Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare Review (XONE, X360)

The Best Multiplayer Shooter on Xbox One Is PVZ Garden Warfare


Garden Warfare is a mostly successful third-person-shooter spin-off of the beloved Plants vs. Zombies franchise.  The series' humor is fully intact here, and the plants as well as the zombies have a surprising amount of personality.  This is a fully multiplayer focused game, however, so don't expect any sort of satisfying single-player experience.  It is also a little bare-bones as far as features and modes go, a feeling that is slightly, but not completely, relieved by the $40 on XONE and $30 on Xbox 360 price tags.  We have more, including comparisons between the 360 and XONE versions, here in our full Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare review.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Electronic Arts
  • Developer: PopCap
  • ESRB Rating: “E10" for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Multiplayer Shooter
  • Pros:  Characters have a ton of personality; nicely varied classes; solid presentation; fun gameplay
  • Cons:  Not a lot of maps / modes; plants are OP; single-player is boring; no splitscreen play on 360

Check out our 6 Month PVZ Garden Warfare Report Card as well as our PVZ Garden Warfare Tips & Tricks Guide.

Features and Modes

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a team-based third-person shooter where teams of plants and zombies fight it out for, er, reasons.  It has to be noted that this is an Xbox Live multiplayer focused game, so if you don't want to / can't play with others on Xbox Live, you should not buy it.  There is a mode you can play solo, called Garden Ops, but it is mind-numbingly boring playing by yourself.  Again, don't buy Garden Warfare if you are expecting a single-player game. 

The Xbox One version does have splitscreen play so there is a little local multiplayer you can enjoy, but the Xbox 360 version doesn't have this option and is online only. 

Garden Warfare offers an interesting selection of modes, but there isn't a ton of content here.  Team Vanquish is a 12-on-12 mode where the first team to 50 kills wins (though if you revive a teammate it takes a point away from the other team).  Gardens and Graveyards (also 12v12) is an objective-style game where the zombie team tries to take over key points on the map before attacking the plants' base. 

Garden Ops mode is a tower defense-style four-player co-op game where you play as plants and have to protect your garden from waves of A.I. controlled zombies.  You can place the familiar Plants vs. Zombies units - peashooters, gatling shooters, mushrooms, etc. - in pots and they'll automatically attack oncoming zombies for you.  Garden Ops can be fun in co-op, but boring by yourself.

And, uh, that is it.  There aren't a ton of maps to play on, either, which makes the game feel kind of bare bones even with a bargain price point.  New maps and modes have been promised as free DLC down the line, however, which should make the game more appealing if you want to wait it out instead of getting it at launch. 


The actual gameplay of Garden Warfare is a surprisingly good third-person-shooter considering the wacky characters that make up each side.  There is a little learning curve compared to other shooters, since these plants and zombies move pretty differently from what you're used to and their weapons are all pretty unique to use, but it is a lot of fun when you get into it. 

There are four different classes on each side, and they actually play differently from teach other so it isn't just the same soldiers / medics / tanks that play the same with the only differences being a plant model or a zombie model.  For example, the Peashooter is the plants' soldier, but his abilities let you toss chili pepper grenades, run very fast and jump high for a brief period, or root into the ground as a stationary gatling gun.  The zombie soldier, however, can rocket jump (to reach higher areas of the map), has a long range missile launcher, and a smoke grenade.  The zombie soldier and Peashooter are technically both soldier classes, but they play pretty differently.  The rest of the classes, such as the plants Sunflower vs. the zombies' Scientist, plant Chomper vs. zombie Engineer, and plant Cactus vs. zombie MVP all similarly fulfill the same roles, but play dramatically differently from each other and have different abilities.  Its very cool.

The problem with having such different abilities for each team, however, means that getting the balance just right is very hard.  In the games we played, the plants won a good 80% of the time.  They just have more effective abilities.  The zombies can still win, of course, particularly if the team actually works together, but playing as the plants is a lot easier.

PvZ Garden Warfare has a ton of unlockables that allow you to customize your characters.  The customizations don't change the classes, but you can dress your Scientist up as an Astronaut instead, for example, as well as give characters custom glasses or tattoos or accessories or whatever to make them your own.  The unlockables are all tied to card packs you buy with coins you earn in the game.  At launch there are no microtransactions (as in, you don't have to spend real money to buy coins to unlock stuff faster) but it may come eventually.  The coins and card packs not only unlock the customization options and character skins, but give you usable items (such as the plants and items you can use in the Garden Ops mode and Gardens and Graveyards).  It is kind of a slow grind to earn coins, to be honest, but if you keep playing you unlock stuff at a decent enough clip.

Xbox 360 and Xbox One Version Differences

I was able to spend quite a bit of time with both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 versions of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and there are some pretty significant points in the XONE version's favor.  It loads faster, looks much sharper and better, and performs a lot smoother on Xbox Live on Xbox One.  I also had connection issues on the Xbox 360 version occasionally that I didn't have on XONE, where it would either take forever to find a game or it would get stuck searching for a game for several minutes (and then pressing "B" to cancel out of it would also get stuck to the point I had to reset the system - this happened several times).  The 360 version also lacks the splitscreen mode available on the Xbox One version.  The Xbox One version is absolutely superior and the one I recommend.

Bottom Line

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a remarkably competent third-person-shooter that captures the humor of the PvZ franchise.  It also deserves props for being a competitive multiplayer game that is actually kid and family friendly compared to the typical fare you find on Xbox Live.  It feels a little undercooked, though, with balance issues and a lack of content at launch.  The budget price tag of $40 on XONE and $30 on X360 offsets that a little, along with the promise of more modes and maps coming later as free DLC, but it lacks substance here at launch to make it worth a purchase even at a lower than normal price.  Rent it or wait for either a price drop or some DLC to hit before you buy it.  

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.