Last generation, the game that evangelized more than any other was Dark Souls. It was a game I felt a lot of people overlooked and made a lot of assumptions about.
In this brand new console generation, I have found the first game I feel strongly enough about to evangelize. That game is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.
Forget what you think this game is. Forget that you’re mad PopCap decided to make a shooter out of Plants vs. Zombies. Forget that it looks like it’s aimed at younger audiences. Forget that you think it will just be laden with microtransactions. Forget all of that, and play this game.
Garden Warfare takes the best of Team Fortress 2, Battlefield and the versus mode in Left 4 Dead 2 and combines them. Each faction has classes that will be familiar to shooter fans–there are soldiers, healers, engineers and heavies. But the way those classes are implemented makes each type of character play very differently. The heavy on the zombie side is a lumbering hulk with a chain gun, while the heavy on the plant side basically Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. Each class has abilities that you unlock by completing challenges, and a fully unlocked character has a nice variety of options to head into battle with.
There is a card system in the game that allows players to purchase card packs with in-game currency. These packs contain customization items (like hats and outfits for your characters), weapon upgrades (including elemental damage), new characters to unlock and consumables that you can use, like deployable health stations, turrets, summonable characters, etc. The card packs range in price and so far I feel like the currency I’m earning is an appropriate ratio to the cost of the packs. There is also an element of randomization to the card packs that ensures there is a reason to keep earning currency to buy new ones. All of the currency is earned by playing the game and completing challenges.
While I think there are some balance issues to still be worked out, there is fun to be had in all of the game’s modes. Team Vanquish (Deathmatch) is a “first to 50 kills” type of game, and most of the matched I’ve been in have been decided by 5 kills or less. There’s also a rush-style mode called Gardens and Graveyards, where you are either defending or trying to take control points. This mode needs some balancing, but it’s still a blast to play.
There’s also a four-player co-op horde-style mode which I haven’t checked out yet, as I’m the only one of my friends who has the game so far.
And therein lies my biggest concern for Garden Warfare, and the reason I’m evangelizing it–it’s an online-only multiplayer game, and I’m afraid it may not have a big enough player base on XBox One to keep it going for the long haul. That would be a real shame, as this is a game, much like Team Fortress 2, that you can keep replaying and keep having fun with for a long time to come.
So please, if you have an XBox One (or an XBox 360), do not overlook this game if you’re a shooter fan. Garden Warfare looks great, plays great and is a ton of fun. It’s also one of the only shooters that’s accessible to kids without being inappropriate for them.