When the first Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare game launched back in 2014, I couldn’t sing its praises enough. The game managed to bring a sense of fun back to shooters which has since been lost by people taking things a little too seriously, and with a colourful cast of characters, the game had a lot going for it. So can Garden Warfare 2 live up to these high expectations?
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 at a glance is much of the same. It offers the same hectic “which way is up, again?” gameplay as the series debut but this time it offers a handful of new characters and maps to spice things up a bit. There’s also the addition of more players per match making the already bonkers gameplay even more action-filled.
With 24-player matches now being a thing, you’ll likely find yourself lost without a paddle, and while in other multiplayer shooters this is practically suicide, in Garden Warfare 2 and its colourful, bright visuals, it’s just as fun as before. Sure, you’ll likely find yourself getting flanked as you walk aimlessly into enemy territory, to which you’ll likely mutter “that fucking corn cob” under your breath and then you’ll realise you’ve just had your arse handed to you by a knob of corn who threw down a shower of kernals, fully wiping out your dummy sucking zombie. It sounds ridiculous, and it is, and that’s the fun of Garden Warfare.
In the games various modes you can play Team Deathmatch-like modes in Vanquish and Vanquish confirmed (remember, this game doesn’t really have “death” in it due to the target audience), then you have much more tactical game modes like the returning mode, Gnome Bomb and Gardens and Graveyards. These modes add an additional level of gameplay to Garden Warfare 2 as you’ll often find yourself cycling through each of the colourful cast of characters to find the one which suits you, and offers the most support to the team.
In Garden Warfare 2 each team has the addition of three new characters, for the Zombies you have a new Zombie Pirate which acts similar to the Plants’ cactus character, you’ve got a Super Hero Zombie offering both close-quarters and ranged attacks, and a new Imp Zombie who I swear is just there for comic relief. In the Plants camp, you’ve got the addition of a walking Corn plant with double-barrel miniguns for hands, an insanely over-powered Rose character, and an Orange, who peels back its skin to become a four-legged monstrosity with a shield ability.
Each character, while different in looks and abilities, actually feel familiar in their execution. Of course, they’re completely new to the game, but they’re not too overwhelmingly new that you’re put-off diving into a game as them. I will add though that there are some definite balance issues with some of the new characters, take the Rose for example, coming up against this character one-on-one almost guarantees that you’ll lose. Fortunately EA are preparing a patch to tone her down a little.
One of the biggest joys in this game is experimenting with each characters, while everyone will have their favourite – currently mine is the Comic-book Super Hero Zombie – the game is accessible enough to allow you to dive into a game with a character you’re totally unfamiliar with. There’s room for experiments and room for improvement, and even if you completely suck, there’s not really a huge feeling of loss if the opposing team wins, the game dishes out enough coins to make even a bad game worth sticking until the end.
Another returning feature to Garden Warfare 2 is the sticker store, a way for players to unlock new character types, consumables, abilties and accessories using in-game cash. As you’d expect there are different tiers of sticker packs, some which mostly offer consumables and accessories, others which offer sticker parts for new character types, and others which offer one full character type. In total, if you manage to collect all of the different character types, you could end up with around 30 variations on the base six characters each with their own abilities and skills.
As mentioned though, there is a definite balance problem in the game. Despite the overarching story seeing the Zombies finally gaining control over Suburbia – subsequently naming it Zomburbia – the Zombies themselves feel like much weaker characters in comparison. It’s not really that much of a deal breaker as it seems EA has it sorted, but right now, playing as a Plant character is a far more enjoyable experience.
Outside of the game’s multiplayer focus, Pop Cap Games have added a few more solo focused game modes aside from the Garden Ops which it introduced into the original title. The biggest addition is the Backyard Battleground, sort of a home-hub for you to purchase stickers, customise your character, and much more. There’s also a huge world to explore which is populated by a number of random encounters with bot controlled enemies. It’s a great way to escape the madness of multiplayer and test out your new configuration or character. There’s also some sort of loose quest-based missions in the Backyard too. These vary from boss battles to collection missions, all of which vary in difficulty.
There’s also a ton of little nooks and crannys to explore too offering some hidden chests, Easter eggs, and much more. It definitely helps make Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 a little less two dimensional. You of course have Garden Ops too which is the game’s local wave-based game where players defend endless hordes of zombies. Unlike the original game, this time around each wave is split up thanks to the addition of a few boss battles and other random events.
Overall, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a fantastic improvement on an already great concept, and while multiplayer shooters rely wholly on people actually playing online, there’s now enough solo and local content to keep you occupied if the servers end up as much of a ghost town as the previous game did.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game provided to us by EA Games.