Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a silly game. The kind of silly that is usually interrupted by an English colonel with the stiffest of upper lips that demands that you stop your nonsense and go get a haircut. And that’s a good thing. There’s a certain style of silly that has given birth to some of the greatest pop media of our time. The kind of silly that birthed an entire trilogy of Naked Gun movies, Tenacious D albums and MAD Magazine.
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is exactly that kind of goofy, a gleefully frivolous game that never takes itself seriously and revels in the idea of undead hordes matching their necrotic might against a Paul McCartney wet dream of plants running the show. But if you look further than that, you’ll find one of the very best and polished shooters around that can easily give bigger name franchises a massive run for its money.
It’s a simple enough setup to get started with. Dr Zomboss’ zombie horde has managed to annex a sizeable portion of Suburbia, turning it into a forsaken wasteland of eternal darkness, which is almost as bad as finding yourself stuck in Bloemfontein. There’s a demilitarized zone that the Kim Jong Un dynasty would appreciate, dividing the strongholds of the Plant and Zombie forces.
And that’s where the first big addition to Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 shines. It’s this Backyard Battleground that you’ll find yourself spending a sizable chunk of time in, a hub world crawling with treasures, enemies and quests. It’s beautifully colourful and populated by piss-taking riffs on everything from the Terminator franchise to a high noon showdown with entire armies of plant and coffin matter that continually ups the ante.
Amidst the chests and enemies, it’s here where you’ll also find a net take on King of The Hill, as the center of Suburbia is home to biggest of battles that get increasingly difficult with each and every wave hurled at you. But it’s as a multiplayer shooter where Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 makes its stand. And it’s absolutely superb.
Each army is staffed by various classes. Cacti sharpshooters can launch an Onion drone into the sky to scout the environment, Peashooters pump out heavy damage barrages while rooting themselves to the ground for rapid-fire assaults while Sunflowers function as particularly deadly mobile medics. The Zombie army also boasts its own wacky line-up of surprisingly agile Imps who can call down a mech suit which could go toe to toe with the Kaiju from Pacific Rim if they wanted to.
They’ve got Engineers who ride jackhammers through maps while showing off plumber-levels of jiggling ass crack, undead superheroes who boast the intelligence of a Bizzaro gym bro and Captain Deadbeard the zombie pirate who can match the Cacti in the sharpshooter division. It’s a new roster of plants and zombies,a massive army of variable playstyles that only grows in size the more you play.
Once again, stickers are the rewards that you’ll be playing for in matches. Do well, earn coin and spend it on sticker packs to unlock new bots and pots to protect your bases, hundreds of accessories to thread your champion in and new spins on your chosen class. That level of unlockable customisation made me fall in love with my veggies and recently deceased, to the point where I couldn’t imagine going into battle without a Chompy that was decked out in Easter egg colours and had candy-braces.
You might have even fallen in love with the regular Chomper who burrows underground to surprise-attack Zombies who have strayed from the pack, but save up your coins and you could unlock a variant from your little shop of horrors that belches lightning or covers the field in toxins. I don’t want to live in a world where that is frowned on.
It’s those various elements (Poison, Lightning, Fire, Ice) that make up the differences in plants, but they’re applied in a manner that keeps your produce fresh. It’s genuinely well-balanced stuff, as each side feels potent to kick off a proper World War Z event. And then there’s the new ways to play on offer. There’s a mix of returning favourites and new modes, Garden/ Graveyard Ops to try some MOBA-influenced shooting within and more.
They’ve all been given the Plants Vs Zombies makeover, but these modes are properly competitive maps with support for up to 24 players. Gardens and Graveyards was a particular highlight, a Battlefield Rush-style mode that had teams staying on the move so that they could finish objectives and drive opponents back to their stronghold for a final apocalyptic battle that could be the difference between victory and defeat.
For a video game that allows you to crush enemies as an orange bounty hunter from the future who looks like it may be related to Guy Fieri, this is a surprisingly tense mode to get stuck into. But here’s the thing: It may be a multiplayer game, but you can still ignore people and experience the full product. If there’s one criticism that Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare had leveled at it, it’s that it had no real offline component for players to improve their skills in, locking various content away from those who suffered with poor internet connections.
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 fixes that, by making every mode available in multiplayer, up for grabs in solo play. You’ve still got to log on to play, but you don’t have to worry about starting a game that will be wrecked by a gang of tweens who have no idea how to handle puberty. Garden Ops, solo missions , Backyard Battleground and multiplayer matches that you can add modifiers to. It’s all there for the introvert.
The caveat here is that you earn less coin from anti-social gaming, but it’s an option that is there at least. There’s even a banana split-screen option, which actually ran decently enough even though I was figuring out how to juggle two characters with either hand. If you tried your hand at the first Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, you’re going to see a ton of improvements to one of the most underrated shooters of 2014.
It’s a gorgeous, vibrant world that has been built over a massively-competent and balanced shooter that is equal parts fun and good for you. Little touches like an Imp’s crazed facial expressions during a gun-kata breakdance or Colonel Corn’s iron resolve as he calls down a popcorn barrage shows just how much love and care has gone into this product.
Last Updated: February 18, 2016