The first Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare had no right being as good as it was. Taking place inside the world of an overgrown Facebook game, the arrival of Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare was greeted with much mocking and… pretty much just the mocking part. A cheap cash in of its license used to forever chase the Call of Duty dragon that EA has for so long been hunting. So when PopCap’s game finally launched in 2014, it managed to not be a shameless cash in but also an incredibly addictive and well made game; everyone was left in a state of shock. The game managed to mix the more family-friendly vibe of the PvZ games with the fast-paced shooting of Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead while coming off as saccharine. It was a massive step forward in shooter games and when a sequel was announced, rather than be quick to dismiss the game, people took notice.
Things have changed
However, much like when Duke Nukem Forever was first announced, by the time of its announcement the world had changed. For Duke Nukem, Half-Life arrived on the scene and changed damn near everything that came after it. For Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 the revolution in question came from two sources. First Splatoon, Nintendo’s latest masterpiece and MMOGames’ console game of the year, and secondly Overwatch, Paladins, or any one the other new fast paced homages to Team Fortress 2 that are littering the market with new ideas and character designs. And so, while I could never compare Duke Nukem Forever with Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 as it is quite impossible for it to be as bad as Duke without it literally vomiting on a loved one’s grave, it still stands in a similar place. Can Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 show it has improved enough to counter the new threats? Well, I was dropped into the PlayStation 4 Beta to find out.
The first and most noticeable change is the new Backyard Battleground menu system. Instead of a Menu system, the game places you inside a backyard filled with transports to game types, character selections, stats and… well for now just that. More was promised but as the beta was designed to be multiplayer balanced a lot was roped off for the full release. It has the air of Inkopolis about it, mimicking quite closely the Hub world from Splatoon but less so. While it is a lot more condensed than Inkopolis it lacks a considerable amount of the latter’s charm and aesthetics. The addition of the single-player king of the hill mode “Flag of Power” is a fun little time waster that lets the players not only gain coins used for unlocking cosmetic items but also test and practice the new classes and abilities added.
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 Classes
Speaking of new classes, 6 new playable characters make their way into Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 in addition to the return of the old cast from the first game. While I will skip describing the first generation classes, here is a quick rundown of the new additions to the roster. Starting with the plant side.
- Kernel Corn – A new high damage Assault class, Corn seems to fit into the “soldier” category of other games and plays just as boring as they do. Might be one for the newer players but veterans will likely enjoy something different.
- Rose – By far the most fun plant class to play. With a mix of Crowd control and support with medium damage (that is easy to dodge to balance this) Rose is heads and shoulders over the others.
- Citron – A Tank with a shockingly high amount of damage, control and movement. In the hands of a skilled player Citron might be a considerably overpowered character choice.
- Imp & Z-Mech – The imp is a weak but insanely quick mob that plays by building up to use its much more deadly Z-Mech. Quite fun to play and is well-balanced considering its weakness without the mech, but devastating in team play with support.
- Super Brainz – Movement and melee based assault type, the Super Brainz is by far the most fun zombie to play of the new batch. It is also one of the few real counters to the Citron.
- Captain Deadbeard – A class that is rather difficult to explain past the fact it’s a sniper for the Zombie side and the parrot’s funny.
All in all, the new additions are quite a mixed bag. The Imp, Super Brains and Rose are all welcome new additions that have fun and very unique play styles that add crazy amounts to the overall meta game. Sadly, while powerful, the other 3 feel boring. The strong Citron feels like a less interesting sunflower with a gimmicky and fiddly roll ability plastered onto it. Corn is just boring from the ground up, especially when side by side with the infinitely more enjoyable Super Brains for the other team. Deadbeard is simply a sniper for Zombies. At the time of play, there did feel like a slight balance problem. It swung wildly, but in some encounters it was either getting steamrolled by Citron or by a stack of Imps that had managed their suits. Hopefully the numbers get changed before launch.
Modes and Maps
Regarding the Modes and maps, not much new was really shown off. The 24-player Gardens & Graveyards and its flower counterpart Herbal Assault do play surprisingly well and let the varying class skills and techniques come into their full power. I had a blast playing this with Rose and Imp, until some of the balance problem took effect. The old game modes such as Vanquish, being on rotation in this build, still hold up but haven’t changed from the first game. Map wise, they’re nice. Even though they’re functional and well-balanced, none of them left much of a mark on me during my time with them. In fact, I had to double check the names of most of them while writing this. They are by no means bad, twith Moonbase Z being my personal highlight, but aside from that they feel incredibly baseline. Good enough, but not memorable. This might have just been a limitation for the Beta, but if it’s a taste of the rest of the game, it doesn’t exactly bowl me over.
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 feels very much like a full price DLC from what little I got to experience. With a small roster update and some new menus, it’s pretty much the standard EA by the numbers sequel that I was rather hoping it wouldn’t be. Previously this might have been enough, but with Splatoon still very much a massive hit and dozens of others on the horizon it falls a little short. The question has to be, do we really even need a minor upgrade to the first game? Time, and the full release will have to tell.Related: Beta, EA, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, PopCap Games, Preview, Shooter