The Plants Vs. Zombies franchise is back and better than ever with Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2With the promise of 14 playable classes, including six all-new classes, nine game modes, including a 24-player multiplayer mode and a four-player co-op mode, there’s sure to be something for everyone in this third-person shooter version of PopCap’s classic tower defense game.

As evidenced by all of that, it’s obvious that PopCap values its fans. The presentation by Producer Kyle Duncan and Lead Gameplay Designer Chris Fo, stressed this point as they announced many new features that fans of the series have clamoured for. For the first time in the Garden Warfare series, there is solo play mode, and the ability to play any of the game modes available either solo or as a local co-op with AI allies.   

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Since the incarnation of the franchise, PopCap has spent plenty of time developing the universe of Plants Vs. Zombies, creating a fun story with characters for players grow and love. Dr Zomboss has managed to defeat the Plants and take over Suburbia. Now, it’s up to the Plants to defeat the Zombies and take back their home!

At the point where PopCap has released its fifth game of the franchise, and a comic book that is already on its third story arc, fans of the series will start to see a very cohesive world created throughout. Jeremy Vanhoozer, franchise Creative Director for Plants vs. Zombies, had this to say when I asked him about the comics and their influence in Garden Warfare 2:

“Everything we do, we think about in the universe. So whether it’s GW or classic PVZ or our comics, we’re all playing in that same Universe. We’re keeping stories consistent and building our characters, so that the next time you pick up a new PVZ game, it fits what you know and love with our favourite characters, so it’s something we take a lot of pride in.

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“The comics are a really good opportunity to build that narrative. We have taken a lot of the things we’ve discovered as we build that story in the comic into the game. What we’re also going to do is do the reverse. We’ve got a lot of cool things we’ve come up with in this game; let’s get them back into the comic to tell more of that story. So they’re really working together to help us build that universe.”

With the inclusion of the six new classes, that universe has really expanded. They certainly add to the choice of strategy available to players. The plants get Colonel Corn, a powerful gunner, Citron, a time-traveling orange from the future, and Rose, a mage class with the ability to turn enemies into playable goats. Honestly, the goat attack alone hooked me.

But since Garden Warfare 2’s central story revolves around the world already taken over by Dr Zomboss, the really exciting new characters are on the Zombie team. The ranged specialist, Captain Dreadbeard, can perform zoomed sniper attacks, devastating area attacks with his exploding barrel, and sic his zombie parrot pal on enemies, zapping them with its eye lasers. Super Brains, the 80’s action hero and first melee class zombie for the series, has a collection of fist-crunching attacks to blow your enemy away. And having the natural ability to jump upwards of 30 feet, he’ll definitely be an asset to any team.

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I got a chance to play the third of the new zombie characters, the Imp. At first glance, I have to say, I was a little disappointed. What was this little shrimp going to do for my team?  A whole lot, as it turns out. He’s highly maneuverable. With his double jumps, and back and side flips, he’s fast and great at delivering area attacks. Oh, and he can summon a giant mech suit: a giant mech suit that can shoot rockets from its shoulders, stomp on enemies and, in a jam, self-destruct to deliver boss-crushing explosions. Stomping around the level, devastating all that stood in my way, was great fun—there’s no other way to describe it. And with such a wide range of abilities, he’s a great character to round-out any team strategy-wise.

But what about all that time invested in the characters from the first Garden Warfare? Well, thanks to the new Player Loyalty Program, most of the characters you’ve grown to love will be unlocked and ready to go in the new game. If you’re looking to ease into some of these new game modes, it would be a good way to explore all the exciting and new ways to play the game.

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And just like the first game, playing the 4-player co-op mode against the system AI was great. Like it’s predecessor, this mode was easy to learn and had lots of room to master. Based on the level I played, its clear that the team put a lot of intention in its design. The variety of obstacles and paths purposefully utilize the strategies of any character played. The chaotic commotion of the battle itself only heightened this fact. If the full version of the game lives up to this early look, the franchise will definitely have improved greatly over the first Garden Warfare.

With its release in Spring 2016 on the XBOX One, PS4 and the PC, players won’t have too long to wait to get all the plant-shattering and zombie-crushing they want.

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