Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

Try and imagine that your burgeoning games collection is a flowering orchard. Battlefield 4 is the rose bush in the corner, liable to sting you right in the thumbs with spiky lag, but equally capable of luring you in with its violent splendour. Assassin’s Creed IV might be the water feature between the Resogun rhododendrons and the Wolfenstein weeping willow. So where does EA’s online third-person shooter with the skin of the über-popular tower defence game stretched over its twigs fit into this overcooked opening gambit? It’s the compost heap.

At its core, it’s rotten. Shooting stuff is what you spend a vast proportion of your time doing in Garden Warfare, and it feels awful. Peashooter charges explode in encompassing green mists, rewarding chaotic flurries over any pretence of precision. The visual feedback, meanwhile, leaves (leaves!) plenty to be desired. Shoot a man in Battlefield 4 and he recoils from the impact. You know you’ve struck home because your human brain reads the way the enemy shifts his weight or the way 
his head snaps backwards. How should a cactus react when it gets shot? Or a hulking American football-playing zombie? Here, they simply don’t.

The HUD-based indicators are all you’ve got to go by, but as each battle invariably descends into pandemonium GW is about as functional as a roll of Plenty in a Bedouin camel latrine.

The slightly less rank middle layer of the heap is the character roster, where it’s clear some thought has been put into units that fit recognisable multiplayer class templates. The Catcus is essentially a Recon sniper, firing needles from long range. The Scientist Zombie acts as a medkit-touting Assault, with the emphasis on disruption and healing rather than all out shootery. A general lack of balance, however, ensures that our elongated manure analogy holds true here, also.

Cack-tus jack

In too many matches we found the entire roster of our Plant squad rocking up as Chompers (the one hit kill, melee-focused bruiser). It’s not that this class is more fun to play as, but that it’s much easier to attain victory with them. Do you want to win or do you want to play in a unique way? Online shooters cracked this particular conundrum a decade ago.

And then we reach the crusty outer layer of the heap. With so much colour and vibrancy on show it’s easy to fall for GW’s looks. The sound design is also great, with cute catchphrases aplenty for nippers to lock onto. But in its bid to create an online shooter safe for those sprogs to enjoy, PopCap has somehow managed to flip past the most essential pages of the grow-your-own-shooter manual. Just because kids are younger in years doesn’t mean they’re any less discerning, especially when it comes to stinking, rotting vegetation.

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