Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare may be the friendliest and most delightful shooter around, but you'd be surprised at the amount of depth that lurks just beneath the cheerful surface. War is hell, even when it's utterly adorable.
So to maximise your vanquish potential, keep your chlorophyll safely within your stalks and ensure you a tasty brain banquet, here are ten essential tips to bear in mind while playing online. Some are tricky, some are common sense, but all will keep you alive when the goop and concrete starts flying!
10: Chomps McGomps Is A Master Defender
Chomper is easily the most unique class in Garden Warfare, and my personal favourite (especially the Fire variant!). His stealthy burrowing skill and instant-vanquish melee attacks are perfectly suited for sneaky offensive actions... but when you're playing 'Gardens & Graveyards,' you'll discover that he's also one of the best defenders the Plants have to offer.
The Spikeweed ability lets you lock down three approaches to your capture points, tying up attackers for your ranged team-mates to painlessly dispatch. Chompers can burrow under objectives, instantly scoffing any zombies who breach the perimeter, or flank around to quickly neutralise any pesky Scientists setting up healing stations. In a pinch, Goop attacks can slow down All-Stars and Engineers racing for the control zone. Remember that any zombie vanquished by a chomp attack cannot be revived, forcing them to slog all the way back from the nearest spawn point.
Finally, never underestimate the psychological impact of a Chomper defensive team. Once the foe knows you're there, they'll have to advance slowly and methodically, wasting valuable time as they desperately try to work out where you're hiding. The horror. The horror!
9: Stink Your Way To Victory
The Zombie Foot Soldier is probably the most well-rounded character in the game, living for the thrill of lightning-fast Blitzkriegs. He's the only zombie capable of exploiting rooftops with the rocket jump skill, capable of sustained long-range damage, and packs a mean bazooka into the bargain.
However, their oft-overlooked Stink Grenade is quite possibly the most useful tool in the entire zombie arsenal. Not only will its damaging purple mist deny territory to the enemy - absolutely perfect for flushing defenders out of capture points while your team moves in - but it's practically impossible to see through. Use Stink Grenades like you would smoke grenades, lobbing them downrange and advancing under their cover. Better yet, use them to distract foes while rocket jumping into an unexpected location, bamboozling the flowery foe as they shoot bullet after useless bullet into the smelly cloud.
8: Wait For It... Wait For It...
"It," of course, being a revive. I know that you'll want to get back into the soon as you can after being vanquished, but take a deep breath, resist the urge to redeploy, rotate the camera and take some time to spot any nearby team-mates who might be on their way to revive you.
This is absolutely critical when playing a traditional deathmatch, because reviving actively depletes the opposing team's vanquish score. As such, you could make the difference between a close win or loss by doing absolutely nothing.
However, always redeploy ASAP if you're playing as a zombie... and happen to note a lurking Chomper in the area. The last thing you'll want to do is attract team-mates into its ravenous danger zone.
7: Don't Forget About The Boss
Sorry about the Springsteen gag, but it had to be done.
I didn't make a big deal out of it in our review, but Garden Warfare offers a highly simplistic version of Battlefield 4's Commander Mode, known here as 'Boss Mode.' This Smartglass and Kinect-enabled mode can also be navigated with a traditional controller, letting players command a bird's eye view of the battle from Zomboss' blimp or Crazy Dave's RV. Not only can you keep your team apprised of any threats, but you can actively help them out with threat-detecting listening posts and healing powers. It can turn the tide of any tough fight, and you can leap back into the action at any time.
Conversely, regular rank and file players shouldn't forget about the boss either... because you can destroy your rival's airborne command centre with sustained fire! A squad of Cacti or Foot Soldiers can decimate the Blimp or RV in seconds, temporarily robbing your opponent of their eye in the sky. Always look out for it, then take it down.
6: Save Your Drone For The Perfect Moment
Both Cacti and Engineers are capable of releasing remote-controlled drones, which bring cheeky death from above with their powerful mounted machine gun. It's tempting to get them into the fight as quickly as possible, but in practice, it's usually better to wait for the perfect moment before bringing the rain.
In the opening minutes of a match, Cacti and Engineers are better suited to securing key positions, shoring up perimeters or racing to fix up teleporters (more on that later). Splurging your drone will waste this valuable warmup time, which is better spent elsewhere. Wait until the foe is on the run, or locked into a major stalemate, before launching a drone for maximum impact against grouped targets.
Don't go too gung-ho either. Drones can be downed almost immediately with any weapon, and can run out of fuel if you're heavy on the accelerator. Instead, be cautious and cagey... until the air strike ability cools down. Then get involved and drop a whole salvo of exploding corn onto your unsuspecting foe. Again, if you've waited for the perfect moment, you'll reap ridiculous benefits.
5: Play The Objective, Ignore The Challenges
Oh boy. This should be an unbelievably basic point, but I've seen so many matches lost because some players spent their time chasing challenges as opposed to holding the line. So here we go: always, always, ALWAYS, play the objective! The objective, in this case, being that great big ruddy glowing circle.
Zombies! I don't want to patronise you, but you need to stand in the circle. There's a time and place for securing overwatch, neutralising key threats and padding your coin count, but you ultimately need to get cold bodies into the zone to win the match. Foot soldiers, throw some Stink Grenades and get in there. Scientists, get in there and deploy healing stations. Engineers, lob stun grenades and get in there on your pneumatic drill. All-Stars... just do what you do best. When in doubt, rally into a big group, then get in there.
Plants! Yes, you also have to stand in the circle - at least, a fair few of the team does to balance out any zombie attacks. Control influence can't be undone, so ensure that at least two defenders remain in the zone to counteract cheeky incursions. Again: when in doubt, get in there, don't just hang back. Only Cacti and teleporter-bound Engineers have a valid excuse.
More to the point, try not to chase challenges at the expense of actually supporting your team. If you're a support class, then support. If you're an offensive player then go all-out. The challenges will come with time, and taste all the sweeter. Remember that Plant challenges can also be completed in Garden Ops mode! I'd highly recommend using it to vanquish 'elevated' zombies and secure 'vanquish 3 specific zombie' challenges, rather than potentially letting your team down online.
4: Scientists, Know Your Role!
If Chomper is more versatile than you'd first expect, the Scientist is actually too versatile for his own good. His shotgun-esque Goo Blaster and teleport make him the perfect scout at face value, meaning that many players end up deep behind enemy lines on raiding runs... but in doing so they deny their team the only means of healing that the Zombies possess. That's right: he's also the medic!
Do what feels right for you, but I'd personally suggest sticking with small teams of allies as you work through the maps. You'll be able to keep them in the fight with your healing station and boosted revive speed, but can then quickly freelance out to flank and destroy major threats that your squad runs into. As an example: should you encounter a dug-in Cactus with Sunflower support, you're perfectly placed to whiz round the side, take out the healer, lob a sticky bomb and get back to safety. Limit assaults to hit & run tactics as you won't last long in a fair fight - and you're more valuable alive than dead. Or, erm, undead than dead.
Oh, and don't forget those Sticky Explodey Balls. Always defend choke points and throw one when you retreat - you'll rack up a fair amount of cheeky vanquishes this way.
3: Fix The Teleporters ASAP... Or Deny Them
As soon as you start playing Gardens & Graveyards, Zombie Engineers should leap onto their pneumatic drills and head straight for one single objective. The teleporter. This key facility allows zombies to cut out much of the journey from the spawn point to the first capture point, allowing them to pour on the numbers much more effectively. However, it will only function if and when an engineer manages to repair it. Priority number one, people!
Plants, meanwhile, should do their absolute damndest to deny the zombies their beachhead. Peashooters can cover the distance quickly with their Hyper ability, leaping onto high perches to secure overwatch over the teleporter and gunning down any Engineers that get too close. Even if the zombie succeed in their repair effort, the teleporter creates a choke point that can be abused with Chilli Bean Bombs and Corn Strikes. Or, for more nefarious players, used as a Chomper feeding ground.
Of course, this rush for the teleporter shouldn't distract you from other perfectly viable assault routes and defensive positions. If you see the Plants concentrating on the teleporter, lead a team of Foot Soldiers around the sides of the map and catch them with their leaves down.
2: Balance Is Brilliant
Garden Warfare's classes may be utterly dominant in their specific role, but are otherwise balanced to perfectly support each other. You can only get by with some help from your friends, so it's important to ensure that your team is well-stocked with all the basics.
Well-balanced teams tend to revolve around a solid core of Peashooters or Foot Soldiers, whose versatility creates a flexible force that can adapt to any given situation, supported by smaller equal amounts of the more situational classes. Plant teams should be sure to include enough Sunflowers in their roster to avoid becoming too brittle, whereas the Zombies need engineers to void Chomper attacks and switch on teleporters. You can see your team's class breakdown in the class selection menu, so take a moment to size up the situation and fill gaps in the roster on the fly. If you see that your force lacks a particular class, consider taking one for the team.
If your team are ready to communicate, however, you can optionally decide to unbalance the playing field with some effective team strategies. PopCap espouse the 'Chomper Rush,' wherein the entire team spawn as Chompers to completely flummox the enemy at the start of the match, while overloading on Peashooters can make for a nightmarish hail of gatling peas and projectiles. Four Sunflowers can also be surprisingly effective in Garden Ops thanks to their quick revives and Sunbeam attack.
1: Talk, Dammit!
This is the big one, folks. Garden Warfare is a team-based game, so the team that communicates, plans strategies and works together will almost always come out on top.
Xbox One consoles ship with a headset, so even though it's rather uncomfortable, you should pop it on and keep your team informed of the situation. Whether planning what starting classes to choose, calling out threats ("there's a Chomper behind the hedge!"), assigning objectives ("can you cover me while I repair the teleporter?"), healing ("wait up, I've deployed a healing station!"), planning assault routes ("follow me around the side of the map") or marshalling the defence ("three foot soldiers are about to capture the point!") a little useful intel can go a long way. Once one or two players start talking tactics, others will usually join in, even if it's just to say "good game" at the end of the round. Remember to keep it clean and courteous!
There is an important caveat, though. Garden Warfare supports Kinect chat by default, meaning that it will transmit any conversations in your living room to your entire team. If you don't plan on discussing team tactics -- or worse, if you're playing in a noisy environment, perhaps with crying babies in close proximity -- please show your fellow players some consideration by deactivating Kinect chat in the Xbox One's system menu.
Trust me: your team absolutely doesn't need to know what you're having for dinner, your address, or even what pizza topping you've decided to order (all of which I've encountered online). There's such a thing as too much information!