It’s a struggle that matches up with the likes of good versus evil, Hatfields versus McCoys, Cats versus Dogs and even Pepsi versus Coke. Yes that’s right, I’m talking about Plants Vs Zombies, of course!
I’ve been a big fan of this franchise since PopCap first introduced it to the world as a strategy game, where players were tasked with defending five lanes in the backyard from an oncoming horde of zombies who just wanted to snack on some brains. When PopCap unveiled Garden Warfare, I was a bit confused as they were taking a game that was firmly rooted in the strategy genre and twisting it to fit in the third person shooter mold. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded and PopCap crafted a wonderfully fun shooter that managed to retain all the personality that the franchise was known for.
Naturally, I was thrilled when EA greenlit a sequel and PopCap showed off the first gameplay at E3. As the game is nearing the one month mark of release, I figured it was a good enough time to talk about it and my experiences with the game so far.
Impressions after the jump…
Fans coming over from the first game will be immediately familiar with how it plays. While the game may look goofy with its crazy looking cartoony vegetables and plants on one side fighting an army of non-threatening looking undead characters, you’d be forgiven in thinking this game isn’t meant to be a serious shooter. You’d in fact be wrong, however. Somehow PopCap has crafted a brutally efficient shooter, with satisfyingly tight controls. While there are a lot of familiar elements to Garden Warfare 2, PopCap has continued to build on that solid foundation by adding a ton of new layers to it. Let’s start with the most obvious one first.
New to Garden Warfare 2 are six classes paired with the original eight. For team plant, players can use the soldier-esque Kernel Corn, the tech-savy Citron, and the formerly overpowered support character, Rose. Zombies welcome in the pirate Captain Deadbeard, the melee focused superhero Super-Brainz, and the surprisingly powerful Imp and his Mech. Each class feels great to use and bring an element to their side of the table which perhaps was lacking among the classic four characters.
Speaking of, all of the original classes make their return as well and if you unlocked any alternative versions, you can import them back into this game, saving you trouble of having to unlock them again. Just make sure to purchase a copy of Garden Warfare 2 on the same platform family you played prior. I will say that I find the new classes a bit more interesting to play, so a few of the classics have been left off to the side except for the Sunflower which I still really enjoy playing. From my experience, other people are enjoying the new characters as well if online matches are any indication.
As expected, characters can be customized in all sorts of ways through cosmetic items unlocked via sticker packs (see below), unlocked upgrade perks, and alternative versions of their skills such as the Scientist class who starts with a heal beam but can eventually change to the classic heal fountain ability. There are so many options that you probably won’t find the same character type online ever.
The biggest addition to Garden Warfare 2 however is that it now has a single player mode. Yes, players can now unlock, level up, and do pretty much anything the game has to offer without ever having to go online. The core of this experience is found in the Backyard Battleground, a massive hub world that lets players take on daily quests, check out thier stats, and battle the AI as often as they want. The town of Zomburbia has been effectively split down the middle, with Crazy Dave and his plants on one side and Doctor Zomboss and his legion of zombies on the other. Players can switch teams whenever they want, with each side having a longer than I expected story campaign to work through.
Zomburbia also holds a ton of secrets to discover from randomly placed treasure chests that need to be opened using stars earned from completing daily quests, to hidden gnomes, a shooting gallery, a soccer field, and a level boosting fish. Yeah, you read that right. If you couldn’t tell already, Garden Warfare 2 is stuffed to the brim with content and things to do.
Familiar elements from the first game also make their return here, like sticker packs unlocked by in-game currency. Based on how expensive the pack is, players will unlock consumables, cosmetic items, helper AI companions, and the highly sought after hero character pieces that eventually unlock alternative versions of the playable characters. There’s a staggering amount of things to unlock and in typical PopCap fashion, many of them will put a smile on your face once earned. I found this part of the experience to be addicting, as the need to open more packs proved to be a strong hook for me to keep playing. “One more game” was uttered frequently.
As usual, the multiplayer side is still the core pillar of this game with returning modes being joined with brand new ones like Herbal Assault and Vanquished Confirmed. There are 12 new maps all of which seem to follow some sort of theme or historical era, and while there are a few standouts among the twelve, I feel myself starting to wish some of the maps from the first game would reappear here. Garden Ops (and the new Zombie version called Graveyard Ops) also makes a return and now caters to players who would rather play solo or with AI characters instead of humans.
Ultimately, it’s like PopCap took the first game, chopped off the lame things (not that it had much anyway), and just built more awesome on top of it. That’s really how sequels should be, right? Build up what works and add in elements that will please the fan base. In this case, Garden Warfare 2 added in a robust single player element for those who didn’t want to jump online to fight actual humans. A novel idea, especially in a generation where many video game companies seem to be focusing more and more on online focused experiences.
If you’re a fan of shooters, goofy humor, and/or games that are downright fun, Garden Warfare 2 is a fantastic option to spend your time with.