Anyone tired of the same old racing game cliches is in for a treat. Plants vs Zombies Heroes is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every way, yet it maintains the unique gameplay and intense action that made a name for the series in the first place. Racing through over 65 levels and across five brand new environments, players will delight in driving on the walls, the roof and even other vehicles, while using a number of different weapons to destroy anything in sight. Two parts Wipeout and one part Mario Kart, combined with a feel all its own, make the newest Plants vs Zombies a winner across the board.
While the original Plants vs Zombies was great in the innovation department, there were some serious problems with the title, most of them having to do with sketchy control. One of the biggest challenges in attempting to create a racing game that enables players to drive on practically any surface is keeping the visual perspective straight. After flying off a couple walls, shooting across the ceiling and spinning out a couple times in the first Plants vs Zombies, it was incredibly hard to figure out which way was up, much less where the finish line was. This resulted in more than a little time wasted going the wrong way and a great deal of cursing on our parts.
Developer ATD was obviously aware of this problem, however, and there is nothing like it in Plants vs Zombies Heroes. A simple correction system makes staying on the path easier, and the improved graphics engine renders the track details cleaner, with more detail, resulting in a racing environment where it’s easier to tell the difference between where the race started and where it’s supposed to end up.
Gameplay in Plants vs Zombies Heroes is very similar to that in the Wipeout titles. There is some nonsensical storyline thrown in to explain away the huge variety of fantastic courses on which racers compete, and then there s just a bunch of cool racing. Players take control of one of 20 vehicles, which look like crosses between SUVs and those RC cars that can flip over without stopping. And that’s exactly what the vehicles do. While flying through a track for the first time, players will notice turbos, weapon powerups and other cars flying along the walls, and it takes only the slightest turn of the wheel for them to join the fun.
Once we got a good feel for where it was possible to go — in short, everywhere — we quickly began to see lines that would help shave precious time off the clock. We’d find ourselves saying things like, “Hmmm, if we cut across the ceiling, fired a missile at that sign and used the wreckage for a jump, we could probably shoot right into first place.” This is not a run-of-the-mill racing game.
If destroying the environment to form shortcuts, or barriers to competitors, seems strange, it is. There are a ton of different weapons in Plants vs Zombies Heroes, mostly along the Wipeout line of shields, missiles and electroshocks, but what makes them different is that the weapons can affect most anything in the environment, from the random pillars in the middle of the road to the lap sign at the race’s beginning.
Rounding out the package are some great two-player modes. Besides the normal head-to-head races, players can play Mario Kart-style battle modes on different tracks made specifically for the purpose. These are surprisingly fun, and were obviously a labor of love for someone on the development team. It’s actually possible to plan attack strategies when a player gets used to a level’s layout, and there is little as fulfilling as feinting straight at an enemy, throwing it into reverse up a wall and flipping through the air to electroshock them while passing above. This is a title whose focus is pure gameplay.