When EA released Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare a while ago, it managed to prove that not only could the company create a multiplayer experience oriented around a games that players of all ages and skill levels could grasp, but it also indicated that PopCap Games was ready for more than just the usual mobile fare.
That said, the game was limited in terms of what solo players could do, since it had a heavy focus on multiplayer and…well, that’s about it. That’s not to say it isn’t fun – it is – but it felt like a game where the more people you knew were online, the more fun you would have. Well, apparently PopCap was listening, because Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a magnificent sequel that addresses these issues, while at the same time keeping up the same momentum with multiplayer. It’s literally everything you could want in a party game – and for the first time in quite a while, you can bring the kids, too.
So the battle between zombies and plants continues onward, but there are some new players to keep things interesting, such as a superhero zombie with zany spinning and laser attacks, as well as Kernel Corn, a soldier of fortune that isn’t afraid to cap a few dead guys with his kernel-y bullets. They add a lot to the game, along with returning favorites like the Foot Soldier, Chomper and others. In fact, you’ll find a heaping amount of variety here, so there’s something for everyone – melee-based, sniper class, all of it.
What’s more, the mode variety is simply stunning. Not only do you have a number of modes that make their return, but a few new favorites have emerged, including Vanquish Confirmed, which acts as a variation of Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed, but with orbs. On top of that, you can play all these modes off-line – and solo – if you wish.
Yes, single player support is here in spades, and while the campaign itself isn’t too long (it’s spread across various missions on the plants and zombies sides), it is enjoyable, and introduces you to a handful of wacky characters along the way. Once you’re done, you can simply run off into the garden for a non-stop skirmish, or head to the multiplayer hub and jump into any mode you like. It’s brilliant. Split-screen co-op is also included here, and mainly serves best with the Ops modes, in which you defend against incoming waves of enemies. Of course, you can play other modes as well, and it serves as a wonderful mode for parents that want to play with their kids, or friends that simply feel like goofing off without the need for an online connection.
But the multiplayer is the real meat and potatoes here, and EA and PopCap continue to support it in style. We barely ran into any lag with our matches (save for slight hiccups with the Xbox One version), and matches connect fairly easy, with very little problems. What’s more, you can keep track of your progress in your home hub, in case you want to see what frags you’ve made with what characters.
There’s a TON to unlock here, too. The game features an abundance of sticker packs with secondary helpers and various unlockable characters, with variations on their abilities. You can also call upon bigger helpers to assist you, like a giant zombie that carries around a house (no, literally) and a walking tree stump with an axe to grind. (Probably because he WAS knocked down by an axe, I’m guessing.) They add a great deal of replayability to the game, as you can buy dozens of packs and still have much to shoot for. (The Deluxe Edition also has a sweet Mass Effect-style mech that you’ll thoroughly enjoy, if you take that route.)
The gameplay in Garden Warfare 2 is addictive. Sure, some of the balancing is questionable with some single player stuff (especially when you’re bombarded), but each of the characters have something meaningful to offer, no matter what you prefer. The controls are solid throughout, never lagging once and providing a peak performance throughout. No complaints here, save for those times that you died – but, hey, that’s your fault anyway.
I love the presentation as well. The variety of maps is absolutely striking, as you’ll fight everywhere from a deserted island to a village to a wintry mountainside, with plenty of peril along the way. Some frame rate issues popped up, but the quality remains (mostly) intact, and the animations are solid. The sound effects are good, too, with plenty of mixture in what they offer, along with fun music.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 does have small hang-ups, but there’s no question that it’s already a contender for game of the year honors, with its thoroughly entertaining multiplayer, and its strong new single player and split-screen co-op support. It’s also incredibly fun to play, and the massive stacking of content will keep you busy for some time.
So go on, get a little dirty in the garden.