Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Developer: PopCap Games
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: Out Now
Price: AU $99.95 – Available Here | US $69.99 – Available Here
When it comes to video games And especially genres like shooters that garner huge fan followings, sequels really need to capture everything that made the original great, fix the things that didn’t and add enough new content to warrant the purchase. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 manages to accomplish two out of three of these and in the process presents an incredibly fun and robust shooter, albeit one that is far from perfect.
Garden Warfare 2, much like its predecessor is a third person shooter set in the Plants Vs Zombies world that has you taking control of one of the heroic plants or the mindless zombies who are hell bent on devouring brains, and pitting them against one another in epic team based skirmishes.
In many ways Garden Warfare 2 is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. With new characters, new maps, game modes, a single player campaign and even an intuitive hub world. The developers really took the series that next step further.
The new hub world is one of the most notable changes to the franchise and offers a unique way of navigating between the game’s different modes. The world itself is split into three different sections – the plant controlled, the zombie controlled and no-man’s land in the centre. From here you can access all of the game’s modes by entering doors/portals. Exploration here is a lot of fun and can result in you finding a few unlockable bonuses or even some mini games that can be so addictive that you could play them more than the core game.
The single player campaign is a nice addition to the series and one that I was most welcome to see. Being able to just kick back on the couch and play through a game on your own can be an excellent cathartic experience and also serve as a great learning tool before heading into the depths of competitive online multiplayer. However while it is great to have a single player mode, this one is a little bare bones and repetitive. Most of the missions are fetch quests and can drag on a little longer than necessary. Those that don’t have you fetching something will instead just put you in a typical firefight which while fun, feels a little uninspired.
Garden Warfare 2’s biggest draw card is definitely the six new character classes. While the entire roster of the original game is back, The developers have added new characters; the Magical Rose, tank-like Citron and aerial acrobat Kernel acorn to the plants side, while the zombies get the muscle -bound Super Brainz, mech-summoning Imp and cannon riding Captain Deadbeard. These new characters all fit into pretty standard shooter character classes and really help fill in some of the gaps that each team had in the previous game.
The franchise really takes a huge step forward with regards to depth with the addition of these six additional characters, at least it does at face value. While newcomers like Kernel Corn and Super Brainz seem like they should be welcome additions to the gang, instead you will find that online games are filled almost exclusively with these new characters. It makes sense that people would want to try out the new offerings, but the fact that the series veterans show up sparsely (if at all) shows that there are some balancing issues that need to be addressed.
I also am not a fan of the way that this game handles its levelling and experience. Instead of the player levelling up and locking more costumes, powers and weapons for their colourful army, instead experience is tied to not only specific characters but the specific build of that character. So that means if you win a few matches with Pop Kernel (a bearded variant of Kernel Corn) then that experience affects ONLY that build. Couple this with there being over 100 different builds for characters across the game, as well as the fact that levelling up is a slow, almost arduous process and you have yourself one heck of a grind awaiting you.
Visuals and Audio
While I find some of Garden Warfare 2’s gameplay elements to be a little hit or miss, the presentation is one that I absolutely adore. From the moment you boot up the game, you are just surrounded with this tone and presence that just feels so unique and true to the world of Plants vs Zombies that it is hard to not smile.
All of the game’s characters have this unique look and feel to them that makes them stand out on the battlefield. For example Super Brainz looks completely different to anybody else on his team and even then his counterparts like Toxic Brainz or Party Brainz can all be told apart from one another with the quickest of glances. This creates a real depth of character but also has the added gameplay bonus of being able to see what you are coming up against and plan accordingly.
The game’s audio is similarly satisfying and sounds identical to the audio from the previous Garden Warfare game, as well as the original tower defence games that were the series’s bread and butter for so long. The cohesiveness in audio direction really helps the franchise feel like it is one big unified story and not just a few different games paying homage to one another. Plus, there is a surprising amount of characterisation that can be accomplished with relatively simple sounds, so the team should be highly commended on that fact alone.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is far from a perfect game. It really needs some serious balancing tweaks and a few of its gameplay elements (like the single player campaign and exp system) at times feel like a chore, but so help me I had fun. The shooting and movement controls are tight and responsive and whenever I was killed by an enemy I never felt like I was cheated. While it is a step forward I can’t help shake the feeling that these upgrades really seem like DLC for the base game as opposed to a whole new instalment.
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