Imagine a picturesque garden- Birds chirping, roses in bloom, and the faint smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the kitchen window. Now throw in some eccentric gun-toting zombies, a cityscape, an arsenal of genetically modified vegetation, and you’ve got Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.
If you told me pre-2009 that I’d be playing a game in which plants protected humans from an incoming invasion of zombies, I’d say you were having a laugh! Well, it just so happens that weaponised flora, and generating a laugh is developer PopCap Games’ specialty.
With staples like Bejeweled and critically-acclaimed masterpiece Peggle in their catalogue of games, it’s no surprise that PopCap Games’ first inclusion in the tower defense market- Plants vs Zombies (at one point intended to be called ‘Lawn of the Dead’)- was expertly designed, well executed and positively received by players and critics.
Interestingly, in 2014 PopCap Games entered some unfamiliar territory for the Plants vs Zombies franchise, moving from the successful laneway tower defense formula to a third person shooter with the release of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare.
The game was fairly highly rated but with only an online multiplayer option and a small number of modes for play, the game felt incomplete. It felt as though PopCap Games were simply testing the soil with their first instalment.
Excitingly, PopCap Games were very receptive to community feedback and a number of inclusions are intended to be made in the sequel, Garden Warfare 2 (to be released Q2 2016), so as to result in a much more polished experience.
A pre-alpha copy of Garden Warfare 2 was made available to play at EB Expo 2015 and I couldn’t help but dig my roots in. On show was the new online 4-player co-op Graveyard Ops game mode in which players take control of a zombie and repel waves of plants. Graphically and mechanically this game looks and feels like it’s predecessor (it uses the same engine- Frostbite 3), and the Graveyard Ops mode was essentially the same as the Garden Ops mode, however, playing as the zombies made for a fun and novel experience.
In addition to this new feature, Garden Warfare 2 will include a single player mode and split screen local multiplayer (neither of which will require an online subscription), 12 new maps, over 100 playable characters, new 24 player online maps and modes, the Backyard Battleground (like a home base/menu screen) and the promise of free downloadable content (which they did deliver regularly with the previous game!).
Final thoughts? If you own and enjoy Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare but feel the game has become stale due to a lack of modes, it is worth saving those coins and grabbing a copy of the sequel from Crazy Dave in 2016. Lovers of the classic Plants vs. Zombies, however, aren’t guaranteed to love this game. With a complete change in genre, Garden Warfare is a dramatic departure from the original formula. It is, however, a fun and well-produced standalone third person shooter, and I admire PopCap Games for branching out and refraining from resting on their laurels.