Gamers were dumbfounded when PopCap announced it was transplanting the Plants vs. Zombies series from the backyard to the battlefield. Garden Warfare features only two main competitive modes: Team Vanquish is your run-of-the-mill team death match, while Gardens & Graveyards tasks zombies with assaulting a series of consecutive capture points in a map, similar to Battlefield's rush mode. A classic variant of each mode disables upgrades and unlockable characters (making them less interesting), and the beginner mode gives you more health the more you die, but you're still playing one of two basic formulas.
Gardens & Graveyards is clearly the main attraction. Maps have unique themes, and capture points are built around interesting locations that facilitate large-scale confrontations. Every map features an interesting final objective, such as sneaking five zombies into Crazy Dave's mansion or destroying the roots of a giant sunflower growing inside a lighthouse. Gardens & Graveyards provides hours of fun, but eventually you get tired of assaulting or defending the same points on the same handful of maps, and Team Vanquish does little to alleviate the boredom.
Garden Warfare's most interesting twist is how it incorporates the series' tower-defense elements into matches. Players can spawn zombies or plants in designated locations on the map, which then attack opponents autonomously. Unfortunately, these characters are treated as consumable items that players must purchase before matches using Garden Warfare's microtransaction-ready economy.
Garden Warfare's simplified game play and limited map selection can entertain for only so long without rewarding progression. There's no carrot (or brain) at the end of the stick.
RATING E 10+ for Everyone 10 and older
PLOT The garden is now infested with zombies.
DETAILS Xbox One, Xbox 360, $39.99
BOTTOM LINE A fun concept that never fully takes root.