EA’s purchase of PopCap games, developers of the Plants vs Zombies series, heralded a move towards AAA console titles with the first Garden Warfare game receiving critical praise for its unique game modes and applying the IP successfully from a mobile game to a third person shooter back in 2014. Its sequel, that sounds like a familiar Call of Duty title, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 doesn’t change up the formula too much, instead building on the success and positives of its predecessor. Garden Warfare 2 is even more addicting, although not as original anymore, and packed with gorgeous maps, a suite of playable characters both on the Plants and Zombies side, and the great gameplay the original boasted.
The sequel now offers offline side quests alongside the Graveyard Ops – another subtle nod – and PvP modes. Your trusty and always hilarious friend Crazy Dave, and other NPC’s in the various areas, send you out on quests that mostly consist of an assortment of miscellaneous tasks that sometimes end up in boss fights, or defending a planted garden from waves of enemies similar to Garden Ops. You can also play from the Zombies perspective under Zomboss, leader of the Zombies, as well as attaining quests from their side. Both camps have small hub locations where you can jump into the different modes, accept quests, and customize your characters. Besides the quests, Graveyard Ops is the other main non-PvP mode wherein, like Garden Ops in the last game, players can go solo or get a team of 4 – A.I or human players – and fight back waves of enemies while guarding the garden. This mode requires a lot of teamwork and I was surprised to find the friendly AI were incredibly capable of handling themselves and covering all sides of the attack.
“Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is not exactly the biggest step forward developer PopCap Games could have taken, but it builds on a solid foundation and for now reclaims its original and unique feeling in the realm of multiplayer shooters.”
The plants you can choose are only those you have unlocked through the sticker system. Players get coins from their general play that can then be used on different types of unlockable packs, with the most important ones being the character schematic packs. Even with just the plants and zombies that are automatically unlocked, Garden Warfare 2 offers a wide range of gameplay styles and abilities across its characters, allowing me to switch between them and have a completely different experience and approach to matches. My personal favorites are the sunflower class for the plants side – healing teammates and transforming into an energy turret – and the imp class for the zombies – easily the most powerful character in the game as I dropped in a Mech every so often racking up kills and using my jet pack burst to cover long distances. The actual shooting mechanics feel great with the Xbox One’s impulse triggers and the various abilities are enjoyable to pull off like a Mass Effect sword slash (with the Mass Effect Mech equipped) and a 360 degree machine gun spray by the imp.
Throughout all the modes, players can place plants in flower pots that defend from invaders or heal allies among other things. The breadth of the games features are best shown off in Turf Takeover where both Plants and Zombies fight for zones up for capture. This is where teamwork and different classes complimenting each other matters. The Plants can deploy a few sunflowers to heal allies while peashooters sustain fire on the enemy frontline and everybody else takes their place somewhere within that range. The Zombies can use their superior firepower and go on the offensive, stifling the Plants defense by calling in Mechs and sending their larger units to the frontline. It allows for an intense tug-of-war to ensue as players from both sides try to spawn back quickly and get to their stations, whether that is flanking for the attackers, or getting to high ground and defending the zone by the opposing team. At the time of this review, some of the game modes were not populated enough to give a final verdict, so expect an update when public servers are up ahead of next week’s launch.
Throughout it all players are treated with a spectacular soundtrack that keeps you going and elevates the action on screen as well as superb art direction specifically in the multiplayer maps. I was hard pressed not to take a moment and check out the beautiful vistas on some of the maps. The entire world pops with vibrant colors and a comfortable cartoon feel. And besides the art of the maps, they are incredibly designed with one in particular, taking place on the moon, alternating between zero-G sections and then back to normal gravity levels again and again between the zones up for capture, that are periodically pushed back similar to Battlefield’s Rush mode.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is not exactly the biggest step forward developer PopCap Games could have taken, but it builds on a solid foundation and for now reclaims its original and unique feeling in the realm of multiplayer shooters. A more comprehensive offline experience – with cinematics to boot – alongside a bigger evolution on the multiplayer front will be the expectation should the game get a sequel. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is as addicting as its predecessor on the gameplay front, but the incredible map design and splendid musical score elevate it above PopCap Games’ past offerings.
***An Xbox One review copy was provided by the publisher***
- Spectacular soundtrack
- Smart level design
- Satisfying controls
- Little evolution from predecessor
- Offline offerings could be more robust