Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Genre Shooter
Developer PopCap Games Publisher Electronic Arts
Platform Played Xbox One
After playing the Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2’s beta, I walked away with the same feelings I had for the original game, and that’s simultaneously a strong and hindering factor to the final experience.
GW2 brings the Plants vs. Zombies series back into the third-person shooter genre in a zany, yet entertaining way. Using a variety of class types from the mobile greenery and undead hordes, the meat of the game is focused on duking it out against other players online.
However, unlike GW2’s predecessor, there is a single-player component here called Backyard Battleground — though it can be played with up to three other friends if desired. This hub world acts as a lobby to each of the game’s features from the Multiplayer Portal to Ops modes — where players defend against a dozen waves of enemies — missions for the plants and zombies, and more.
Having a small open-world act as a hub with side elements akin to some 3D-platformer Nintendo games is a great idea that few, if any, other multiplayer games have done, but most of it is lackluster. The story missions on the plant and zombie sides are ultimately one of three things: Ops mode, unchallenging fetch quests or simply taking out a large and tough opponent. I certainly wasn’t expecting a story rivaling the likes of Bioshock or The Last of Us, and no one should, but I also wanted something that wasn’t a borderline copy of the multiplayer.
Backyard Battleground doesn’t offer much side content either. It mostly consists of collectibles, side missions with little reward or satisfaction, and treasure chests to open using stars obtained from completing daily challenges.
Even if Backyard Battleground was the greatest thing in gaming since the Konami Code, it wouldn’t matter if you have no Internet connection, as nothing in GW2, not even the hub world, can be played without an Internet connection. How this was considered a game design choice is beyond me, especially when you can play all multiplayer modes solo with bots. Even more popular multiplayer titles such as Star Wars Battlefront and Halo 5 don’t require a constant connection.
The treasures chests, and the game’s challenges in general, grant the player numerous opportunities to earn coins, which are used to purchase sticker packs. Sticker packs unlock new characters, character upgrades, hilarious costumes and bots to use in applicable modes.
There is a ton to collect from the stickers packs, and none of them feel unreasonably expensive. The first Garden Warfare was often a grind with getting new coins to purchase packs, and I felt I wasn’t getting much bang for my buck, but GW2 does a much better job of balancing a the rewards player’s time with what you play and how you well you play.
And thanks to accessible controls and great character classes, GW2 is a joy to play. Both plants and zombies have three new enjoyable classes. They each take some getting used to, but playing with each of them and learning their strengths and weaknesses is gratifying and key to doing well in matches.
The Imp on the zombie’s side, for example, has low health, but he’s also hard to hit because of his size, has a powerful mech suit ability and a grenade that suspends enemies in mid-air for a short time. He might sound over-powered from that description, but every class is the same in the sense that they each one has a devastating ability and weak spots, making them all well balanced. Unlocking different characters with abilities such as an armored Chomper or an All-Star zombies that shoots freezing rounds adds further diversity to the compleat cast.
The character models and environments look sharper and vivid thanks to upgraded visuals. While GW2 retains its cartoony aesthetics, it’s noticeably more detailed compared to its predecessor. It’s pleasing to see texture lines on Kernel Corn’s stalks, or bright particles from a zombie Scientist’s shotgun-like weapon.
It’s too bad that with such fun character classes there’s only one new multiplayer mode that wasn’t in the first game. The mode called Suburbination, which stems (pun intended) from the name Domination, has players attempting to control three bases to build up points. Sound familiar? That’s because it mirrors every other Domination mode out there.
For a $60 game — the first title was $40 when it first released — I’m disappointed with the mere six modes available at launch. Returning game types such as Gnome Bomb and Gardens & Graveyards, now called Turf Takeover, are still fun to play, but I want fresher experiences with a sequel.
Which brings me to my next point; even though GW2 is a really fun and accessible online shooter, it feels and plays far too similarly to the first game. I stand by my guns in the beta impression that GW2 is more like an expansion than a sequel. Sure, GW2 offers several new features, but the mechanics at their core feel no different than the first game. It’s even less distinct when five out of six of the game’s modes from the first title take up the multiplayer.
For everything GW2 gets right, something just as wrong awaits around the corner. The mechanics feel too similar to the first game, there’s only one new multiplayer mode, Backyard Battleground’s offerings lack substance and, for some insane reason, nothing in the game can be accessed without an Internet connection. Despite these setbacks, GW2 is still an entertaining game with light and quirky humor, welcoming diversity in character classes and accessible gameplay fun for anyone with any set of gaming skills.
- Accessible and fun for everyone
- Great character classes
- Numerous opportunities to earn coins
- Quirky humor
- Gameplay is too similar to predecessor
- Only one new multiplayer mode that isn’t fresh
- Mostly lackluster story missions and extras in hub world
- Everything is restricted without Internet connection
The Score: 7.0
Robbie Key is the Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction, assistant news editor at The Daily Sentinel and former editor-in-chief of The Pine Log at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he is now an alumnus. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates and view his LinkedIn profile.