What is it?
"Garden Warfare" is a new vision of the strategy game "Plants vs. Zombies." In a traditional "Plants vs. Zombies" title, gamers manipulate a 2D environment by placing sunflowers, walnuts, pea pods and a wide variety of other vegetables and fungi in front of a house to protect it from a zombie horde. The game has become a tower defense classic playable on almost any device. "Garden Warfare" has evolved the series and turned it into a tower defense/shooter hybrid, with gamers now working in a 3D environment.
A twist on traditional gameplay. Tower defense games can be intimidating. "Garden Warfare" is tower defense light, with some basic shooting elements mixed in. It's a good game to introduce first time players of the series with.
Classic PvZ charm and humor. Part of what makes "Garden Warfare" endearing is how it takes boring, ordinary vegetables and repurposes them for military use. The chili bean acts as a hand grenade, making loud noises and yelling excitedly to draw zombies close before blowing up. Potatoes are landmines, exploding with a large "Spudow!" My favorite weapon is the cactus, which has the special ability to call in a garlic drone. But what really cracked me up is seeing a port-a-potty attacking my garden. I literally laughed out loud when I saw that.
Online or bust. To get the most out of "Garden Warfare," you have to play online. There are four games modes but only one, the horde mode Garden Ops, can be played single player. The other modes require you to play through Xbox Live Gold. While finding a game on the Xbox 360 wasn't too difficult, finding one on Xbox One was very challenging and, depending on the time of day, almost impossible (attempting to play a multiplayer match locked up my Xbox One several times).
An enigma folded in a blanket, wrapped in a burrito. "Garden Warfare" tries to be many things but succeeds only on a surface level. The shooting sections of the game are straightforward, simplistic and lack the challenge a gamer would normally expect when running and gunning. The strategic aspect that gamers have come to enjoy in this tower defense series have also been dumbed down, with placement of plants having minimal impact on the outcome of a match.
I went into "Garden Warfare" with high expectations. When I first saw the game demoed at E3 in Los Angeles last year, it looked like a brilliant mix of shooter and tower defense.
Sadly, that vision hasn't been realized with this newest model. Unless you're OK with limited modes, a required online experience and you're are a die-hard "Plants vs. Zombies" fan, I'd stay away from this title.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.