When it comes to hooters and online multiplayer I once clamored to be the top dog when it came to blasting up the arena, but not so much these days. I’m a different person these days, and a very different gamer that’s tired of grays, hardened grit, and the endless leaderboards that have become staples of the genre. In these trying times I often ask myself “if only there was a game that could possibly brighten up my cynicism a little.”
This is where cross-pollinated efforts like Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 do a fairly good job in grafting cartoonish whimsies onto the trappings of a typical third-person shooter. The original game was a competent hybrid that captured the visual essence from its humble tower defense root. However, the previous entry left much to be desired and PopCap took those issues to heart when they went back to the drawing board.
If you played the original PvZ:GW from two years ago you’ll be familiar with the basic formula as it remains relatively unchanged. You engage in team-based forays and firefight your way to accomplishing various goals and objectives that include cooperative modes of Garden Ops and the newly added Graveyard Ops; a wealth of multiplayer playlists that span from the standard Team Vanquish (50-point deathmatch), Suburbination (territories), novice (Welcome Mat), and mixed game types to name a few.
This is the bread-and-butter of Garden Warfare 2 and in many of EA’s recent games; pretty familiar if you’ve played any Battlefield or Medal of Honor title within the past five years. The result offers decent matchmaking options but is cookie-cutter in execution, though there’s some fun to be had as matches can be easy to jump into, due to its colorful nature and undemanding whether you win or lose. In this respect it’s not unlike Nintendo’s equally colorful Wii U-only Splatoon.
Each mode offers something for somebody, but the main issue before was an apparent lack of a competent single player mode, which has gradually become the industry norm in lieu of the ever-expected online matchmaking prerequisites. The majority of games I play nowadays solely rely on this component to make a qualifying game, and GW2 is no different, however PopCap did put more effort in making the traditional “semi-offline” stuff more compelling.
Going solo means experiencing a plot to the game and sprinkles in a comfortable environment for newcomers, while providing a necessary jump-off point for characterization to keep you briefly engaged, which is a hell of a lot more than the last game had. You’re basically being conditioned for the looming online battles as you take missions from both sides in order to learn the ropes, there’s a thinly-laid story involved but it’s all in the service of condensed matches for more coins and some motivation behind the 1970’s-style suburban homeowner versus mad zombie scientist.
All of this is done through the hub world which has both camps on opposite sides of the maps while the middle is a constant battleground to make fodder of the enemy. You’ll end up exploring the outer areas which is littered with items, mini-games, and many secret places for mild distraction, by comparison there’s a lot more context to keep you playing if you need break from online, and bound to bring out a chuckle from younger demographics. Ultimately, the amount of content is still a bit lacking with an over-reliance of toned-down grossout humor, dad-jokes, and the usual watered-down focus group repurposing of songs like “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins — it’s not entirely horrible but I did see the cheesy presentation coming a mile away.
Unlocking numerous class variations, skins, and subskills kept the tedium at bay and experimenting with combinations did encourage me to make a squad of plants and zombies beyond the typical cosmetic changes. For balance, there are seven classes between the two groups (14 types total) and each offers a mildly distinct tactics and abilities for the field in play, mix and match from there and you’ve got 110 swappable variants that range from quick sniper types to rapid-fire poison characters. It sounds simple but there’s a clear difference in strategy with each archetype and keeps newbies invested; not so much break the mold but is unique by its own design.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 will have you hooked if you’re a wide-eyed newcomer to the shooter genre or a committed fan of the series, but you’d be wrong to classify it as the no-frills kid-friendly substitute. Without the basement-dwelling funk that other hardcore titles exhibit, the action is accessible to match the moderately humorous pace, and rewarding in the single-player department — probably more so than the latest Star Wars Battlefront ever was.