VIDEO GAMING

Game review: Plants vs. Zombies – Garden Warfare 2

The latest in the family-friendly series is an addictive action shooter with bags of content and a fleshed out hub world marred by a few glitches

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 6:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 6:00am

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2

PopCap

3.5 stars

When PopCap Games released Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare early in 2014, the team knew it was onto something.

“We shipped a game that we were proud of,” says senior creative director Jeremy Vanhoozer. “We went on to have eight million players. I think we hit on something there.”

By creating a simplified shooter that eschewed Call of Duty trappings, they carved a niche for themselves in the action-game realm and confirmed the existence of an audience for a family-friendly shooter with a quirky sense of humour.

For the new sequel, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC), PopCap has addressed the glaring flaw in the original – skimpy content. The new version gives fans a fully fleshed-out world in both single-player and multiplayer modes.

The hub world, Backyard Battleground, divides the land of Suburbia between two factions, each with its own base where players can check their achievements and stats and embark on single-player or multiplayer missions.

But what raises the Backyard Battleground hub a step above others is that players also can explore it and interact in more meaningful ways, finding treasure chests to unlock and secret passages to uncover. They can even storm their rival’s headquarters and wreak havoc.

In some ways, Backyard Battleground is reminiscent of Bungie’s Destiny. As well as serving as a hub world, it’s also the backdrop for several single-player quests. In one, zombies help a pirate blow up barrels and collect coins. In another, zombies help Rose test out a wand.

The hub has still more possibilities that will be discovered gradually. One is the Flag of Power, which can be activated to enter a type of survival-mode combat as waves of enemies try to take control of the front lawn at City Hall. There’s also the Crazy Targets gallery to test shooting skills in timed events. A third possibility is a modified version of soccer. Better yet, each Backyard Battleground activity helps players complete daily missions and earn awards.

While Garden Warfare 2 offers great single-player moments, it is at heart a multiplayer experience. Like its predecessor, it offers a split-screen so players sharing a couch can jointly tackle new modes, such as Graveyard Ops.

And those who want to duke it out online have seven solid modes to choose from, including Team Vanquish (aka Team Deathmatch) and Surburination (PopCap’s version of a Conquest mode).

For veterans of the original, the addition of six new characters brings the fresh challenges of learning the strengths of each. The Garden Warfare 2 progression system is a plus, too: Its customization options and alternate classes and abilities can be unlocked by spending the in-game currency a player has earned. And the gameplay becomes really addictive as players grind through single-player and multiplayer experiences to earn coins for purchases. Then the new gear they buy pushes them to keep on playing.

Garden Warefare 2 isn’t problem-free yet. The split-screen turns buggy at times, and there’s an over-reliance on survival-mode gameplay. Load times can be frustrating, and sometimes it’s hard to switch between game types after a match.

Despite such issues though, Garden Warfare 2 marks a clear improvement over the original. It will satisfy longtime fans, and serve as a great introduction for newcomers.

Tribune News Service