It’s hard to believe but the original Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare first released more than seven years ago now. I’d been playing Plants Vs Zombies on my phone for a while, and the kind of in-depth defence of the planting of the right plants to repel the zombie hordes was very addictive. When I heard that there were plans afoot to bring the characters from the game to a new kind of PvP experience, I have to admit I was a little sceptical. However, I’m happy to say that I was wrong, and have spent many happy hours running around as a Sunflower or as a Foot Soldier, generally having a blast.
Fast forward to 2015, and as I was eagerly watching the E3 coverage, a familiar-looking presence appeared on the screen. For some reason, the new Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 game was trailed in the Microsoft segment, rather than at the EA event, but I have to say it looked awesome. Seeing new characters, including the Zombie Imp, which was clearly inspired by Titanfall, calling in a mech from orbit that proceeded to land on its head, the Citron, a cool looking orange, the Corn on the Cob guy and more, I may have been bouncing up and down by the end of it. I remember immediately putting finger to keyboard (doesn’t have the same ring as “pen to paper” by hey-ho) and gleefully writing up an impressions piece for a website I wrote for at the time, and then feverishly waited for PopCap and EA to get their collective fingers out and let me play it.
And boy was I in for a treat when February 23rd, 2016 rolled around. Running across town in my lunchbreak to the nearest branch of GAME, picking up my copy of the shiny new game, and then having to sit through the rest of the afternoon with the box on my desk, taunting me – never has 4 hours seemed so long! Anyway, having pedalled home as fast as I could, I put the disc in my Xbox One and sat back to lose myself in the world of Crazy Dave, Dr Zomboss and as much shooting as I could manage. Luckily, it appears that PopCap Games are fans of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of developing, as the gameplay was immediately familiar, playing out pretty much the same as the first game. Luckily, the progress I had made in the first game was not in vain, as the Plants and Zombie variants I had unlocked were able to be played in the sequel; a nice touch. However, standing still would have served no-one well, so what was added to the game made quite a difference.
The main difference between the two games was found in the new characters that were added in. On the Plants team there was Rose, who was, at launch, completely OP with her homing projectiles, Citron, an orange with a laser and a shield, Kernal Corn, with minigun-style weapons and a nifty line in aerial manoeuvres, and finally Torchwood, an enormous tree-like plant that could not only soak up a lot of punishment, but dish it out too. The Zombies weren’t left behind either, with the aforementioned Imp and his giant mech (including weird variants like a Prawn!), Super Brainz, a superhero zombie with a ring of power, Captain Deadbeard, with his dual purpose gun (sniper or shotgun, depending on the distance to the enemies) and his parrot drone, and HoverGoat 3000, which was exactly as strange as it sounds. Each character not only has different dress up options, but could have variants unlocked, and with the retention of the eight existing characters from the first game, there was never a shortage of options when it came to choosing an avatar.
While the first game focussed mainly on PvP activities, Garden Warfare 2 delivered more of an acknowledgment that sometimes people just wanted to run around as a Plant, or as a Zombie. In the Backyard Battleground mode, there was a hub available to explore, with an area for Plants, an area for Zombies, and a sort of unclaimed no man’s land in the middle. The areas for the Plants and for the Zombies had a lot of things in common, with a portal to access Multiplayer activities, a Quest board with objectives to be fulfilled, a Customisation Room with options for making your character your own, and finally a Sticker Shop where your hard earned coins could be turned into new characters and accessories. Also dotted around the place were NPC characters that could give you missions to carry out, and these added to the single player fun. Venturing out into no man’s land, you can shoot Zombies or Plants to your heart’s content, and also raise the Flag of Power, which causes waves of enemies to spawn, leaving you to then defend the area. This was a lot of fun, and as you could invite friends to your backyard, it played out like a horde mode. Almost.
Speaking of co-op gameplay, Garden Ops returned, and this time around was joined by the Graveyard Ops – the Zombie version. You and up to three friends could battle waves of enemies, including boss waves at wave 5 and 10. This was a lot of fun with a group of like-minded friends, and it’s also at this point that my son’s career began in Plants vs Zombies; he loved watching me play the game, and with me preferring that he didn’t play online with “people” at 5 years old, being able to play together in split screen was a fantastic feature. I really think that it’s from this game that his current love of shooting games has spawned, and while it featured shooting, the graphics weren’t gory or anything, so it was an ideal way for him to cut his teeth on shooters.
Multiplayer modes were many and varied as well, if that was your bag. Team Vanquish, Vanquish Confirmed, Gardens and Graveyards and Herbal Assault were all present. Suburbination was the Conquest variant, requiring you to hold three areas on the map, and Gnome Bomb was almost like capture the flag, tasking players to deliver a bomb, strapped to a Gnome, to areas of the map. These, and many more, including Boss Hunt, Cats and Dinos and Infinity Time were great fun to play, and Capture the Taco was a suitably bonkers take on the whole flag capturing genre. There was never a shortage of content to go at in a competitive style.
So, these are my memories of playing Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 back in 2016 and onwards to this day. With the game being free to play right now on EA Play and through Xbox Game Pass on Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S there is next to no reason to not try it out. Unless of course you’ve moved on to the next game in the whole PvZ universe – Battle for Neighborville? Let us know in the comments!