A couple days ago I was in San Francisco attending a preview event at the Microsoft Xbox Lounge for Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2. Not only did we get a great demonstration of some features we weren’t able to play yet, but everyone in attendance was then given the opportunity to try out the flagship feature first hand: Backyard Battlegrounds. Based on my own experience coupled with laughter, shouting, and craziness, I’d say it went over pretty dang well.
For anyone unaware, the first Garden Warfare came out nearly two years ago in February of 2014. When it launched many were pleasantly surprised by how fun this third-person all-ages shooter was. I recently hopped back on to become reacquainted with it before heading to California and surprisingly, the servers are still very much alive. Why? Because the developers seemed to have decided to keep just one priority while creating this mobile to console transformation: fun.
The world was given a nice glimpse into the development of Garden Warfare 2 at this year’s E3. They unveiled six new character classes and Backyard Battlegrounds, a new hub world and user interface where you could play with your friends or just run around causing mayhem as either the Plants or the Zombies. I was already impressed upon witnessing this, but now that I’ve played it first hand I couldn’t be more excited for the spring release.
First we were shown the new “Raise the Flag” mode, where as either side, you can head to the middle of the Backyard and action on a flag made of Crazy Dave’s pants. It’s then kind of similar to defending a garden in the Garden Ops mode of the previous game, except now you can play as either side. Not only was this challenging, but it was tons of fun once my team mates joined my Backyard and proceeded to help me kick some zombie butt. Of course, we were all playing as one of the new classes: Kernel Corn, Rose, and Citron. With some difficulty we were able to make it to the final round and hold out for a while against the endless Zombie horde, but three un-upgraded Plants are simply not strong enough to last that long against multiple boss Zombies and everything else except the kitchen sink.
We then switched over to the Zombie side of things and tried out the new characters on that side of the fence: Super Brainz, Captain Deadbeard, and the Imp. These guys were all just as fun, and elicited a ton of laughter from around the room as people busted out some crazy new moves and customized their characters with the glimpse of items everyone was given. Just when I thought there’s no way PopCap could improve on the first console release, they’ve gone and done it again. All we had at our disposal was the latest build, and it was incredibly fun.
So, I have to clarify that the Backyard is not just a hub world. It’s not only huge on the surface, sporting a stats room, raise the flag, and a base on each side, but has layers of depth in the sewers below. We only got a brief glimpse of this underground labyrinth, but it was impressive. Tons of little side areas to explore, locked gates and chests, and even mini-games await you in Backyard Battlegrounds. Honestly, you could spend entire days partying up and just hanging out in each others’ worlds. Colour me impressed.
“This is not simply a cash grab, or an expansion disguised as a sequel. Garden Warfare 2 looks like it has the potential to be one of the most fleshed out and expansive sequels next year…”
Each player’s world is a bit unique, too. Everyone is given a stat room on either side that shows off not only characters you’ve unlocked (via cute potted plants or bobblehead zombies), but what rank or “prestige” you’ve gotten to with each of them. You can see a big stats leaderboard as well, allowing you to compare and compete against each other. To top it all off, if you really want to stand out you can even clear out piles of junk that are littered throughout each base and replace those piles with items of your choosing, like super cool statues.
Still not satisfied? Good, because the developers at PopCap still aren’t done. On top of this, each of the new characters is given their own little world where you can go to receive quests that help you rank up. That’s right, now you have even more reasons than just sticker packs to keep playing for hours on end. There’s also a quest board out in the main base on each side where you can get some more generic but equally useful quests like “Complete 10 Team Vanquish Matches”. It’s kind of like the bounty system in Destiny, and the quests are a great incentive to try different things and keep the game fresh.
If Backyard Battlegrounds alone, maybe coupled with some new maps and a couple characters, was all we had to look forward to with Garden Warfare 2, I’d be OK with that. I would consider that a pretty decent addition to the franchise. But there’s so much more! We didn’t even get to try the new Graveyard Ops they announced, or the slough of new multiplayer maps. The majority of the sewers were locked, we didn’t get too look too deeply into the new upgrade system, and I didn’t have the items to clear out junk and replace it with something cool. Yet everything was still fresh, vibrant, and most importantly, fun.
Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see what the final product looks like this spring, but so far PopCap seems to be doing a great job at creating a true sequel to their game. This is not simply a cash grab, or an expansion disguised as a sequel. Garden Warfare 2 looks like it has the potential to be one of the most fleshed out and expansive sequels next year, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.