People questioned Popcap when they announced a shooter based on their popular Plants Vs Zombies franchise. How can a basic tower defense translate into a shooter? I even wondered myself, “what the heck are they thinking?” Well, they proved us wrong with the first installment of Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. Now they have struck gold again by improving on the Garden Warfare series even further.
Unlike its predecessor, Garden Warfare 2 comes with a singleplayer campaign. Welcome to The Backyard Battleground. This allows players to play both sides of the lawn—the plants and the zombies. Here, players can change between characters and find Garden Ops, split-screen, the multiplayer portal, sticker shops, a trophy room, and a mailbox. The mailbox allows players who unlocked characters in the first Garden Warfare to import them into GW2. Most characters will transfer, except some of the specialty characters like the Chester Chomper. There is a quest board as well that hands out something more similar to the challenges from the first GW, most requiring players to vanquish certain amounts of enemies. These quests reward you with not only coins but stars as well. Stars allow players to open chests scattered around the backyard which contain items, or players can use stars to spur up their surroundings by clearing away clutter and setting up topiaries. Also hiding out in their respective areas are a Dave-bot and Dr. Patient, both of whom will dole out story quests.
The solo campaign features a lot of Garden Ops-like quests requiring players to defend a garden, or graveyard, from oncoming waves of enemies. These quests can feel repetitive, but they are broken up by a variety of other kinds of quests. Many of them standard quest genres like escort, timed, find-and-retrieve, etc. There was even one quest with a mechanic that I personally have not seen before. It’s a simple find an item quest; however, players must find the item using an indicator bar at the top of the screen that fills up with green (of course) as the player gets closer to the item. Grass is always greener near the items you seek. Most of the quests were pretty short and I feel players could easily sunburn through the solo campaign, but there is some replay value to some of the quests, allowing players to earn more coins.
Coins buy sticker packs. Sticker packs provide various items to aid you in your conquests, character/weapon customization items (ooo sunglasses for my Chomper—wait, he doesn't have any eyes), upgrades to your current characters, or helpful pieces to unlock new characters. Besides, who doesn't love stickers? Buying sticker packs is like gambling—sweet stickery gambling. Come on arm sticker! While the coin system isn't new to Garden Warfare, the XP system is. While in GW1 you had to complete challenges to level up characters (sometimes those sweet sweet stickers could help with this), now you can gain XP by vanquishing those that stand in your way! So listen for the savoury dings of the death bell. *DING* +5 XP. A new change to the levelling system is how characters now level Individually, separate from the other characters in their class. I spend a lot of time drowning zombies in flames with my fire Chomper, and as he levels up, it only affects him and not the other Chompers. This gives players far more to do and another reason to switch between characters within a class. And with over 100 playable characters, there are certainly a lot to choose from.
Multiplayer is the heart and soul of Garden warfare 2 and I'm chomping at the zom-bit for the servers to come back online. The controls feel incredibly fluid. The only thing that bothered me is that I couldn't change my button setup to match the button setup I have in the original Garden Warfare (which kept leading me to use my unique abilities by accident). Aside from the fantastic controls, variety of maps, and overall enjoyment, I really enjoy the community. Sure, it's mostly made up of players under 16, but it's inviting—unlike many other online shooters. Players can go in without fear of harassment or foul-mouthed ramblings. The adults who do play tend to stay off mic if they are going to launch in a string of obscenities, myself included. HOW THE HECK DID HE CHOMP ME?! WHAT THE... *DING* +5 XP.
Variety is the spice of life in the Garden Warfare 2 multiplayer. Not only are there twelve new maps that include all kinds of unique traits, such as warp portals or no gravity, but there are new tasks to complete as well. On Moon Base Z (zombies in spaaaaace!), it ends in a showdown of plants vs zombies (duh) on a futuristic playing field that requires teams to push giant balls into their respective target goals. This is a fine balance of wanting to win yet also wanting to vanquish your foes! The death bell tolls for thee!
There are six new characters added to the roster. Three zombies: Captain Deadbeard, Super Brainz and the Imp, and three new plants: Rose, Citron and Kernel Corn, each with their own unique abilities but most noteable is the Z-Mech. The Z-Mech can be called down by the Imp. While the Imp only has 50 health, the Z-Mech will boost it up to 350. The Z-Mech creates a great feeling of being a zombie overlord. Literally stomp on those insignificant plants! Just watch out for when the Z-Mech's batteries run out and the Imp returns to 50 health! Although the plants side doesn't have any fancy tech, they do have some magic! Rose can turn zombies into goats. Yup, goats. Though, as a goat, players can still attack plants by ramming into them (Wait, don't goats eat plants?).
The graphics have also been beefed up, giving a lot of players’ favourite characters an overhaul in appearance. The Ice Pea, for example, is much more detailed than before—it's so beautiful it sends shivers down my spine.
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is nothing short of an amazingly delightful third-person shooter. It's goofy and serious all in one place—the ridiculousness of plants facing off against zombies, but the serious controls and competitiveness of any AAA shooter. I have turned a fair amount of people onto Garden Warfare, and I have no plans on stopping now. It is a solid experience that anyone with a competitive streak can enjoy. *DING* +5 XP.