Entertainment Reviews

Sunday 31 August 2014

You can dig it: Plants battle zombies Call of Duty style

Reviewed: Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare, Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2, Don't Starve

Ronan Price

Published 21/03/2014 | 21:34

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Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2
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PLANTS VS ZOMBIES: GARDEN WARFARE

XOne, X360

RATING: 8/10

AGE: 7+

THE kings of casual gaming venture out of their comfort zone with Garden Warfare. But in typically efficient Popcap style, this colourful third-person shooter is heavily based on their existing Plants vs Zombies franchise.

Luckily, Garden Warfare is more than just a 3D remake of the classic tower defence series. Popcap borrow the staples of the shooter genre liberally from Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead, blending them with the cartoonish characters and worlds of P vs Z.

As always, gameplay pits a defending team of plants versus an attacking squad of zombies. Like Titanfall, no solo players need apply, this is multiplayer only, with team cooperation a must. The carnage is split into just a pair of styles: one equivalent to Gears’ Horde mode featuring four-on-four, the second the much more interesting option called Gardens and Graveyards, with epic 15-on-15 struggles.

The first mode gently cues you into the amusing range of characters and their special moves – for example, the chomper with his underground burrowing, the scientist with his health-regenerating fire hydrants.

Popcap have managed to balance the opposing sides even though they aren’t exactly equivalent and stretch the roster beyond the usual roles of tanks and healers.

The limitations – strategic and territory-wise – are less obvious in Gardens and Graveyards with its multi-stage battles. But the slightly woolly controls and lack of real character progression begin to chafe after several hours’ play, making the promised regular dripfeed of free DLC a tantalising prospect that can’t come too soon.

 

CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOWS 2

X360/PS3/PC

RATING: 6.5/10

AGE: 16+

LONG synonymous with labyrinthine 2D scrolling brawlers, Castlevania successfully jumped into 3D with 2010’s Lords of Shadow. It played a lot like a gothic God of War but retained enough distinctive DNA to stand out.

LoS2 throws money at the project – Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle return but phone in their lines – and the plot encompasses a sprawling set of threads involving Dracula, a set-up and a time-spanning threat.

But it never coheres as a whole, leaving unanswered questions about Dracula’s potency and a disparate clutch of game mechanics.

LoS2 is at its strongest in its combat and platforming sections. But ill-advised diversions into stealth and considerable padding tarnish the moments when this latest Castlevania gels to match the best of the series’ past.

 

DON'T STARVE

PS4

RATING: 7.5/10

AGE: 15+

HELLO, Death, my old friend. I’ve come to meet with you again.

You will die – a lot – in Don’t Starve. A wilderness survival game with no instructions, no hand-holding, trial and error teaches you how to last more than a few minutes in a hostile environment.

If the wild buffalo don’t get you, maybe the aggressive birds will. To be honest, starvation is the least of your worries. Crafting items and fending off the encroaching darkness with fire are your priorities.

Each game is randomly generated, plonking you in a world that is unfriendly yet begging to be explored. But Don’t Starve is a cruel mistress, with perma-death frequently less than a small stumble away.

Die and you lose everything you’ve crafted or built, which is a bitter pill to swallow. Unfortunately, the randomised maps mean that once you’re forced to start over, much of the next session is spent discovering where everything is all over again.

That’s an approach that won’t sit well with many players.

 

 

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