Two years ago Popcap surprised players with a fresh but unexpected take on the Plants vs Zombies franchise with Garden Warfare. This month, the plans and zombies return, and in a much bigger scale than before.
Narratively Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is pretty simple to understand. The plants of Suburbia have been defeated by the zombies, who have conquered the city with the technological help of Dr. Edgar George Zomboss. Rapidly losing friendly turf within the city now turned Zomburbia, the plants continue to fight the zombies together with Crazy Dave and new allies, though the zombies also have a lot of new tricks up their sleeves.In all honesty, that’s basically all you need to know about the setup of the Garden Warfare universe. But even though the setup is simple, everything in the game is very dedicated to selling the narrative to the player in the background. You won’t spend much time invested in the story, but its presence is effective in creating a world of lore that even though its form is built upon simplicity, works in a way that it’s a fun background aspect that helps players immerse themselves into the world of Plants vs Zombies just a little more than you would if it wasn’t present. Think of it as a layer of icing on the cake, which isn’t the essence of the whole cake itself, but it just makes the complete package a bit sweeter.The funny thing is that a lot of shooters lately have been devoid of colour and contrast, and for every difference that the game has to traditional third person multiplayer shooters the game has, its visuals are just as unique when it comes to the genre the game is settled in. At first glance the game is visually similar to its predecessor, but much more refined and at a much grander scale, which really shows how much bigger Garden Warfare 2 is than the first game.
Multiplayer and co-op map designs are much bigger in size, but still much more detailed in retrospect. The geometry of each map is incredibly unique, using the game’s art style effectively in radically different scenarios, which really comes to show that both the modeling and art teams at PopCap have outdone themselves into creating a playful and visually appealing world that completely matches the tone of the story and gameplay in a fun way. But aside from the traditional maps, Garden Warfare 2 also sports a main hub, which despite its size is still just as well-designed as its smaller counterparts.The game world and characters are pretty simple when it comes to the textures, though none of it falls flat as every bit of work on the game is as detailed. Player and geometry models are presented in detail and thanks to the great lighting and contrast of the visuals the game really shines on motion, which is also thanks to the 1080p/60fps presentation that I found a genuine visual treat to play. Is it an amazing game visually in the likes of Quantum Break, Uncharted or other AAA titles? Perhaps not, but the beauty of GW2 lies in its simplicity, which the visuals fully embrace.A common complaint amongst players at the game’s announcement was that unlike its predecessor, Garden Warfare 2 would be marketed as a full retail title, which made many players ask wether the sequel would warrant the full price tag. Luckily, the sequel has done every bit it can to up the amp and provide players with a game that’s riddled with worthy content.
Unlike the first game, the main portion of the game takes place in the game’s central HUB world, which provides players with not only a physical portal to multiplayer and co-op modes, but also a city to explore that’s full of missions and challenges to partake in. Are you new to the game and want to learn the basics? Or do you want to refresh your skills? There’s always something for you to do before you delve into the multiplayer grid. This also showcases one of the greatest strenghts of the game, which is the fact that Garden Warfare 2 is the type of game that isn’t purely based on skill, but evens out the scale to make stepping into the world of Suburbia a much less stressful experience than a lot of other multiplayer shooters tend to be.Most (if not all) of the previous game modes have returned, and aside the new HUB world the game also provides players with new modes such as Graveyard Ops, which puts the zombies in the role of the plants, reversing the dynamic of Garden Ops, which is actually a nice change of pace as the previous game mostly stuck to having the plants in a defensive role within the game’s dynamic. The game also delivers a strong selection of new characters, who each have their unique designs and abilities, which creates a much needed sense of variety. Character levels and ranks are assigned to each individual character, so you’ll find that you’ll often be switching characters throughout matching, which doesn’t just benefit your ranks, but actually provides a much more fun and diverse experience as time goes on.
A complaint regarding the new additions could be the fact that a lot of the focus has been put upon expanding the single-player experience, which may have been better spent expanding the multiplayer and co-op aspects of the game, but for all of the content that’s there, this is only a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.
Player modes and weapons are well-balanced, and one of the biggest benefits of the game is the fact that even if you’re not skilled at raking up kills (or Vanquishes, as the game refers them to), you’ll always have something else to do to help your team. Wether it’s raiding objectives or healing your teammates, the game will always have something to keep you occupied.The first game was a real surprise to me at its time of release, but the second game has managed to recreate this sense of awe, providing a game much more diverse and bigger in scale. Garden Warfare 2 is a colorful and fun experience that will appeal to many, providing a much needed breather in a genre that sometimes forgets it doesn’t always have to take itself seriously.