Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 Review – Petal Of Honor

How do you make a sequel? You do what Garden Warfare 2 does.

01

Developer: Popcap Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: February 23, 2016
Copy purchased
UPDATE: Contains microtransactions as of March 3, 2016

Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was a cute concept that had a ton of potential going for it, but a lack of content and a design smacking of free-to-play inspirations undermined the entire thing. Something that could have been brilliant was instead a disappointing effort, and I expected that’s where the experiment would end.

Two years later, and Popcap Games has returned with Garden Warfare 2, a sequel that surprises not just by existing, but by being vastly superior to its predecessor in every conceivable way.

The core premise remains the same – Garden Warfare 2 is a third-person shooter in which the titular plants and zombies square off with an eclectic variety of weapons and classes. The roster of available classes has been expanded from four to ten, and each class has variant characters with unique skills – providing they’re found in the randomized unlock system.

Joining the Peashooter, Sunflower, Chomper and Cactus is the Rose, Citron, and Kernal Corn.

The Rose boasts homing attacks, backed up by the ability to slow down enemies or transform them into goats. The Citron is a heavy hitter, able to curl into a ball, erect a shield, and fire off a devastating laser beam. Kernal is more vulnerable but highly damaging, firing rapid shots of corn, energy blasts, and sweeping air strikes.

02

On the zombie side, we have some fresh and exotic characters to add flavor to what once was a fairly pedestrian set of classes.

Superbrainz is a heroic front-liner, predominantly using punches and super kicks, but able to fire off energy weapons should the need arise. The Imp has a tiny amount of HP but makes up for it with maneuverability, blanket fire, and the power to summon a large mech after a certain period of time.

Perhaps the weirdest new character is Captain Deadbeard, a pirate who boasts a turret mode, can become a walking bomb by wearing a TNT barrel, and is able to summon a parrot to do his fighting for him from the air.

The existing classes get a few new tricks as well, with some of the weaker characters boasting overhauled skills and a better sense of specialization.

GW2‘s new classes bolster the existing roster to give a huge amount of choice. As someone who never cared for a single zombie character in the original game, I’ve found something to enjoy with all three of the new, more bizarre choices.

Each class has variant characters to be unlocked, and each character is individually leveled, upgraded, and customized. Maxed-out characters can be promoted, resetting their levels but opening more opportunities for upgrades.

03

The returning sticker system has been overhauled to make unlocks more fun and feel less like an introductory system for microtransactions. The coins used to buy sticker packs are liberally given out and it takes only a few matches to be able to afford the most expensive pack – the one guaranteeing a new unlocked character.

Other packs provide character and weapon skins or consumable items such as AI-controlled minions and turrets, each with their own degrees of rarity.

In Garden Warfare, the sticker system was a slog to get through, and later turned out to be designed for future premium currencies. Here, unlocking stuff is actually fun thanks to the regularity of one’s ability to purchase packs. There’s a lot of fun to be had simply in buying up stickers to see what strange new bits of kit one could uncover.

Gameplay itself has been considerably upgraded. An all-new story mode exists, housed in a small open-world map called the Backyard Battleground. Here, players can undertake missions for either the plants or zombies, and while the single-player content is a little shallow, there’s plenty of it and it’s enjoyable to explore the Backyard with its constant scraps between AI-controlled combatants.

04

Garden Ops returns from the previous installment, joined by a zombie alternative in Graveyard Ops. Whichever side you choose, the core is the same – it’s a cooperative wave-based mode as up to four players defend a central location from attack by the undead or the flora. It’s a nice little mode and it can get utterly brutal on harder difficulties. Here’s where consumable items are most used, since using stickers to generate plant or robot buddies will help thin out the waves.

Naturally, PvP is the main event, with a host of standard battle modes that support up to 24 players. Here’s where the game’s improvements really take shape, as what once was a fairly repetitive and mundane shooter has become a knock-down drag-out scrum of chaos.

With bizarre ammunition flying everywhere, weird special skills firing off, and a hectic mess of both ranged and melee fighters, large online fights have become total anarchy – and it works.

What could have been a sloppy and confusing mess is instead a hugely entertaining and confusing mess. Each character feels overpowered to the point where none of them seem broken. With the exception of the Rose, which is looking set to eat a debuff, each class is balanced by simply being unique and ridiculously imbalanced in the right situation.

It’s difficult to do chaos without looking slapdash, and Garden Warfare 2 nails it. The first game wasn’t polished or fluid enough to make its turbulent combat work, but with bigger maps, a significant amount of extra polish, and a speed that the last game lacked, this sequel does with style what Popcap never quite managed last time.

In addition to all this, players can undertake daily challenges, bring friends along for almost every mode, and play everything solo should they so desire.

05

With its colorful environments and cartoon aesthetic, Garden Warfare 2 is a gorgeous game. Character designs are as detailed as they are darling, each one lovingly animated and constantly making its own silly sounds. Though I find the garbled speech of NPC characters utterly annoying, the player character noises are highly amusing, backed by a fantastic and catchy soundtrack.

In a world where “AAA” videogames offer less content at launch for the same amount of money, push season passes and microtransactions, and generally stick to the safest creative premises, Garden Warfare 2 is a surprising breath of fresh air from Electronic Arts’ camp. It’s bursting at the seams with stuff to do, and the way in which players can seamless jump from one mode to another and instantly transition from plant stuff to zombie stuff makes it all fantastically convenient to enjoy.

Most importantly, it’s complete. This is a game that easily offers hours of well-crafted enjoyment for its entry price, with nothing but incentives to keep playing, uncovering secrets, and securing rewards.

06

Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a masterclass in sequel creation, an example of what happens when you listen to criticism and strive to create a fun game more than an addictive business model, something people want to spend time and money on as opposed to something they feel compelled to do.

Fast becoming my favorite online shooter of choice, Garden Warfare 2 is lovable, preposterous, and completely rampageous. Never thought I’d say this about an EA game, but it’s everything a modern premium experience should be.

9.5/10
Superb

Aaron B
Guest
Aaron B

Good review, Jim. Glad to see they chose to respect customers with this installment.

RougeMephilesClone
Guest
RougeMephilesClone

I just noticed the “Review” text on the banner image. I’m not sure if I missed it earlier or if Jim placed that there after I read the article a few hours ago. The situation really has reached a point where Jim has to clarify that an article for an EA game is a review and not another article about the corporate beast, hasn’t it?

Milestone_RP
Guest
Milestone_RP

Jim
no stop
don’t jinx it by crowing that the game “is complete”
some bastard at EA Corporate will hear it, come down from on high, and force a patch onto the game that locks half the content back up to be “re-released” later or for cash moneys

oh noooooo
(Seriously, tho, I had to re-read this whole thing three times to find “where’s the catch”. Actual PopCap? EA? Full, polished, robust game without an excess amount of Battlefront Syndrome? Where IS the catch? Did I miss an apocalypse?)

Jaakko Palm
Guest
Jaakko Palm

Good score for EA game? Jim was obviously paid for this review /s

Astralfury
Guest
Astralfury

Fuck me, has all these years of Ea being all “we get it, we are evil we can stop -promise” finally come to a positive sequel?

What a time to be alive.

Gervasius
Guest
Gervasius

Wait, they actually REMOVED microtransactions?
Welp, I’m off to the bomb-shelter. See you in the afterlife, everyone.

usrev
Guest
usrev

the only flaw with the first one was not enough maps.

they fixed this with this game buuuuuut the balance is much worse and map design is also worse. the first game was better imo especially at the price point but GW2 is freaking awesome either way and i can’t wait to see what free dlc they bring.

Lasse Andersen
Guest
Lasse Andersen

I’ll take an optimistic outlook and see this as a positive sign to the future.

Dreggsao
Guest
Dreggsao

It’s nice finally reading a review from someone that found the first lacking too. Got a much better picture of what I could expect from the game than from all the reviews where the people reviewing already loved the first which is hard for me to comprehend.

Mike Wallace
Guest
Mike Wallace

Meanwhile, an EA Executive sits in a darkened office, stroking a document labeled “PvZ2 Microtransactions” and the erection it gives him.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

I watched the Squirty Play earlier this morning, and I expected some sincere praise in the review. I just didn’t expect this. It’s just a shame I’m not big into online shooters, or I might have a look.

Besides, I’ve got Splatoon to scratch that itch if it ever comes up. No point in spending more money on games I won’t get much out of.

RougeMephilesClone
Guest
RougeMephilesClone

I didn’t see any mention of microtransactions, so I assume there are none right now. The only DLC I can find is something called a Deluxe Pack, which seems to be intended to get players who want some unlockables right away on their feet. Hopefully it stays that way, but the randomness of the unlock system indicates that transactions could be patched in like the last game. I don’t play most first or third-person shooters, but I appreciate a polished game being released with lots of content. I suppose PvZ:GW2 adheres very well to the idea that any game is… Read more »

Steffen
Guest
Steffen

Glad you’re enjoying it, Jim! I LOVE it… Loved the first game as well, but GW2 is just better in every possible way (well, once they get the balancing right).

Sam
Guest
Sam

Typo in the last sentence: though -> thought

craze
Guest
craze

Do you think that this is a good entry point for people who don’t play a lot of third-person shooters? The game looks fun but I can’t remember the last similar title I played.

Even Luck
Guest
Even Luck

Looks interesting.

Fallen Prime
Guest
Fallen Prime

Wow, damn. I was not expecting a review this glowing for an EA sequel.

Surely, Mr. Fucking Sterling Son, you are on Electronic Arts’ payroll because this subverts my personal expectations.

EOTD
Guest
EOTD

Any news about PvZ2 PC version?

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

Huh. Only 1.5pts better than Shower With Your Dad Simulator.

goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo

probably will buy it sometime down the line, when the price drops, i’m not comfortable with giving 60$ to origin.

Father
Guest
Father

I really want to play this game but sadly I can’t really afford it currently. Ah well maybe the online won’t be too dead when I get it!

artisticMink
Guest
artisticMink

Dunno, i still feel that this is not ment as a joke but that at some point executives sat in their spooky east european mountain castle and said to themselves. “We should really merge the targeted consumer groups so we can maximize revenue with reduced invest volume. Execute.”

To which they then clapped in absolute synchronization before turning into bats and flying out of the window to feed on blood.

Seems cynical to me. Can’t get over it.

PassingAtRandom
Guest
PassingAtRandom

Well, glad that this didn’t turned into a “well, people still bought the last one and it’s crap business model last time so i don’t see why not making it worse because they have proven they will just accept” kind of sequel…but i’m still worried that one day we see what AngryJoe jockingly predicted at the end of his Halo 5 review…

irfanf (IrfanF)
Guest
irfanf (IrfanF)

Kinda worried that the Garden Warfare series will be turned into the next FIFA or COD by EA.
There was 2 years between this and the original, and if they EA turned this into a yearly franchise, that 2 year gap will probably no longer be there.

errormaker
Guest
errormaker

MOVIEBOYS?