The tower defence game Plants vs Zombies proved to be a massive hit for PopCap Games when it was first released in 2009. After making its debut on Windows and OS X, it was ported to just about every platform you could imagine from Google Chrome to Xbox Live Arcade to Android and PS Vita.
It seemed the puzzle-game experts behind Bejewelled could do no wrong. But when Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare came out earlier this year as an exclusive for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, collective jaws dropped.
PopCap had effectively ripped up the turf of its franchise, re-seeded it and allowed the tower defence game to be planted alongside a third-person shooter which comes into its own when played online. And if you missed the fun in February because you own a PS3 and PS4, then you're about to be enlightened.
For the new ground of Garden Warfare is not only a visually appealing and aurally impressive 3D offering, with cool animation and a bombardment of silly sound effects, it is also incredibly social. It doesn't have a single-player mode so it relies very heavily on getting you hooked up online.
But it's worth doing. The game offers wonderfully crafted maps and character classes which have unlockable special powers and, while the weapons are not always precise, it seems to matter little in the ensuing melee. Pitting four 'plant' players against waves of zombies hellbent on destruction in the Garden Ops “tower defence” mode is the perfect cue for chaotic soil-yourself carnage. But there is a deathmatch variant and a skit of the Conquest and Rush modes from the Battlefield series which PvZ:GW calls Gardens and Graveyards.
There is no doubt that the game has charm and it draws on the competitive nature of the players whether you're trying to capture certain points or score more knockout. Certainly, the more you play, the more the game grows on you and it's easy to lose a good number of hours in blissful co-op pleasure. With Garden Warfare, PopCap has certainly blossomed, delivering a game that is high on the must-buy list.