Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Plants vs. Zombies has had quite the interesting history. It began as a sleeper hit on mobile app stores, gained a bit of console traction on the PS3, and then just exploded in popularity. While Minecraft and Angry Birds might be bigger names, the PvZ series took a fairly obscure genre like tower defense and made it mainstream. It also caught on the zombie wave in the most kid-friendly way possible, and delivered great gaming experiences for its genre. A few years ago, EA decided to branch out and do something no one expected – a third-person shooting game based on the franchise. It was an insane notion, but also logical given that you’ve got a base with established things like shots being fired and a slew of different character types – so why not take that setup and merge it with something else?
The end result was Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and it was one of the best third-person shooters on the market, period – and easily the best one for kids at the time of its release. That may not seem important, but this is an age where kids play even more super-violent games than they did 20 years ago, and having a shooting game available for kids that allows them to play a shooting game that is both fun and not unbelievably violent is definitely a good option – especially since so many console bundles come with M-rated titles. Garden Warfare is a well-crafted franchise, and Garden Warfare 2 keeps that tradition alive.
While the original was a multiplayer-centric affair, GW 2 opens the doors for single-player action. You get a campaign featuring the franchise’s usual mix of yokel humor and some battles disguised as fetch quests. The latter seem a bit out of place, but luckily, are pretty simple to complete. You usually just have to find something or someone to progress – and you’re given a very clear indicator as to what that is and guided right to it. Then you have to complete a mission or two before either continuing the fray solo, or opting into multiplayer action.
The missions are always going to be combat-centric and will involve beating waves of enemies and then getting an item from a boss. If you want to mix things up without a plot and have a hankering to either destroy plants or zombies, you’ve always got solo Garden Ops. It’s a wave-based mode and basically takes the single-player campaign style and uses it without an item to grab at the end. The franchise’s tower defense returns with this mode – and you’ll set up defenses before each round of combat with the eventual goal being to eliminate 10 waves of enemies.
Garden Warfare 2 gives you a slew of freedom in that regard. If you feel like doing a huge campaign play session, then you can – or you can mix it up. Going with an hour of the campaign and then trying out some multiplayer is usually a good idea. You’ll gain more experience within the game itself, and thus more XP and knowledge – but also figure out more tricks to succeed. Simple things like holding LT to ensure a more accurate shot will go a long way in multiplayer since everyone is a bit of a sponge, and you want to be as efficient as possible.
If you die, that’s one less healer for your team. Just being able to heal someone can make a huge difference because you can keep the momentum rolling if everyone is available for action. If a lot of people go down, then your team is at a huge disadvantage and that can be impossible to overcome. In my first online battle, I found that domination only came by focusing on the team aspect and making sure to take care of my allies. In doing so, they would revive me in times of need and we were able to whittle down our immediate rivals as a tandem instead of being overwhelmed.
In single-player, you’ll do a little bit of this too – so as with many shooters with a heavy multiplayer component, playing the campaign is essential to getting better at the online portion. This only really holds true for newcomers though, as those who played the first game will be able to jump right in and mostly use their existing skillset to succeed. Garden Warfare 2 does add some new wrinkles to the game and they do add something to the experience.
Large mechs ala Titanfall have been added, and give you a bit of an edge over the competition for a very brief period of time. They aren’t anywhere near as hard to topple as the titans in that game if you’re a regular player, but will still give users a boost in power while sacrificing agility. It’s a good trade-off if you’re close to losing though since they can be a Hail Mary play that actually works well for you.
Visually, Garden Warfare 2 has been beefed up from the original game. Textures in particular are vastly improved with a lot more detail. You’ll really notice this if you’re playing as a character type that isn’t rounded – because the zombies don’t look all that much different than before, but playing as a badass corn cob really shows off the graphical improvements. Each kernel of corn has depth to it, and it’s impressive to look at. Before this turns into a food review though, it is important to note that animations are reasonably smooth and look good to the eye without taking up so much time as to get in the way of the core game.
Garden Warfare 2’s audio is probably its weakest point. The soundtrack mixes both comedy and creepy horror tunes, but isn’t all that memorable. Similarly, the voice work is limited – but good, with human characters being given amusing gibberish and executing it well. Zombies are limited to grunts, while plants are pretty much all sound effect-based, and those are fairly strong. Gunfire is satisfying, and you do feel a difference in firepower based on just either the rate of speed or how booming and powerful a blast sounds.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is an outstanding shooter well worth the time of anyone who enjoyed the first game. Newcomers to this sub-series can start off with this game without losing anything, and will be rewarded with a finely-tuned and highly-polished effort. It’s a perfect third-person shooter for those looking to buy a shooter for their kids – and a good pickup for adults with an open mind to a wacky universe full of whimsy.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a digital copy of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 for the Xbox One purchased by the reviewer.