Review: Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2
It been now two years since the release of Plant vs. Zombies Garden Warfare first episode, and PopCap once again dons its gardening gloves with a brand new sequel. If Plant vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is largely based on the same mechanics of its predecessor, the developers intended to correct the main issues, namely its severe lack of content. Now fertilized with much-needed multiplayer modes, maps, coop, split screen, and even a singleplayer mode, get ready for one hell of a ride, and a shower of gardening puns in this review.
Before we start, let me give you a small refresher course. Plant vs. Zombies Garden Warfare is a third person shooter, themed on the famous Plants vs Zombie universe created by PopCap. Popularized on mobile platforms, consoles and PC, this Tower Defense game shook the industry with a big gamble on a successful licence, by unveiling its refreshing concept of a TPS in 2014, at a time when the genre was more into military warfare.
While with only two game modes, co-op and competitive multiplayer, a lack of singleplayer content, Plant vs. Zombies Garden Warfare showed its weaknesses from its main menu, so his new sequel introduces a central HUB: the Backyard Battleground. This perpetual war zone between the two sides in the form of a suburban city split in half, is mainly dedicated to single player. If some will see it as a huge luxury lobby room to kill time between online matches, the Backyard Battleground is full of activities to complete and secrets to uncover, not to mention bushes to herd.
Everything takes place in Zomburbia, renamed after the fall of Suburbia, a city now split into three distinct areas: one for the Plant base of operations with its blooming calm and majestic trees, and the other, the zombies headquarters controlled by the evil Dr. Zomboss. To separate these two iconic enemies, a large vacant lot between the two sides serves as a clash, with even a simple wave based capture the flag mission. Each of the two bastions contains a fairly substantial number of things to do: singleplayer mission to discover an actual storyline in the game, daily quest boards to complete in order to receive multipliers for your rewards, a gateway to the different multiplayer modes, customization booth for your units, a hall of honor with notable statistics of all the characters used, and much more. The icing on the cake is that the area is full of secrets, and chests that needs to be unlocked with stars, which can be obtained through successful completion of daily quests.
If the storyline of Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 will not really leave a mark in your memory, the narrative of this episode opens the doors of the license to the lone wolves. It is impossible to finish these story missions in multiplayer or co-op mode via split screen. You can however toggle between the two opposing camps within seconds by simply switching on the recruiting station available at each of the two bases. The Plant vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 story takes place at a time where the zombies seems to have won the battle against the plants. Under orders of Dr. Zombos, they plan to takeover the whole earth from their secret base on the moon. In perfect agreement with the wacky visual style of the license, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously with great cheesy lines, funny dialogues and great puns. Fans of the franchise will find a certain pleasure to meet Dave, who will train you to become an Agents of L.E.A.F (obvious reference of Agents of Shield) via a series of missions. it’s like Mario Kart and Battlefield had a child. The campaign offers a potpourri of different modes available in the game, we find a lot of missions that are the conventional Garden / Cemetery Ops from the original opus. You will be able to invoke up to three AI-controlled allies to withstand multiple waves of opponents determined to destroy your base. Thanks to trump cards found in booster packs, you can place a number of defense mechanism in key locations on the maps. Bosses regularly come and invite themselves to the chaos as well to spice things up a bit, and for newcomers, beware of the cute appearance of Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, as the game can get quite hard if unprepared. Every action, every support move, every kill contributes to the progression of your character in the game, and all characters have their own progress bar where each level is rewarded.
Speaking of characters, six new recruits are joining the ranks of this eternal battle, precisely three on each front. This bring now a total of seven characters with very different roles by faction. The veterans of the first Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare are back and your previous accessories and customization items unlocked can even be imported into this game. This will greatly limit the frustration related to farming levels needed to customize, and on top of that Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 offers a wide range of customization for all units. Although by base you will mostly change character’s visual appearance, you can also change their skills, and even pick a complete different variant of their archetype, like a fiery Peashooter which brings direct impact on their way of being played. The catalog of available changes is so vast that it may frighten some newcomers, but It is ultimately easy since Garden Warfare 2 constantly reward you with money to use on booster packs.
Now after talking about these famous booster packs twice, I think it’s fair to explain what that is. Like some sort of digital collectible card packs, you buy these with money earned by playing in the game (we’re not talking about paid DLCs here at all). Depending on the pack price, they can contain either a set of customization elements, parts needed to assemble a new variant of a character, or even a definitive rare drop with the most expensive pack in the game (75000 silver coins). The “problem” is this system seems to be pulled straight from a silly free-to-play diagram with an integrated shop. Except that this is absolutely not a “real money” shop, because PopCap always strives to offer contents completely free of charge (maps, game modes, new characters and so on). I don’t know, it’s just weird for me.
Anyway, progress in Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 will require you to farm again and again. Since each character has its own progress bar reaching up to level 10, PopCap added a sort of “prestige” system, bit like the modern FPS strategy, where player will promote its plant or zombie to turn it to its base level but with an honorary title in return. In the end, there’s a lot of randomness in getting unique items in booster charge and this can make progression quite laborious for players in the long run. But fortunately, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 offers a fun gameplay alongside new lovable characters to motivate us to play.
the original cast as stated above are here, including the Peashooter, Sunflower, Cactus and Shomps on the Plants front, and of course our crazy athletic All-Star, Scientist, Solider and Engineer in the brain-eater team. But reinforcements arrived for this new battle! The garden is now filled with new characters like Citron, a citrus tank-based soldier with a powerful laser beam and Samus Aran ball morph to crush the enemy. There’s also Kernel Corn, a gangster-themed soldier with a dual pop-corn machine gun and can call upon butter aerial strikes. The most interesting new recruit is Rose, a sort of mage with a wand and the ability to slow down time for enemies or transform them into goats.
On the Zombie’s side, three new units make their way starting with my favorite being the Imps. Beware of this little character with the lowest health bar because its funky twin laser guns deliver heavy damage, especially when topped with a well-place gravity grenade lifting enemies into the air. But that’s not all, the little nugget can call upon a battle armor falling from the sky in another EA game style with a Titanfall influenced Meka-Z. With a life bar almost inexhaustible, it will cause great damage during its few precious summons. The second class in purple spandex are Super Brainz, a nerdy superhero focused on melee attacks but can switch to a ray blast when needed with a devastating forward dash kick. Our final zombie class is Captain Deadbeard, a pirate equipped with a shotgun that can switch to a sniper range, as well as the ability to release a mechanical aerial support parrot.
Whatever character you choose, you will always have a role to play in your team. It is also strongly recommended to test all classes and attempt to unlock their variant to find one that will best fit your play. Unfortunately, a flaw coming from the original Garden Warfare first name still persists in this sequel. The asymmetrical design of the two camps has still an imbalance between the two factions. The thing is seen especially in multiplayer: plants often have the tactical advantage on the zombies and are even more fun to play. Not that the undead zombies are boring to learn, they overflow the opposite of awkward charm we love so much, but plants have a stronger roster with a better synergy team. We therefore expect future updates by PopCap in upcoming free downloadable content and class balancing.
Other than that, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare attracts primarily players for its multiplayer component. This method rewards both teamwork and individual skill to win, earn cash and buy booster. With 12 new maps and 7 game modes available for up to 24 players, this sequel sweeps its predecessor with a swift punch of new content. There are the classic “Gardens and Graveyards” mode in which plants and zombies battle for control points on a map that is gradually expanding. The game rewards good deeds at the end of each session with a system of individual medals and podiums for the best players of each team. If you want to gain as much experience and money to unlock everything in Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, then multiplayer is where you need to spend most of your time.
As always, the gameplay is easy to learn, there’s humor at all times but in the end you should not forget that Garden Warfare 2 is based on mechanical shooter where a well-oiled coordinated team play will always be a winning one. Graphically and technically, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is flawless. Driven by the amazing possibilities of the Frostbite 3 engine, PopCap delivered a true open-world themed amusement park with amazing details. Between the mad scientist lunar base haunting the spirit of a James Bond villain, the ancient zombified Roman Colosseum, passing by the Egyptian Pharaoh multiplayer maps, we are dealing with a neat title without any major hitch on its ability to reach a steady 60fps on consoles.
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code provided by EA Games. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via retail and digital release. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• A successful Art Direction
• Perfectly achieved on consoles
• The game finally has a single player mode
• Hugely expanded multiplayer
• Accessible for all but not simple
• This game is whack job!
• New charismatic and fun characters to play
• The advanced customization of units
• The soundtrack quality
• Splitscreen Multiplayer and Coop modes
• A progression system modeled on the frustrations of free-to-play models
• Imbalance between the two sides (the plants seem to be a step above)
• Unexpected peaks of difficulty in the singleplayer campaign
• Weak UI readability in the heat of the moment
• The legacy of free-to-play functions like the card packs
• Some very rare instances of texture popping