The plants have lost their fight against the zombies, and Zomboss rules “Zomburbia,” a dystopian undead paradise, in the wake of the war. Suddenly, the plants emerge from the ground once more in a surprise attack, and the zombies find themselves on the defensive for the first time, fighting to keep their invaders at bay. In Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, players take on the role of a superhero zombie, an orange bounty hunter from the future, a spell slinging rose, an undead pirate, and many more across all manner of competitive and cooperative game modes to create one of the most compelling third-person shooters since the original Garden Warfare.
Fans of the original Garden Warfare game are already familiar with what the series offers: a quirky setting, ridiculous subclasses, and solid competitive multiplayer; but Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 takes things to the next level by adding two single-player campaigns, cooperative game modes, and elements of a shared world shooter RPG (e.g. Destiny). Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is an absolutely massive game, boasting over 100 character subclasses, 4000+ cosmetic customization items, half a dozen multiplayer game types, and cooperative game modes (all of which support offline splitscreen co-op).
The story of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is divided into two acts, one for each faction, and revolves around the ongoing conflict between plants and zombies. Players will find themselves running errands for various leaders within their chosen faction and completing tasks ranging from the challenging to the just plain weird. Some levels have the player defending against waves of enemies, while others have you piloting a corn plane and carpet bombing enemies below. In one particularly silly scenario, the player is tasked with closing green glowing rifts that are spewing evil goats, in a not-so-subtle reference to Dragon Age: Inquisition (I see what you did there, EA).
The gameplay of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 remains largely the same as its predecessor with incremental improvements and expansions. You’ll still play many of the same characters from the first game, and in many of the same game modes, but Garden Warfare 2 has a touch more confidence in itself than the first game did, which results in some hilarious risks being taken. For example, in one level of Herbal Assault (a defend/attack zones mode) the plants on the offensive team must push back the zombies by capturing zone after zone, but instead of a traditional zone in the final stage, the players break out into an impromptu game of basketball, and the match is settled by the team with the most points. In another level, the zombies go on the offensive and each zone takes place in a different period of history, with time portals separating each section of the map. In the final section of the game, instead of capturing a zone, the zombies must push a giant boot up a hill and use it to batter ram the door to the plants’ castle. These moments in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 are the lifeblood of the series, and had me laughing out loud at the absurdity of each situation.
The single-player campaigns are a welcome addition to a series with its roots firmly set in its multiplayer offerings, as the original Garden Warfare had no story to speak of, but they do have the drawback of feeling a bit too much like tutorials. Many of the quests in the single-player story only serve the purpose of introducing various game modes that unlock once you’ve played through them. This includes the final mission in each campaign, which introduces the player to the game’s endgame non-PvP mode: Survival Mode. The story also ends rather abruptly and without much resolution (since a resolution to the story would most likely ruin the nice conflict they’ve centered their game around). That said, each quest is entertaining enough to make it worth the player’s time in between multiplayer matches.
There’s a lot of these different multiplayer matches, and they’re awesome. The original Garden Warfare really surprised me with its depth, addictiveness, and variety.Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 expands in this category with bigger, more diverse maps, tons of added character classes and subclasses, and an improved rewards system. Now, in addition to buying the highly addictive card packs that grant the player access to new subclasses, accessories, and consumables, players can also earn XP to level up and promote their characters, and complete bounties to earn gold stars, a kind of currency in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.
One of the biggest additions in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is the “Backyard Battleground,” which is the game’s shared world area. Here, players can explore, take part in small minigames, like shooting galleries, fight for control over “The Flag of Power,” manage their characters, take new quests, and more. Despite the fairly wide variety of things to do in the Backyard Battleground, it does feel a bit empty at times. Sure, players can explore, but they’ll mostly find a bunch of chests that require golden stars to open. These tasks end up requiring a ton of play time, but unfortunately, most of the minigames and other activities are mostly meaningless ways to pass the time. The servers are not yet populated by players at large, though, so it’s possible that the Backyard Battleground will be a lot more entertaining of a space once more players occupy this area. The main draw here, though, is that players now have a hub to coordinate multiplayer/cooperative activities, opening up huge opportunities. Players can invite their friends to their Backyard Battleground, mess around for a little bit, and once their group has assembled, jump through a portal and into a multiplayer match.
The overall presentation of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is one of the major strengths of the title. Characters are wacky, and each speak in their own silly gibberish, and the environments are vibrant and cartoony. Explosions are accompanied by the onomatopoeia “BOOM,” characters fly 50 feet into the air when they die, and the accessories players will eventually unlock are bizarre and charming. The soundtrack for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is great as usual, with all the catchy tunes that the series is known for, but this entry also makes heavy-use of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,” which earns it some extra points in my book.