Walking out of EA’s 2013 E3 Press Conference, there was no game I was more excited for than Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare. Like many people, I was absolutely in love with Popcap’s original, floral-based tower defense game. In Garden Warfare, Popcap changed the approach from tower defense to third-person shooter, but everything else you love about these characters and this world remains much the same.

Garden Warfare asks that age-old question: who would win in a fight, plants or zombies? On each side are four classes. The Plants have the Peashooter (all-around soldier), Chomper (melee-only tank), Sunflower (Healer) and the Cactus (sniper). The Zombies are represented by the Foot Soldier (all-around soldier), All-Star (the Heavy), Engineer (gadgets and gizmos) and the Scientist (Heals and Technology). Not a ton of differentiation between the classes, but enough to make it interesting.

Currently, there are three modes: Team Vanquish (Deathmatch), Gardens and Graveyards (Conquer and control base points) and Garden Ops (Horde mode). There are not a ton of maps yet, but all the maps provide plenty of action and variety. Maybe one of the things I love best about Garden Warfare is how much this game is not like every other shooter out there. It certainly does not take itself too seriously; a perfect example being when you die you will likely pop up in to the air and if you are the All-Star, unceremoniously have one of your arms detach. Another noticeable differentiation is in the color scheme of the game. Most shooters nowadays are grey, brown, light brown, dark grey, medium brown and greyish-brown. In Garden Warfare, like all of Popcap’s offerings, the entire color palette is used, from pastels to deep shades, moving past the idea that all shooters must be gritty, realistic representations of war.

Don’t let the happy shiny exteriors fool you; there is an underbelly of strategy built into Garden Warfare that may surprise you. Since the maps are not balanced, mirror images, that opens up the fighting to having these small, but intense skirmishes. Going off on your is a strategy, but I found the most success working together with my teammates. Shifting as small bands of plants or zombies with different classes provides plenty of opportunities to have those experiences you share with your friends.

There is also an area for customization and collections. During your exploits in the different game modes, you earn coins that you use to purchase card packs. In these card packs you can find plants/undead you can plant to aid you during a match of Gardens and Graveyards or Garden Ops, upgrades to your weapons, cosmetic additions to your characters’ wardrobes and stickers that unlock new alternate character skins that you can use in your battles. While I have earned plenty of this in-game currency in order to buy these packs, I, like many others, are concerned EA will attempt to monetize this function. EA has not said they would not do so, just that there is not a plan to do so at the moment. We shall see.

Garden Warfare is not without fault. The reload speeds are atrocious and it feels unbalanced when only one of the eight classes has a melee attack so when you turn a corner and stumble upon an enemy, it turns from a strategic back and forth to who can stand here and shoot the other person to death first. There is also the issue in Garden Ops with couch co-op. When you’re playing Garden Ops with friends on the internet, you can play with up to three other individuals. When you’re playing split screen, you can only play with the person sitting next to you, but the difficulty and size of the waves of zombies does not augment to account for only having two heroes. In some ways, Garden Ops feels quickly shoved into the Xbox One version to account for the $10 price increase.

Overall, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare is a fun, entertaining distraction that will keep you playing for hours. The combat feels good and there are deeper elements apparent that lend a deceptively strategic layer to what looks like a “My first shooter.” The lower price point makes this a definite purchase on the Xbox One to supplement any down time on the console in the future. Even after I finish other games, I can easily see myself returning to PvZ Garden Warfare to take breaks and just have some fun.

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is available now on Xbox One ($39.99) and Xbox 360 ($29.99) and will be available on PC this spring. For purposes of this review, I played on the Xbox One.

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare Trailer

Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare Gameplay