Two years ago, PopCap Games released the first Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. It was a hybrid of the tower defense series from 2009, Plants vs. Zombies, and first person shooters such as Call of Duty (where the pun second half of the title comes from) and Battlefield. The result was a third-person shooter, tower defense game that was well made, shockingly fun, and addictive. Now, PopCap is back with a new entry to the franchise. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is bigger and deeper than its predecessor.
Playing this game, it is hard to imagine this franchise as a spin-off of another. Unlike most other spin-offs, the PvZ:GW series is well-tuned, fully thought-out, and solid. PvZ:GW2 continues this by being a fun for all ages shooters that is bright, colorful, cartoon-y, and simple to grasp. Where it differs is in its growth. PvZ:GW2 adds a ton of features and more to the base game than its predecessor. The game is far more connected now, featuring a base that serves as a place with tutorials for new players, a portal to the multiplayer aspects of the game, and as world for players to explore and interact with while playing through single-player missions for both the plants and zombies factions of the game. This base and the town around it do a great job immersing players into the game. You won’t struggle to find which areas of the town are for which faction as cues are all over the place.
Things like collectibles and mini-games encourage players to explore areas deep behind enemy lines. Participating in single-player awards players with experience points for the character used. While not the deepest or most varied single-player (most missions have you go to a point to “collect” or “defend” a item/location), it is definitely better than the lack of a single-player in the first game and gets the job done. This is great especially in the current gaming climate where a lot of games are foregoing single-player all together. PvZ:GW2 is a online game primarily, but remembers to think of those who don’t only want to play online. It also offers split-screen offline co-op for people who are playing locally with buddies.
PvZ:GW2 also adds new characters to the fray. Both factions get three new characters, nearly doubling the total class count from the first game. The characters are very diverse in their gameplay and designs. They have different base stats and serve different roles for their team. This is possibly the Battlefield influence. Their weapons differ in attack type, damage, rate of fire, and range. Their special abilities are all game changing, to a degree, but all different. The first PvZ:GW did a great job of this, but the sequel takes it even further.
Even with all of this said, the game actually has a semblance of balance – a rarity in a class based shooter. There are even more variants and customization options than before for each character. There is so much room to express yourself in the characters and classes in this game via both cosmetics and gameplay.
There are some things that were overlooked with characters though. For instance, characters gain level as they are used, individually. In other words, there are about 100 plus character variants in the game. There is a level cap of 50 currently. The leveling in this game takes forever to happen and to actually be worth it. It also impacts online matches greatly so if you plan to play online, you will have to do it. While there is a counter to almost everything in the game, it doesn’t help if you don’t have said counter unlocked. Also, to switch to said counter, you would have to switch characters. This means no more experience for the character/class/variant you were previously using.
Unlocks are not safe from this issue either as the only way to get costumes (for cosmetics…and there are some great ones), new variants you don’t already have, and consumables (which are essential for game modes where you are on a defending team) is to buy sticker packs. This is very similar to the first game. The issue is that acquiring the in-game currency is almost as arduous as acquiring experience.
There is so much in this game, and players will not see most of it for a long time. Expect to stick it out to fully appreciate and experience all PvZ:GW2 has to offer. Also, if you are a person who has bad fortune or luck with all things random (such as myself), you will suffer here. I assume this was done for the sake of encouraging replayability, but there is enough content in this game that this isn’t even necessary. There are better ways to accomplish this too. The kind of game this is and who it appeals to alone gets that accomplished. For such a simple game to pick up, play, and understand, there are a lot of aspects that are unnecessarily complicated. If you played the original game, however, you can transfer you characters over.
While I do think this game could use more in the gameplay engine to complicate combat more (such as meleeing, sprinting, and more objects in the world to be used as cover), the game works solidly as is. You can put up a fight even with basic characters if you find the right character and you have enough skill with either your weapon or assisting your squad.
This game is very much Halo in only one aspect… teamwork makes the dream work. You will find it nearly impossible to defeat enemies when you are outnumbered unless you utilize the environments and your special abilities. Even then, numbers rule, so make sure you only engage in 1 v 1s if you have an advantage. Other wise, wait for the squad. If you go out and die, that is a good half-minute that your team is at a disadvantage. Besides, the points, currency, and experience systems works in a way where killing isn’t the only way to shine.
There really is more good than bad in this game. There is so much to do. There is a great foundation built for this franchise and PvZ:GW2 builds upon it well. All the classic game modes from the first game returned to be joined by new ones. Herbal Assault is a new, 24-player online mode that sees a reversal of the roles the factions usually take in combat. It is a great way to show off the variety of options and player’s skill sets. The mode can be played with bots taking the helm of players if need be. Speaking of role reversal, Graveyard Ops is exactly like Garden Ops except for the previously mentioned swap. It’s a tiny change, but it is fun. There are a lot of little changes and improvements that all add up. The zombies and plants’ mannerisms, animations, and dialogue stepped up.
If you have young gamers out there looking for a deeper experience, you can have them play this without having to worry about the more mature aspects present in most shooters. Saying this game will keep their attention for a while is definitely an understatement with the grind that is necessary to get to all the content (and there is a lot). It is a rare family-friendly game that is actually good.
PvZ:GW2 is a good game that takes what worked well in the first and expands upon it without being too different. It adds some flair to a much over saturated genre (shooters) and adds more story and a single-player to the game. While they may not be great, they tie things together and get the job done. PvZ:GW2 will appeal to both fans of the original game and new gamers alike.
This review of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is based off a digital copy which was provided by PopCap Games.