Review: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (Xbox One)
When you’re dealing with the likes of Captain Dreadbeard, Super Brainz, Kernel Corn and a time-travelling orange from the future named Citron; you have an idea what you are in for. Garden Warfare 2 is not, nor does it ever pretend to be, a traditional military-style shooter. Well, at least as far as the game style is concerned.. The adolescent humour and whacky artwork are a driving theme in this already well established franchise but is this enough to make you invest in its charm as opposed to your favourite annual shooter franchise?
Immediately you are thrown into a neighbourhood divided into two; the one half barricaded with varying plant warriors, the other, overrun with the naive living dead. At anytime you can choose to join either side of the neighbourhood, each faction comprised with their own objectives via a central hub or home base if you will. Within either hub you have your different gameplay modes and features. Even though the differing sides tasks often feel like a matter of copy/paste/re-skin there is no denying that there is an abundance of content either way.
The prominent multiplayer mode allows up to 24 players throughout six different online modes. The Welcome Mat is a mode where players new to the franchise can let their roots settle without losing their head. Only default characters are select-able and none of their upgrades are applicable. If you find yourself the victim of too many assaults you will receive a helpful health increase when you respawn. Great for beginners, frustratingly easy for veterans. Turf Takeover is essentially two-mirrored, revolving game types: Gardens & Graveyards and Herbal Assault or offensive and defensive if you will. Gardens & Graveyards tasks the zombies with capturing plant strongholds while, Herbal Assault reverses the roles with the plants on offense as opposed to defense. Team Vanquish is known better by its traditional term “team deathmatch”. Plants and Zombies take each other on with the first team to reach 50 victories (vanquishes) being declared winners of the round. If you manage to revive a teammate it takes a point away from your opponents score making your sunflowers or zombie scientists a key factor in this mode. Vanquish Confirmed is similar to Team Vanquish however the significance is rather on glowing orbs that drop from a fallen player; the objective is to gather the orbs to finalise the kill. The first team receives 50 orbs and the opposing team is the victor. Suburbination (more like Domination, am I right?) features two teams which battle to maintain control of three different locations. When a location has been captured, points accumulate for the team who is in control of the section. Ideally your team would aim to maintaining control of all three points in order to reach their point allocation in the quickest time possible. In Gnome Bomb, a rather handsome, explosive garden gnome spawns in random locations over the map. Players collect the gnome and deliver it to one of three posts belonging to the enemy team. Once posted the gnome automatically arms the post and begins a countdown. The team to blow up all three of their enemies posts first are the winners. If you prefer the random approach there is a Mixed Mode that will select one of the aforementioned modes unsystematically. All these modes can be accessed when playing the split-screen co-op mode as well.
While a heavy focus is on the online modes Garden Warfare 2 introduces a new single-player campaign. Most of the single player missions, accessed through either hub, spawn you into middle ground with enemy waves coming at you. You essentially grind through these mini games being regarded with experience points as well as in-game currency. This currency can be used at your local vending machine to purchase packs of cards that reward you with a wide variety rewards, which you can use to make your in-game assaults more threatening whether it be assisting characters, continue tokens or new characters all together. In the center of your hub you will find the notice board which also presents you with missions that constantly refresh. When completing these tasks you are rewarded with stars rather than currency. These stars eventually get rather tricky to obtain but the unlockable content that the stars provide is well worth the laborious grind.
A welcome addition are the six new plant and zombie characters which brings the total unique characters to fourteen. Adding onto this character roster there are 110 variants in total that all feature distinguishing traits. That’s 110 different character forms, from scuba zombies to icy oranges, that function in inventive, mechanically distinct ways. The character diversity is impressive. The leveling up suffers from this diverse library though. One character can be upgraded to the current level cap of 50 (One character or variation). Leveling up 110 character variants seems totally unnecessary and there could have surely been a better way to avoid this mindless grinding. On the positive side, as a completionist you’ll have plenty to grind away at. If you played the original Garden Warfare you are given the option to transfer all your characters across, regardless of platform making the character unlock process slightly more bearable.
The robust mechanics and fleshy visuals make Garden Warfare 2 a worthwhile experience if you exclude the occasional mundane single player experience. If you’re looking for a whole lot of content that will take you hours to work through then you are in for a lush, vibrant experience whether it be on the side of the seedlings or the brainless.