Jun 13, 2013

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E3 Preview: Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare

E3 Preview: Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare

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Tuesday at E3, I got the opportunity to witness a hands-off live demo of the quirky mutilplayer action title Plants vs Zombie  Garden Warfare. After the presentation, I was able to sit down with Justin Wiebe for a short Q&A session that filled in some more details as to what we can expect from the game.

The presentation began with the trailer, then proceeded into a live four-player demo, showing off each of the four current character classes and a bit of what you can expect from each.

Unlike the original game, Garden Warfare takes place on maps and involves up to four players working together to defeat the zombie horde. Your plants are no longer stationary, either; each of you can move around the arena as you battle the zombies. Additionally, you can plant additional plants in pots that you will find scattered throughout the level. You’ll build up your plant arsenal through collections as you play the game, and add to the strategic element of play as you carefully chose which plants will better help you fight your foe: additional peashooters? or maybe one of the new plants (a bok choy that beats up nearby zombies, boxer style)? You can also plant potato bombs and other such plants around the level (no pot needed), as well as utilize the garlic drone, which lets you fly up above the action and attack en masse from the sky. These are just a few examples I witnessed during our demo; the final game will have many more options.

The first character class is the Peashooter, which you’ll recognize as a fundamental element of your army from the original game. The Peashooter plays like a third-person shooter, but it also has a couple other modes, including a hyper mode that enables you to move rapidly and jump extra high to help take out tough enemies quickly (such as road-cone-hat zombies). You can also utilize the Gatling gun mode, which enables you to shoot, machine-gun style, plowing through mobs of enemies. However, you have to stay rooted (you can’t move) during this mode, which means you have to use it with caution.

The second character type is the Chomper, which proves the game isn’t a pure shooter, making it a great class for those who prefer a slightly different style of play rather than simply shooting the enemy. Chompers get close to the zombies and swallow them whole, in one bite. Like the original game, they take a bit of time to finish their meal, so you’ll have to be quick on your feet (stem?) to prevent being injured by the enemy. Like the Peashooter, Chompers have other modes they can access, including setting a snare trap to lure and capture zombies (for easier eating), or spit out poison that slows enemy’s progress, making them ripe targets for one of the other classes to finish off.

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The third character type is the Sunflower, the backbone of the army, it shoots laser-like projections. When rooted, the Sunflower emits a powerful sunbeam to mow down the horde. Additionally, the Sunflower can heal other players, which comes in handy in the heat of battle.

The final character class is the Cactus, the long-range shooter. Unlike the Peashooter, the cactus is able to attack enemies from afar, giving you the chance to take out zombies without risking injury.

In order to balance the characters, each has limitations. For example, the Peashooter needs to cock to reload between shots, the Sunflower can easily overheat, the Chomper needs to chew and swallow, etc. Mr. Wiebe made it clear that the developer wanted these factors to make sense for each plant and feel organic rather than forced for balancing’s sake.

The game has a certain variability to it, so that no single match will play out the same, with boss fights or missions (doled out by everyone’s favorite Crazy Dave) triggering randomly. In the demo I witnessed, two different boss fights were triggered–one with the Disco Zombie, who has a disco ball spin attack that destroys anyone in its path but leaves him dizzy and vulnerable for a short period afterward. We also saw a second boss fight, with a Gargantaur (complete with intro of “Bring your imp to work day”). Bosses make cooperation among your fellow players even more important, as you carefully work together to defeat these larger, more powerful enemies.

Although Garden Warfare is billed primarily as a multiplayer title, a single-player mode will also be available. By planting additional plants around the level, you’ll be able to survive the zombie onslaught while playing solo. However, because of these reinforcements, you’re never truly alone. In addition to online four-player multiplayer, the game will also feature a local split-screen co-op mode. Garden Warfare is still in early stages, so not everything has been finalized, but it’s possible that other options beyond the demoed four classes will be available, including the opportunity to play as the zombies. Additionally, though the game is strictly humans versus AI at this point, it’s possible the final product may feature humans versus humans or other modes.

Although the demo I saw featured one player utilizing each class, the game offers the freedom for everyone to decide which class they’d like to play, adding another element to the strategy of the game (and perhaps potential achievements, such as “survive X with only Chompers,” I would imagine). The game features a progression system tied to each class, although the details of this system haven’t yet been finalized. Likewise, the final product will feature various maps, which will be revealed over the next few months.

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From what I could see in this live demo, Garden Warfare has the potential to be an absolute blast to play, especially with friends (although the game will feature a solid matchmaking system to pair you up with others of your skill, if you prefer to duke it out with strangers).  As someone who doesn’t enjoy shooters terribly much (partially because I suck at them), it’s interesting to see character classes and weapons that involve other methods of attack rather than simply pointing, aiming, and pulling a trigger.

The game also looks incredible, with the unique PvZ art style really popping on the Xbox One. The game was fast paced and filled with characters and action, but ran smoothly, without any camera issues or lag that I could see during the demo. Even though this is a relatively early build, it was polished and promising. The music was also fantastic; fans of the original game will definitely recognize variations on their favorite themes.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is a timed exclusive for Xbox One and 360, with an expected release window of Spring 2014. The game will also release for PC, followed by other consoles, at a later date.

Stay tuned to Vivid Gamer for more E3 2013 coverage and more on PvZ as details are released.