Gamer dad who loves the classics, indies, racers and the occasional shooter. Have been in the industry for almost two decades now and am as enthusiastic as ever! #4theplayers
Early 2014, EA and PopCap released one of the most enjoyable, family-friendly multiplayer shooters: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. It was likely overlooked by many as a cheap €40,- cash-in of the popular PvZ franchise, but people couldn’t be more mistaken. Garden Warfare was a colorful pick-up-and-play experience with a familiar set of characters and gameplay that could be enjoyed by casual and shooter fans alike. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is essentially more of the same, except with a whole lot more content and features, and even welcoming solo players.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a much, much more complete experience than the first game. PopCap added 3 new characters on each team, a massive load of character customization and unlockables, several new modes and finally solo play. For those keeping count, there are over 100 characters available to be unlocked in GW2, and if you’ve already done so in the original game, those will carry over when you start the sequel.
For those looking to just get playing, you can choose a plant or a zombie and jump right in for some co-op or competitive action, but there’s much more to the game than that. The new Backyard Battleground serves as an interactive hub and online social space that replaces the classic menu we are used to. A simple menu could probably do much of the same job in parts, but this is a really cool take on that system. Other than performing straightforward tasks such as browsing for a game or purchasing sticker packs, you can customize your backyard, embark on quests, harass the enemy and/or invite friends to hang out and battle in your own backyard. I wasn’t sold on the idea before spending time with it, but the Backyard Battleground really does add something fresh to the experience.
As for a single player and solo play experience, players can team up with bots for competitive or co-op multiplayer-style play, or take on several plant or zombie-specific quests. Regardless of the mode you play in, you can earn XP which affects your overall player rank and the ranks of you individual characters. The quests have been decoupled from individual character classes this time around, and you can pick and choose the specific bounties you take on, which can earn you coins (for purchasing stuff) and stars (for unlocking stuff).
To add more variety to the game, PopCap has introduced 3 new plant and 3 new zombie classes, of which not even one disappoints. On the plant side you have the magician Rose, the tank Citron, and Kernel Corn. On the zombies team, we now have the small imp with his awesome mech suit, Captain Deadbeard, and the close-range fighter Super Brainz. Having 7 character classes, each with their own unlockable variations, is more than enough variety to fill your game time with.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is very obviously a pick-up-and-play experience, and as someone with kids of my own, it’s perfectly suitable for children (PEGI 7). The straight-forward controls, fun and colorful characters and environments and largely non-violent “shooting” action does make it an ideal entry point into the genre. In typical PopCap fashion, there’s quite a bit of humor and references that will go right over the heads of younger ones, but is right up my alley.
Garden Warfare 2 includes an all new set of multiplayer environments which are more or less on par with those in the original. Of the more interesting maps, Moon Base Z/Lunar Landing takes place in a low gravity moon setting and Seeds of Time/Time Park is set in a time-traveling amusement park with portals scattered about. Many of the layouts are usually tied to the game mode that you’re playing in, so a straightforward Team Vanquish game could be very different than an Herbal Assault or Gnome Bomb game. And for those who enjoyed the original game’s plants-only Garden Ops co-op mode, PopCap added a zombies-only Graveyard Ops mode to make things even. In general, both sides are well balanced in GW2 in terms of character classes, abilities, modes, available quests etc. The game does a nice job in encouraging players to play on both sides of the fence by randomly selecting a team when matchmaking, though it’s possible to switch at any. There’s a ridiculous amount of variation in the multiplayer modes, so it’s unlikely that anyone will complain about it.
The multiplayer gameplay has been rock solid these first couple of days. Just as with the first game (which ran wonderfully even with a full 24 players), I can’t imagine that EA’s servers will have a difficult time handling the date. One thing in GW2 that took me some time to adjust to (and I felt was worth pointing out) is the slower character movement. I’m not sure if it’s because of the larger environments, or just to better balance the classes, but some of the familiar characters definitely feel like they walk at a noticeably slower pace. It’s not anything game-breaking, but GW1 players will likely notice the change.
Fans of split-screen play should be happy to know that GW2 supports 2 players in nearly all of the solo and multiplayer modes, and even allows multi-user console and EA logins to track progress. But (and this may be a big but) you can’t play online if you’re in a split-screen session. You can load up plenty of multiplayer modes, populated with bots, but you cannot go online. You also cannot activate or complete Backyard Battleground quests at the moment for whatever reason. Other than those complaints, the mode works and performs well, even if the fonts and icons are just a little bit too small for my liking.
Honestly if you loved, or even liked the first Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, then you’ll have a blast with Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. Yeah, it’s a full-priced, online multiplayer game, but it’s one that is packed with content from a developer that has been typically generous with delivering new updates. Definitely one of my favorites this year!