The Plants vs. Zombies franchise is making the leap from tower defense to third person action with Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. It’s important to note that this is not Plants vs. Zombies 2 – that tower defense sequel is still coming – but is actually a new title within the same brand.

Rather than plopping malicious foliage down on the battlefield and then letting them do their thing, Garden Warfare lets players take full control of the series’ iconic plant types. And it also lets groups of friends get in on the zombie smashing fun.

PvZ developer PopCap Games was on hand at E3 2013 to give us an extended version of their EA Press Conference demo. The demo followed the same format as the EA presentation, only with some added developer narration and a more in-depth look at the various plant abilities.

While PopCap Games wouldn’t say so, Garden Warfare appears to be Plants vs. Zombies: Horde Mode. The concept is very simple: a team of plant players try to defend their garden while waves of zombies try their best to destroy it.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare Cast PopCap EA

The demo featured the same four plant types from the EA presser: the Peashooter, Chomper, Sunflower, and Cactus. Each presents a unique approach to combat – Chomper is a melee type, Sunflower is a healer, the Peashooter is a standard shooter, and Cactus is a ranged shooter – and three unique abilities. Those abilities include the Sunflower’s sunbeam, the Chomper’s underground quick travel, and the Cactus’s potato mine

Each plant also has a “rooted” power whereby the plant literally roots itself into the ground for a more focused and deadly attack. The Sunflower’s sunbeam, for example, sends out a destructive beam of light, but the Sunflower cannot move while it’s activated.

The combat also has some unique riffs on the Call of Duty’s killstreaks like the pilotable Garlic Drone. After a certain period of time the player can send a garlic drone into the air and attack the zombies from above. However, if they want to cause massive damage, the garlic done can also call in a cornstrike, an airstrike…but with popcorn. In fact, a lot of the game pokes fun at COD from the name all the way to the pre-level briefing.

As a complete package, the playable plants sound unique enough to support a variety of playstyles, which makes the game perfect for cooperative play. The demo didn’t explain how co-op will work or how the plant types are divvied up, but it’s still very early in development for PopCap.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare Chomper PopCap EA

And of course it wouldn’t be a PvZ gameplay preview if we didn’t talk about the game’s eponymous enemies. While the focus was placed on the plants more so than the zombies, PopCap wanted to ensure we knew that the zombies will be as dynamic and varied as the plants.

Highlights from the demo included the Disco Zombie, which has a devastating area-of-effect disco ball swing, and the Gargantuar, a hulking zombie that stands several dozen feet tall. Both will be instantly recognizable to PvZ fans, and are likely an indicator of what players can expect. Basically, if it’s a zombie enemy in the main PvZ title, it likely is an enemy in Garden Warfare.

The Garden Warfare demo certainly put the title’s best foot forward – establishing a unique evolution of the core franchise that has an undeniably charming sense of humor. It’s hard to say that die-hard fans of PvZ will enjoy Garden Warfare, as the two’s experiences are very different, but the game certainly looks like a lot of fun regardless.

What did you think of the Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare demo at EA’s Press Conference? What plant and zombie types are “musts” for the finished game?

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is in development for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.

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