Years of cultivation at PopCap Games has led to the growth of its latest title, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. This series has long been known as a popular tower defence title – however, the developer has now planted its roots into new soil by changing the format slightly. As its Call of Duty spoofing name may indicate, this fuses tower defence with third-person gunplay, allowing you to take control of plants in order to protect small gardens of flowers from the undead.

The title has a good posie of personalities to choose from, each with their own quirky advantages. For example, the Sunflower uses a sun beam to re-energise and heal its allies, while the Chomper is good for close range attacks as it gobbles up opponents like a Venus flytrap devours a bug. Meanwhile, the Cactus and Peashooter are both good from long range, firing pea and cactus needle projectiles at your foes.

In the multiplayer mode, you can also play as the plant’s green-fingered foes. These zombies come in four classes: foot soldier, engineer, scientist, and all-star. Each one comes equipped with unique attributes; for instance, the all-star zombie can throw little exploding imps, and the engineer can build teleporters to help your team get to the action faster. Each character feels unique and is a lot of fun to use. Furthermore, they all require different playstyles, which keeps the game fresh and exciting.

It’s the Garden Ops mode that represents the stunning water feature in this fun but chaotic virtual garden, though. This is a co-op experience for up to four players, with each participant choosing one of the four abovementioned plants. You can select a difficulty tier from ‘Easy’ all the way up to ‘Crazy’, with three different gardens available for you to defend from ten waves of the undead. Each location comes with small pot plants where you can plant extra flowers to help deal with the rotting horde.

If that’s not enough, you’ll also have to deal with bosses, as Waves 5 and 10 introduce some hulking foes for you to defeat. These are selected using a spinner, and range from simple zombie onslaughts to the most difficult – and ridiculous – triple zombie yeti attack. These special sequences tend to last a lot longer than a normal wave, and mix up the gameplay just at the right time. Sadly, the mode lacks an endless option, which is a bit of a shame. Still, a split-screen mode allows you to last a little longer, but it’s almost impossible to survive beyond Wave 15 with just the two of you.

Of course, co-op isn’t the only feature on offer, with a full competitive suite available, too. Modes here include: Welcome Mat, Team Vanquish, Gardens and Graveyards, Vanquish Confirmed, and Gnome Bomb. Many of these are variations on popular online multiplayer modes, but it’s the last one that is the most pea-culiar [Sorry – Ed] of the lot, if you gnome [Urgh – Ed] what we mean. Here, each team races to the centre of the map, where there is a dwarf holding a bomb. The objective is to get this into your opponent’s base and keep it there for 30 seconds in order to blow it up.

While this is fun, though, our personal favourite is Gardens and Graveyards, which works similarly to the abovementioned Garden Ops – but allows you to play as either side. As a plant, you have five gardens to protect, and you move between these when one gets destroyed. It’s a ton of fun, and because the gameplay differs depending on character, class, and side, it’s doesn’t wear out its welcome as quickly as some other multiplayer modes.

There is one issue with the otherwise polished package, though: without a party join option like Battlefield 4, it can be difficult to get into games with your friends. You can do this through the PS4’s party chat utility, but we’re hoping that a future update will change this. It’s also worth mentioning that, while this title includes a wide variety of content and modes, there’s no single player feature, so unless you have a PlayStation Plus membership and an Internet connection, you’re going to want to steer clear of this title.

Still, there really is a lot of meat for you to tuck into, and a lot of this comes from the coins that you earn, which allow you to purchase Sticker Packs similar to those in FIFA Ultimate Team. These include tons of customisation items, stickers, consumable plants and zombies, new abilities, revives, and more. Once you’ve collected all of the stickers for a character, you can play as them, and they offer slight adaptations on existing heroes, such as the Ice Cactus. Each personality also has a levelling system in which you’re tasked with completing a wealth of challenges, which get harder and harder as you progress.

And you’ll be working your way through these objectives while admiring the release’s delicious art style, which should appeal to all age ranges. The colours are vibrant and the maps always look clear and crisp, which is aided by the 1080p resolution that the PS4 version runs at. The game doesn’t just look good, though, as there’s plenty of catchy music to bob your head to, too – in fact, we’ve been struggling to get the tunes out of our head. The sound effects are equally satisfying, with every plant, zombie, and object making cute, funny, and adorable noises.

Conclusion

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare stays true to its roots, while at the same time branching out to new audiences by switching up the franchise’s familiar format a little. The gameplay is rock solid, the music and visuals are adorable, and, while the release’s multiplayer focus won’t appeal to everyone, it’s a finely pruned package overall. PopCap deserves credit for taking an existing concept, and making it blossom all over again.