PopCap Games’ Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is the game that everyone hoped the original would be. The original game, which was a timed exclusive for Microsoft’s Xbox One, is literally half the game the new one is. While the original is essentially an online-only title, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 offers a couple of fairly robust single-player campaigns, one each for plants and zombies, along with a split screen mode for those looking for some drop in, drop out couch co-op.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a bit of an oddity. The only analogy I can find for the game is to imagine a Lego version of Gears of War. Garden Warfare 2 is basically a cartoon-styled third-person shooter that pits PopCap’s plants against their unnatural enemies, zombies. The presentation level is a serious upgrade over the original, with some stunning art direction, and now fully animated cutscenes. The characters are well animated, and unique, and the various environments are distinct, though the “Backyard Battleground” could offer a few more visual cues to indicate which side you’re on.
Starting with the single-player game: Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 lets you play through campaigns as both plants and zombies. The mode does start you off as a plant, but after a short jaunt that serves as a tutorial, you’re free to switch over to the zombie side, as well as enlist a friend to help out, in the split-screen mode. Anything, except for the introduction, that can be done single-player can be done with two. It’s just a matter of finding that pedestal in your base, and activating it.
Single-player character selection is done the same way. Just go to the booth, and get to work. Each side offers seven different main characters to choose from, and then each of those has a number of significant variations. Beyond that, there are a huge amount of customizations that can be applied. Most of these cosmetic upgrades, like facial hair, hats, and tattoos, can be unlocked in various ways, or purchased in sticker packs that are occasionally awarded but are mostly available for purchase using in-game coins. Each character’s special abilities can also be customized, in the same way.
The controls are for the most part just like any other shooter, with left and right triggers assigned to aiming and shooting respectively. The big difference is in the unique abilities each character has, like the zombie pirate turning into a parrot that can take in the whole battlefield and peskily rain fire down on his opponents. Only one of these special moves for each character can be assigned to a face button, while the other two are relegated to the controller’s bumpers.
Of course Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2’s roots are in online multi-player, and EA offers a good selection of options. They actually brought their servers online early, so reviewers like myself could give the game a whirl. That being said, I was only able to get the matchmaking to work on a couple of modes, over a couple of days, but once I did, there were no other problems. Considering the franchise’s history, and the game’s early availability on EA Access, Xbox Live might have been a better option than the PlayStation network, but honestly, I don’t know. It could have just been that the modes I had trouble with were less popular with reviewers.
Once you venture online with Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, you’re presented with six different game options. “Welcome Mat” is described as a great place to get started; with no customization, character variants, or weapon upgrades it actually rewards you with more health each time you die. There’s “Team Vanquish,” where the simple goal is to vanquish your opponents, and “Turf Takeover” which features an expanding map. “Gnome Bomb” pits plants against zombies for control of the game-ending gnome bomb, “Vanquish Confirmed” has you collect orbs for points, and “Suburbination” has players raise either tombstones or gardens to suburbinate the other team. Finally, Mixed mode features segments of each mode played in a sequence.
Considering my disappointment in the original game’s limited scope, I was really impressed with Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. It’s a great-looking game, with a surprising amount of content. Not enough can be said about just how much there really is to do in the game. It’s also one of the few video games that family members can actually play together. This is something that is increasingly hard to find, particularly in the shooter genre. There are some minor issues with balance, but this really isn’t the type of game where that should be a serious issue. If you’re just looking for a little bit of fun, you should find it here.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Animated Blood, Crude Humor, and Fantasy Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox One, and Windows PC.