Electronic Arts and PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 presentation and demo didn’t do much to appeal to new players – and why should it? Over the past year and a half, the original Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has racked up over two millions sales and gathered a collection of positive (if reserved) reviews. What’s more, Garden Warfare still boasts a dedicated and healthy player base. Other, higher-profile multiplayer titles (here’s looking at you, Titanfall and Evolve) seem to have fallen by the wayside. Plants vs. Zombies? Still going strong.
Part of that’s due to Plant vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare’s budget pricing ($20 less than a normal triple-A title), and part of it is PopCap’s dedication to pumping out as much Plants vs. Zombies material as possible. But Plants vs. Zombies fans haven’t seen anything yet; if PopCap has its way, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is going to absolutely bursting at the seams with content, making it the biggest (and, hopefully, best) Plants vs. Zombies experience yet.
Like its predecessor, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a third-person multiplayer-heavy shooter with light tower defense elements. Players choose from different character classes and defend or attack objectives as either the game’s heroic plants or its villainous zombies. For the first time in the series’ history, in Garden Warfare 2, the plants are actually on the offensive; other than that, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 looks like it’s going to be more of the same – but when PopCap says more, they really mean it.
Garden Warfare 2 will ship with a ton of new multiplayer modes, including the 24 player Herbal Assault mode, which pits two teams of 12 against each other in a battle to control the map (basically, Herbal Assault the zombie-centric version of the last game’s Gardens & Graveyards mode). There’s also a 4-player, zombie focused co-op mode called Graveyard Ops, in which players take on increasingly difficult waves of computer enemies.
PopCap claims that Garden Warfare 2 will contain 14 classes, over a hundred different characters, 12 battlegrounds, and will have regular updates (the reps emphasizes that many of these would be free, although some premium DLC wouldn’t be too surprising given the series’ history). Every mode can be played solo or with local split-screen co-op (AI-controlled bots will take care of the rest of the characters), and players can import levelled-up characters from the previous game into Garden Warfare 2 free of charge.
During the demo, players got to try Garden Warfare 2’s Graveyard Ops mode. This was the same level – the Zomboss factory – that Electronic Arts featured during its press conference; the classes on display were the same, too. Players got to take control of three new zombies: Super Brainz, a melee-based superhero; the Imp, a speedy troublemaker, and Z-Mech, his mechanical war suit; and Captain Dreadbeard, a sniper class that’s augmented with some short-range power attacks. A member of the Garden Warfare dev team joined each team as a medic, helping guide the players to victory.
Graveyard Ops is essentially Gears of War’s hoarde mode with a comedic skin. Five waves of enemies attack in sequence, and it’s up to the defending zombies to knock the plants out before the vegetation overwhelms and destroys a massive tombstone. Each wave is a little harder than the last, until the fight culminates in a boss encounter; after the final wave is eliminated, players need to gather at an extraction point before time runs out.
While Graveyard Ops wasn’t nearly as intense as other co-op titles on the E3 show floor (particularly Rainbow Six Siege), it was pretty accessible – for example, a player who almost never uses sniper classes had no problem picking up Deadbeard’s controller and pulling his weight. It’s not deep, but it is inviting. Players of any skill level can join a match and have a good time.
That being said, there wasn’t a whole lot strategy to the map beyond “shoot the plants.” Garden Warfare 2 doesn’t feel like a casual game exactly, but the PopCap’s target audience seems to be kids, newbies, and experienced gamers who want to take a break from more demanding experiences. Garden Warfare 2 isn’t a complex game, but it’s diverting enough to be an efficient little time-waster, and there should be enough content to keep the game from getting stale.
Visually, Garden Warfare 2 already looks pretty good, and the graphics will likely get even better as the game’s spring 2016 release date approaches. As far as the game’s style goes, players’ mileage may vary. If Plants vs. Zombies’ slapstick, cartoony vibe is your kind of thing, there’s going to be a lot to like here; however, others might get annoyed by PopCap’s incessant efforts to be capital-Z “Zany.” The PopCap folks are funny, but sometimes it feels like they’re trying too hard.
Even at this early stage, classes seemed fairly balanced (although players really only got to try three, and that was in co-op, not competitive multiplayer), and each character is fun to play. Characters move really slowly, which can be a little annoying when enemies are surging on the other side of the map, but that’s not a game-breaker.
Look, this is Plants vs. Zombies. It’s cute, it’s silly, and it’s fun. So far, it’s not exactly a genre-defining title, but as a diverting little time-waster, players could do a lot worse.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is in development for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. It’s scheduled to come out sometime in 2016.