I don't think it's exaggeration to suggest that a number of events occurred last year to change the way reviewers are looking at online enabled software in advance of its actual release. With that in mind, I thought that I would explain first how I reviewed Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and second why I'm comfortable reviewing Garden Warfare in the aftermath of Battlefield 4.
Last week, Microsoft and EA held a review event for Garden Warfare in San Francisco at a loft space leased by Microsoft for this kind of thing. The event ran for a full work day. Reviewers played in a retail Xbox One environment on retail installs of Garden Warfare with their personal Gamertags. This allowed us to maintain unlocks and progress after the event. We left the event with physical "retail" copies of the game and were provided additional copies for further play. Electronic Arts also scheduled additional sessions later last week populated by QA staff so that reviewers could get additional time with the game if needed.
For many of you, the more important question is: why am I comfortable reviewing/scoring Garden Warfare prior to release? After the disastrous launch (and still often broken state) of Battlefield 4, how can EA be trusted to launch a functional product?
It's not an unfair question. But for a number of reasons, Garden Warfare is a different situation than Battlefield 4. First, and practically speaking, I would ask that you revisit my review. In it, I discussed the next-gen console versions of the game but refrained from reviewing or scoring them for a number of reasons, the largest being: we were not given access to the multiplayer portion of the Xbox One version; the PS4 version was plagued by crashes after nearly every match.
To be clear: I would not score or review Garden Warfare if I wasn't reasonably sure it was ready to review. Unlike Battlefield 4, I played a final, retail version of Garden Warfare last week, on final, retail servers. There was no backend finagling (that I am aware of) manually changing servers in our playlist or resetting the game for us. We just played, and we played without issue for hours at a time. There were no crashes, no hiccups, and no weirdness. This was not the case with Battlefield 4.
There are other factors that lead me to believe that Garden Warfare will not suffer the same problems that beset Battlefield 4. It's launching on two platforms, Xbox One and Xbox 360, as opposed to five. It has a much smaller player count and is much less ambitious technically speaking; there's no destruction to speak of and maps are small in comparison to Battlefield 4.
For these reasons, I think Garden Warfare can be reviewed. That's my call as reviewer. It's your call as a reader to decide if that's enough for you. Our review will be live at 12:01 Pacific Time on February 25th.