfare. I get kicked out of games frequently and have seen others have the same problem–literally all the time.
In Garden Ops, you and the other players defend a garden until the session is over, and there are four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Craaaazy! This game, while it looks like it could be for small kids, can be very hard. Neither my son nor I have gotten through the Craaaazy! level yet (my son really wants to since to do so would mean getting our last Garden Warfare Achievement). My son says that getting through the Craaaazy! level is harder than playing Dark Souls. That’s saying something. And for any parent letting their little kids play when a team effort is needed . . . thaaaaanks . . . (waste of the other players’ time). Which reminds me: you can mute other players easily enough, and this is done individually on either XBOX version–but with the XBOX One an option to “mute all” will then appear.
While I’m in a complaining mode, I have two other pet peeves when it comes to Garden Ops. One, if you’re playing public mode then don’t toggle kick people off for no reason. Very rude and it wastes the time of the players that just got placed on your team by the system. Go into invite only mode. Geesh. Two, flowers are the medics in the game. They get quite a lot of extra points for healing, both players and the potted plants. There’s no reason to play in Garden Ops as a flower but then play like a Pea Shooter. I can’t express how annoying it is to know there’s a flower on your team that aggressively tries to get all the vanquishes while at the same time she doesn’t heal anyone. To heal, a player only has to hold the left bumper down – no problem at all – you can do it constantly during game play to easily heal anyone around with barely even thinking about it. Besides not doing something so simple, I’ve even seen flowers get in a spot that others can’t get to easily, so that they happily heal themselves – only. Multiplayer would be a better option for such players, though it still wouldn’t be of any benefit to the other team players.
And just one more thing (while I’m adjusting my stance on the soapbox), if this is a fun game, why are something like 75% of the players so noninteractive and boring? Honestly, it’s so much fun when players interact with the many gestures (some quite hilarious), try to jump on and ride the cactus’ garlic drone, break all kinds of things . . . you know, fun stuff.
Welcome Mat (Classic only). Free-for-all on one map only, for new players. Only basic characters with no customizations are allowed here, which is what “Classic” means when you see it elsewhere..
Team Vanquish (plus Classic). Free-for-all available on various maps, including Jewel Junction that was added on July 1 (Xboxes). Whenever a team gets 50 points the session is finished; reviving a downed player takes a point away from the other team. All characters and customizations allowed, unless you choose to play in Classic mode. A new variety of Team Vanquish was added on July 1, called Vanquish Confirmed. In this game your team has to grab the orbs hovering over a dead opponent, or a team player, in order to get the point or take a point from the enemy.
Garden & Graveyards (plus Classic). Fun game of garden defense vs garden takeover. Plants try to defend a series of small gardens against the zombies, and then a large garden and building at the end. From what I’ve seen, zombie teams win more often in this game mode and the monetary rewards can be significant. Can be played in Classic mode. On April 15, 2014, a free DLC added the new Cactus Canyon map, where the zombies have to get a giant golf ball in a giant hole to win the final round. Too fun.
Mixed Mode. Either a session of Team Vanquish or Gardens & Graveyards is gone through, then without having to change lobbies, another game is begun. It may or may not be the other game, however. Gnome Bomb has not been added to the mix, but perhaps in the future?
Boss Mode. XBOX One only. You get to be a boss, flying around doing god-like things like airstrikes, and placing healing and spotting stations. This mode is especially effective at the Cactus Canyon golf course, where zombies are normally grouped together a lot and winning the golf course for the plants is pretty hard.
Gnome Bomb. 15 minute crazy-making match. The Gnome Bomb is sought, taken, and attached in its designated place. Then the team tries to destroy all
Suburbination. This is a three-spot win and defend map mode, commonly referred to as “domination.”
Taco Bandits. Added in September 2014, Taco Bandits is a bit like “capture the flag.” Instead of capturing a flag, however, plants defend a taco stand while zombies try and steal three tacos (so now we know for sure who the bad guys are!) and reach their Zomboss’ ship with them. The tacos have to be stolen separately three times within six minutes in order for the Zombies to win.
Characters and Leveling
Currently there are four base characters in each of the plants and zombies groups, and each of these base characters has seven to nine more specialized subcharacters (besides the earliest added content, a cheesy chomper and scientist are now available to everyone; and on September 30 seven or eight new subcharacters were added, depending on your console brand). For example, instead of using the base Sunflower, you can unlock each of these: Fire Flower, Shadow Flower, Power Flower, Mystic Flower (the way mine is currently outfitted, she’s more like a Psycho Flower!), Metal Petal, Sun Pharaoh, and Alien Flower. All plants can use potted plants as well, like the Doom Shroom and Bonk Choy, and these are made available by buying Sticker Packs. Zombies likewise have zombie assistants they can call upon in the same way. After the DLCs that have come out, there is actually a large number of these fun helpers available.
Each flower, just like each other character, has a different way of shooting and it may have other unique attributes. The Fire Flower may be the best in the game since its fire damage lingers over time. The Metal Petal has fifty percent more health (150 instead of 100) than the others, but moves more slowly. Since it also has more ammo it is a definite contender for the best flower in the game. The Shadow Flower is also powerful, with its plentiful and more powerful cool blue goopy ammo. And the Psycho, er, Mystic Flower shoots completely differently – instead of being like the other flowers’ automatic “weapon,” it shoots individual rounds that are more powerful, and it can build up a hugely powerful shot as a special ability. It’s more like a cactus, and most like the Future Cactus. You can feel and hear the difference while shooting, just as with other “shooter” type games. The Ice Pea even makes a “tinkling” sound whenever it shoots, while snowflakes burst around.
A player gains levels (and concurrently, Game Rank) by finishing mini-challenges, or, by using Skip Challenge Cards to make it the same as if you did the challenge. The cards are pretty much a necessity for those players (like me) who don’t do well in multi-player modes, since some challenges relate only to those modes and are quite hard in any case. These cards are won in the Sticker Packs. Every time you level up, up to level 10, you get a free sticker pack that is related to that character; after level 10 you get 10,000 coins at each level-up. Also when a base character reaches level 10, the last subcharacter becomes available to unlock.
A note on balance. Many critics say the game play is pretty well balanced, but I think this may be deceptive. As it stands now, the Zombies as a whole seem more powerful. The scientist is the healer in the game, but he has more abilities and a stronger weapon than the plant’s healer (the flower). The Zombie aids are far more damaging or difficult to deal with than the plants’ aids. For instance, a potted plant of course just sits there, and no matter how strong its attack, it is very easily destroyed from a distance. This is not the case with the Zombie aids. They move and some are armored with a very high health level, making them hard and time consuming to kill. As you might imagine, if many of these are walking around, they really detract from hitting the Zombie team. It amazes me that the plants ever win matches at all!
You customize your characters by using items unlocked from the Sticker Packs, which are just like trading card packs (though virtual), purchased with the coins you collect from playing (you can also purchase game coins now and buy packs that way, if desired). Just like with trading cards, the “stickers” are rated by rarity.
One odd thing about the game is that while you can see if your sticker is common or rare at the time of your purchase, this rating doesn’t show up in the sticker book where you can see stats, stickers, etc. Gestures, of which there are many, are unlocked this way too. The April 15 DLC made hundreds more characterizations available. With the Suburbination DLC, the “Amazing Bling Pack”–with its crazy diamond encrusted and gold plated and bejeweled items–became available. Now there are even MORE customization with the Legends of the Lawn DLC, including SETS. Yes, sets, like the Panda set I’m looking forward to for my flower. ^_^
(A word of warning about the bling pack: It is relatively expensive, which might be expected, but it doesn’t always have the diamond encrusted items. If you use real cash to buy packs, you might end up disappointed. Individually, it would cost $1.99 for one pack, and when buying the most amount of coins a player can at one time for $10, you’d be able to by six packs and have change. Considering how many characters there are, combined with the amazing amount of customizations available [which these bling are modifications of], the chances of getting a really cool item for your favorite character is low.)
With the flowers, you can add a hat, an accessory (like glasses), an organic (different “hands”), and a “tatoo”–with flowers it’s something on their face, but with cacti, it may cover their whole body. The image at the top of this post shows a Metal Petal with a Sun Mask (combined hat and accessory), Razor Teeth Tatoo, and Happy Hands. Plunger Hands, Purple Crystals, and Satellite Dishes are some of the few fun hands available for the flower. The Cactus characters have the best customizations, in my view. The Cactus has the biggest canvas–that is, it’s body has the most space to showcase designs–and its arms are also significant and obvious. You can really have lots of fun customizing your Cactus, like with puppet or owl arms. We have a lot of fun with this alone in the game, and with seeing how others have “done-up” their spike-shooting eccentric cacti.
Lastly, coming from a Christian blog, you might want to know if I noticed anything Christian or Anti-Christian about the game. I have found neither,* so it seems to me that the game makers are dedicated to presenting a fun game that doesn’t seek to promote or offend any faiths or lifestyles (I suppose pacifists may find it offensive). There ARE some funny gestures that some people may take offense at, possibly–the cactus has a hilarious one that made me laugh out loud for a while, where he swivels his “hips” and says “Oooh la la,” and there’s another he does that seems to clearly mean “kiss my a$$.” The cactus is quite the character.
*I did find a cross, seen in the picture below, which is from the scene in the character customizations window. Even though it’s pretty big, it’s in the far distance and I
didn’t even notice it for some time. I think my mind just thought of it as a telephone pole, until I started editing the images.
To sum up my thoughts on the game: FUN; cuuuuute; quirky, certainly not just for kids; Garden Ops hosting is annoying; great AI; addicting; and, . . . it’s like playing in your favorite cartoon. As the flower sometimes says, “Ahhhh, Boogie boogie boogie, Boogie boogie boogie!”
Update, 08/15/14: One large DLC, Suburbination, was released a few days ago (the article has been updated to include the additions), and new characters will be available from August 19 – September 26 via a special offer. To receive the special characters, a new chomper and a new scientist, buy specially marked Cheetos at Target within the time frame given. The Cheetos packs will also have a code for a free Craaazy sticker pack and for entering a contest to win either a customized Xbox One, Playstation 4, or customized controller. If you don’t like Cheetos, then more for us – watch out, Target! [Post-update info: the contest didn’t work out too well, since many Target stores never received the Cheetos packs; shame on Cheetos!! In response, however, EA made the new characters available to everyone in-game.]
Update, 06/30/14: A new dlc will be available tomorrow for the Xboxes, and on the 8th for PC. Tactical Taco Party Pack will add significant content, AND it makes changes to the multiplayer party joining system.
Update, 04/26/14: Microtransactions to purchase in-game sticker packs will begin next week. This will only make content available sooner, not offer exclusive content to buyers.
Update:A free DLC with significant new game content came out on April 15, 2014. This article has been updated to reflect the new content.
This post was edited on 4/13/14 and again updated, adding new DLC information, on 4/15/14 and 4/20/14. Images below are just for fun and will be rotated occasionally. It was again updated June30/July 1 2014 with the release of the free DLC. This content was updated regarding the new Suburbination added content on 8/15/14; some general updating and editing were also done.
Update: While this article is still relevant, I have a newer article that is more game-descriptive and where I will continue to add new material as new game additions come out. There were major additions in July and August, and there will be yet more in August. Please see that article for details. Garden Warfare (PvZ): Hosting, False Flowers, and that Bomb Carrying Gnome
Update:A free DLC with significant new game content came out on April 15, 2014. The article linked below contains new content information.
Update: If you to want to find out more about Garden Warfare after reading this little post, you can take a look at my newer, detailed article. I wrote it after having played it a good deal and investigating it some more: Garden Warfare (PvZ): Hosting, False Flowers, and that Bomb Carrying Gnome
Update:Free DLC (via automatic download) will be available March 18, 2014. It adds a new map, new game mode, and lots of extras for the characters.
The wildly colorful and chaotic, as well as constantly delightful, Garden Warfare is now out! This new everyone-rated third person shooter is based on the fun and popular “casual” game, Plants vs Zombies, and isn’t shy about comparing itself to Modern Warfare. It is currently available for XBOX 360 and XBOX One, and comes out for PC on June 30th. (It is published by EA–and there is a note about this company at the end of this post–and was made by subsidiary PopCap.)
A popular reviewer summed the game up: “Garden Warfare is a surprisingly good third-person multiplayer/cooperative shooter. A refreshing light-hearted twist on class-based multiplayer games, with the depth and polish that you would expect from usual suspects in this genre.” (Visit the linked page for his excellent review.)
My son, who plays third-person shooters but is getting a bit tired of them (he’s already regretting buying COD Ghosts), was more than happy to try this game out, however, and he loves it. I like colorful things done well, and odd humor, so I love it as well. I don’t like playing third-person and I’ve never been into “shooter” games, but still, this is fun. The characters move in cute ways, have gestures, make fun noises, and have a surprising number of unlockables to change appearance. When someone vanquishes you you get to see a slow-mo of them seconds afterwards, which helps to see all the different characters and their diverse and often hilarious get-ups.
There is no blood, gore, sex, or cursing–and muting fellow players is easy–so it’s all just extreme “duck-shooting” chaos, “gardening,” explosions, avoiding tunneling zombie-eating plants (Chompers) or flower power death rays, shooting yourself out of a cannon to get to the last part of a map, and so-on. The three levels of game play, as well as the variety of characters and their numerous options, makes for continually complex and fresh gaming fun. (A note on bugginess–we have played it on the 360 and haven’t noticed the bugginess, at least so far, reported by players on XBOX One.)
It’s technically possible for you to play by yourself in Garden Ops mode, but unless you’re really good, you won’t get far nor get as many rewards as you could playing with others; the game is made to play with with a small group (and this can be in private with friends only), in Garden Ops, or a large group, in public multiplayer mode. Of course, you need XBOX live to play the game.
There are many maps (I love the first one that includes a very bright and homey trailer park) and types of game play, such as just shooting it out, defending your garden, or defending multiple bases, etc., and oodles of unlockables. Just one example of the fun-being-a-kid aspect of this game is the manner in which customizations are had: you buy packs of “stickers” to open the surprise inside. These look like packs of real-life game cards, like for Pokemon, that you buy at the store.
Besides customizing the eight basic classes of characters, there are powerful variants to each character that can be purchased via sticker-pack too, as well as items like spawnable plants and zombies. Who can’t but love an “outhouse zombie,” the zipping “garlic drone,” the goofy yet impressive “robotic zombie head,” or the giant corn cannon that releases explosive popcorn? So if you’re looking for a “clean” game that easily rivals, if not improves upon, the popular shooters out there, I don’t think it could hurt to give Garden Warfare a try. Enjoy a sampling of game images, below (these official images actually don’t do the game justice, and I will add screen shots from a video feed when I have them).
A note to Christian readers (and those who try to only buy products from reputable companies): For anyone who’s come here looking for something satanic to avoid, this might be a tough choice; I was loathe to buy an EA game myself. I get views to my blog daily from readers looking for something satanic, and in this case, Garden Warfare’s publisher EA (Electronic Arts) might be considered evil. However, Garden Warfare was developed by PopCap, the makers of the Plants vs Zombies series for some time now.
I haven’t done a ton of research on PopCap, but from what I know, they seemed like a good company prior to their purchase by EA. This happened in 2012, after which “EA and PopCap” fired 50 employees. Besides that wonderful move, EA has a bad reputation among many gamers for these reasons (it was voted the worse company in America two years in a row), and others on this page–do scroll down to the lawsuits and such. April 26, 2014 update: I missed a good article on this subject earlier, but better late than never; EA is the Worst Company in America, Now What?
[This post was updated and expanded on March 11, 2013]