Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 Review

March 6, 2016

The original Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was released as a budget title. It only featured a handful of modes including deathmatch-style affairs and the more original Garden Ops and Gardens & Graveyard modes. Thankfully, it was a case of quality over quantity, and the game quickly gained popularity within the gaming community. Over time PopCap even added more character variations and modes, but one criticism that always stuck was the lack of single-player options. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 not only addresses this issue, but is by all accounts is a bigger and greater experience.

The game is set shortly after the events of the first game. The Zombies have won the war against the Plants, and have turned Suburbia into Zomburbia. The Plants launch an assault to save what’s left of Suburbia, introducing players to the game’s hub world of Backyard Battleground. Here the world is split amongst the two sides – the Plants side is bright, happy and colourful, while the Zombies side is a stark contrast being all dark and gloomy. Smack bang in the middle is the neutral zone, an area where NPC Zombie and Plant characters are constantly fighting each other.

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Backyard Battleground plays host to the new single-player campaign. Here players can accept quests from Crazy Dave, Dr Zomboss and many other NPC characters. Some examples include escort missions, fetch quests, sabotage missions and even collecting bounties; there’s quite a bit of variety which prevents the game getting stale. The series’ trademark humour also makes a return, one notable moment being Kernal Corn welcoming the player to C.O.B. – Corn Operations Base – and casually mentioning they are “proud to observe Taco Tuesdays, now on Saturdays!”. It’s slapstick humour at its finest. Missions aside, the hub also encourages exploration. Littered throughout the world are chests which unlock bonus money for you spend, garden ornaments that can be used to decorate each faction’s base, and visual accessories for characters. There are also a ton of references and easter eggs to the series, bringing the world to life. In addition to the single-player missions, all co-op and multiplayer modes can be played solo with NPCs filling in empty slots. The AI is solid, responsive, reacts well to any situation and at times is more reliable than online players. There are hours of fun on offer for solo players, which is an incredible improvement over the original.

Of course, Garden Warfare has always been about online multiplayer. Every mode from the original has returned (with the exception of Taco Bandits), along with the new Flag of Power and Herbal Assault modes. Flag of Power is a King of the Hill-inspired mode which can be played alone or with up to four friends. Players must defend their flag against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Things can get absolutely crazy in this mode, with explosions happening everywhere and enemies surrounding you from every direction. It’s a true test for your skill level. Herbal Assault is the opposite of Gardens and Graveyards where the Plants go on the offensive and the Zombies have to protect checkpoints. Online matches generally mix Herbal Assault and Gardens and Graveyards playlists together, which benefits players who prefer to play as the one faction as it adds just that little more variety. Best of all there are dedicated Australian servers, and if you’re game enough to test your internet connection’s capabilities, you can switch to international servers with the press of a button.

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Unfortunately, as with any online game, there is a weakness to having an abundance of online modes. Quite often this splits up the community to the point where it’s difficult or even impossible to play a certain match types. Indeed, on the Australian servers I struggled to get games of Gnome Bomb when the title had not even been been out for a week. When I did get into a match, both teams were not even at half their player capacity. It would be great if PopCap could patch in for the AI to fill some of the empty slots, as this would give the multiplayer the same benefits of the solo experience.

Along with the new modes comes Zombie pot allies and Plant summons. These work exactly the same as their counterparts. For example, Zombies can summon a Zombie that has a bucket on its head which has greater defense. The Plants can summon a Weed which has a ceramic pot on its head that also provides greater defense. While it’s great that this evens the playing field for both factions, it’s also disappointing that each iteration is essentially just a re-skinned version.

One of Garden Warfare’s main attractions was its cast of wacky, likeable characters. Not only do all existing characters return but the sequel also introduces a cast of new characters. For the Plants faction there is Rose, Citron and Kernal Corn. For the Zombies faction there is Super Brainz, Captain Deadbeard and Imp & Z-Mech. Each character has its own play style and no two characters feel quite the same. The Imp, for example, has very low defense but makes up for it with his frightening fire power and ability to summon a mech to the battle. Meanwhile Rose has mystical abilities which are great for crowd control – she can disable enemy abilities and make short work of groups using her semi-homing thorns. During my preview of the beta, I cited concerns about character balancing. Thankfully it seems Popcap have tweaked the gameplay since then, making matches less one sided and more reliant on actual skill level. As a bonus, players who played the original Garden Warfare will be pleased to know that any characters variations (such as Fire Peashooter and “Sun Pharaoh” Sunflower) and abilities they unlocked can be transferred to the sequel.

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The leveling up and challenge systems have also been changed. Characters now level up traditionally by earning experience based on how they perform during battle. Challenges are now completely separate, and offer player rewards in the form of cash and increasing your experience multiplier. Challenges are updated every day, and there are individual sets dedicated to Plants, Zombies, and multiplayer matches. The challenges do seem more varied this time around, and will encourage players to try out each playable character to reap all rewards.

Without the last console generation holding back development, Garden Warfare 2’s visuals have received a remarkable improvement. Characters move smoothly, they express a wide range of emotions, and there are a lot of small details which blends the game’s cartoony nature with realism. Kernal Corn, for example, has varying yellow and white kernels just like a real corn cob. Frame rates can drop when there is a lot happening on screen, but for the most part everything runs steadily and it won’t dampen your experience.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor. The game features a comprehensive single-player campaign, has lots of secrets and content to discover, and above all else retains what made the first game great. There are a few minor annoyances here and there, but otherwise if you enjoyed the first game there’s little reason for you to not pick up its sequel.


Comprehensive single player content
New and unique characters
Can transfer characters from first game


Difficult to find matches for some game modes
Minor slowdown when there's a lot happening on screen

Overall Score: