The combat itself is only half the battle, with the other aspect being potted plants. Taking a queue from the Plants vs Zombies game that started it all, players utilize cards to grow defensive plants in pots. There's a few options here like your standard damage dealing pea shooter in various forms (standard, gattling, etc) as well as healing plants, plants that scare or attract enemies, and a few other surprises. This adds another layer of strategy to the defense of your garden the zombies are so desperately trying to eat. These plants are destructible and the downtime between waves is perfect to making sure you have the right defense set up - but the cards themselves are limited use. You'll only be able to purchase more in between matches in the sticker shop from the coins you've actually earned in the match.
At this point I'm sure you thinking - damn it - microtransactions. But amazingly, there aren't any to be found despite this micro-transaction like game mechanic. Because of the nature of the game, it's this constant need to buy packs of random cards that keeps you motivated to complete levels in both game modes. The cards not only contains defensive plants, but you'll randomly unlock items to customize your characters like pickles for arms, a target for a hat, or sunglasses for your cactus.
There's a decent variety of zombies to face off against. Whether you have your traditional PvZ “Signature” zombie, or the football players, scientists, and even the bigger boss like ones which include a huge zombie that touts a electric shooting power pole and a disco dancing zombie horde. But these waves become predictable, despite the two boss waves that use slot machines to determine who you face off against.
Garden Warfare is a lot of fun when you get together with the right team, but at times it feels too redundant. It's not the lack of enemies, but it's just the samey-feel you get on every one of the 5 maps available in co-op. The game feels better in short bursts rather than extended play sessions, though jumping back between co-op and competitive helps a little with that.
Several problems seem to pop up in co-op play, mostly players tend to crowd around the garden as you get over run and its incredibly easy to get lost in the visual chaos. It's hard at time to heal the player you want to heal as the sunflower, and the chomper class feels a bit too sluggish - so much so I rarely saw anyone using him online. Xbox One owners get a split-screen gameplay mode as well - but player two doesn't earn any experience or coins - which is the entire point of the game.
There's a few things I think Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare has going for it that help elevate it slightly above a just average title. With a $39.99 price point and a fairly barren game landscape on next-gen platforms, I think the game should gain a solid following. The two modes of play seem split firmly down the middle in terms of what it contributes to your progression - so that should keep a nice balance of player base available. EA promises a steady stream of content to keep things fresh and the sticker and card mechanic fills the game with plenty to collect. In the age of Call of Duty and Battlefield mature shooters, the family friendly nature of Garden Warfare should help set it apart.
The Co-Op Experience: Four players team up as different plant classes in a take on the tower defense genre.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.