Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, the latest installment in the popular Plants vs. Zombies franchise, is here, and it’s a shooter. According to critic reviews, it’s a really good shooter. It’s also a kid’s game (rated E10+).
If you’ve played the original Plants vs. Zombies, you know that the premise of the game is pretty simple. Cartoonish zombies are coming; you must strategically place plants with defensive abilities in order to protect your home (a classic tower defense game). So, making the new PvZ game into a 3D third-person shooter is not really that weird. Shooter games work really well for tower defense.
And yet, it is still a move we rarely see in the game industry. Why would a popular game franchise for kids take on third-person shooters?
Well, the answer is obvious. Shooters put a gun in your hand, and therefore generally rely on violence (sometimes realistic or bloody violence) for their main game mechanic. And yet, it’s a shame that more games haven’t tried to attempt an original interpretation of third- or first-person shooter games for kids, because the scientific benefits of playing shooters & action games are pretty numerous. They can help you improve your eyesight, recover from childhood cataracts, reduce your number of nightmares, enhance your spacial cognition, lengthen your attention span, and boost your brain’s ability to multitask, among other things. (Go here for an interesting TED talk by neuroscientist Daphne Bavelier on some of these positive effects.) If we want young kids to reap these benefits, what we need are more games with the mechanical perks of shooters but without the explicit, disturbing, or realistic violence.
That’s exactly why I’m so excited for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. PvZ has been one of the most popular kid-friendly mobile games out there for years now, which means its developer was strategically placed to get something a bit experimental into the mainstream conversation. And reportedly, PvZ’s transition into this style of play has been very successful. Joystiq’s review commends, “Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare oozes charm, mixing hardcore battles with a cartoony aesthetic to produce an experience that both adopts and lampoons established shooter ideas,” and Polygon reported that the game “rewarded tactical thinking and smart play over twitch reflexes and sick headshots,” which gets me particularly excited.
Garden Warfare takes a lot of inspiration from Battlefield (also owned by EA Games), except the grenades and RPGs have been replaced by cherry bombs and pea shooters. Also worth noting is that Garden Warfare is definitely designed for multiplayer gaming. While it’s technically possible to play by yourself, the gameplay is extremely difficult without help. Players have the option to fight as either plants or as zombies.
It’s scary to talk about adapting a typically violent game genre for kids. But if game developers focus on the strategy side of the shooter genre, they can develop more shooters that are suitable for kids.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is available on Xbox One and Xbox 360. It’s coming to PC this spring.