When you think about multiplayer shooters, pitting an army of animated and deadly plants against the equally as animated and deadly undead probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. PopCap and EA Games hit paydirt with the 2014 release of Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. It was quirky fun with a fetid tongue rammed firmly into a rotting cheek. Will Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 build on that smoking mound of success?
If I was making this a short review, the answer to the above would be yes but before you make up your mind on whether or not to buy it, at least read to the bottom of the review.
The game begins with the fact that the Zombies have returned and have a firm, if decaying, foot planted in vegetative territory. The new title builds on the rather tight-budgeted first release by adding six new playable characters, three for each faction. While it may have replaced the original tutorials with short side-missions in order for you to get to know your way around these new characters, the game itself bears all the hallmarks of the surprise hit of the original.
So, while you’ll probably blast your way through these missions in short order, the opportunity to get to know the new characters a little better shouldn’t be ignored. You’ll start off as the plants, and the new characters are all available straight away. Citron, with his shield, EMP bomb and beam weapon is rapidly turning into a firm favourite of mine. Kernel Corn has a rapid fire rate and missiles, counterbalanced by slow movement, and Rose; well, Rose is a bit of an enigma to me. Initially she’s relatively weak compared to the others, but I’m sure that with time and practise, Rose would be a significant foe.
If you turn to the zombie side, and you can, then the new characters are Captain Deadbeard, a frankly disappointing pirate; Imp, whose special abilities include a Titanfall-style mech that drops from the sky to deliver devastating attacks, and Super Brainz. Brainz is a hulking melee powerhouse, with poor ranged weapons.
Other than the side missions you can sign up for, you can also simply sit and camp in your home base and either watch some action unfold in the no-man’s land in front of you, or join in and rack up some handy experience points to level characters up. Around your home base there are many interesting and rewarding things to do. Take the Vending Machine for example. Downed foes often drop loot, and if you collect that loot and save up enough of it and you can hit the Vending Machine for packs of special ability cards. These cards give you rewards ranging from plantable defences to character customisations and special character skins to play with. The side missions will also reward you with coinage to redeem.
There’s a great range of potable defences and help points to grab from the machine too. It’s a great resource to tap. From pea-shooters to healing sunflowers, all tastes are catered for as the game gives a little nod to its tower-defence style roots.
If stats are your thing, you can disappear into the back of your home base and find all the stats that you’d ever wish to see. In the Plants base, Crazy Dave has initiated a robot to take you through the missions while Dr Zomboss offers equally challenging side missions for your new characters to attempt.
There are other aspects to the game though. The multiplayer options are where Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 comes into its own. Indeed, it’s where the title starts to shy away from it’s fun, well-drawn, well-animated roots and starts to turn into a competitive, blood-thirsty, all-action romp. The type of action you’d expect from the likes of CoD or Battlefield. EA and Popcap have taken the best from the original title and applied a thick smearing of extra characters and new maps, all of which are a credit to the game. Graphically, the game is every bit as good as, if not even more refined than the original. Take that refinement away, however and what have you got?
You’ll be disappointed to learn that despite the relatively high price tag, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is an online only title. Logging into the EA Servers at the launch of the game sometimes takes its sweet time and if you’re looking to play the game offline in solo mode, it simply isn’t going to happen. This in itself isn’t a deal-breaker, but it is limiting the enjoyment for anyone who hasn’t taken advantage of hooking their Xbox hardware up to the wonders of the internet. Having said that the multiplayer modes offered make me point and laugh at those foolish enough not to introduce their Xbox to the internet.
Six multiplayer offerings are presented to you, in all of their madcap and crazy goodness. From the newly added Turf Takeover to a cosy beginner’s mode for noobs, there’s something to keep you entertained, even if the other modes are mainly the usual one option fits all deathmatch, capture the flag or team deathmatch formats.
Throughout all of the game, the graphics are well presented, with movement befitting the character you’ve chosen, even down to the way you expire. The aiming and shot accuracy are usually pretty good, with things like scenery providing that little bit of extra cover to duck behind if the going gets a little too heavy. Add to this the ability to spit out a little taunt or two via the D-Pad and you got yourself a solid multiplayer romp that gives you the opportunity to develop some skills to take forward into what is traditionally considered to be the more serious multiplayer shooters. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is for the beginner or the younger market though.