Garden Warfare, Popcap’s new Plants vs. Zombies spin-off, is maybe the best surprise we had this E3. The game was first announced during EA’s E3 2013 conference, and later on we had a chance to sit down and witness the botanical mayhem for ourselves.

Unlike the very popular Plants vs. Zombies, Garden Warfare isn’t a cartoony top-down tower defense game. Instead, it’s a cartoony third-person shooter with a strong emphasis on multiplayer (and tower defense elements). It is basically a class-based multiplayer shooter with flowers and not soldiers.

The game’s premise is like this: zombies love brains but hate gardens – so lets provoke them by planting one right outside their mansion. Why? Because we’re crazy! Naturally, waves of zombies will come out of the woodwork to destroy the green haven, and it is up to the plants to stop them.

At this point we’ve only four different plant/class types: Peashooter, Chomper, Sunflower and Cactus.

The Peashooter is you classic assault class – it fires peas at zombies and jump around the battlefield; The┬áchomper is a melee specialist – it can soak up more damage from zombies and shallow them whole one by one; the Sunflower acts as the group’s healer, but it can also dish out a fair amount of damage. Lastly, the Cactus is the game’s version of a sniper, firing deadly thorns from afar with deadly accuracy.

What you didn’t get to see in the public presentation was the plants’ different abilities (at least not all of them). The Peashooter can throw an explosive chili bean that’s “great for crowd control” or boost his speed or fire rate for a short amount of time. The Chomper can goo zombies to slow them down, lay traps or barrow underground to attack from below. the Sunflower’s abilities focus more on healing – it can heal a specific ally directly, or plant a healing flower with an area of effect; if push comes to shove, it can plant itself in the ground and project a massive beam of energy that drives enemies back quickly.

The Cactus is much more tactical than its comrades, planting mines and barricades or deploying a small garlic drone. The garlic drone has its special ability, which is to call for a devastating “corn strike”.

Strewn around the battlefield are little clay pots where all plant classes can plant different types of plants (plants planting plants) to serve as turrets (hence the tower defense elements). We haven’t seen much of those, but we did get to see the new Bonk Choy plant from Plants vs. Zombies 2 getting into fisticuffs with a zombie. Before you ask – yes, there is a mode were you get to play the zombies. Popcap has decided not to show it at E3, but we were assured it exists.

Needless to say, we can’t wait to see more of Garden Warfare in the coming months, and maybe even get to play it at Gamescom 2013 this August. It just looks like so much fun to play to gether with good friends, and the visual art style is simply captivating. Check out the game’s trailer and gameplay presentation, followed by our interview with Popcap producer Brian Lindley.

Garden Warfare will sprout spring 2014 on the Xbox One and Xbox 360. A late blooming version will also be available on the PC and “other platforms”.

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