Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 Review (Xbox One)

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Plants vs. Zombies made the jump from an immensely popular tower defense game on mobile platforms to a colorful class-based third-person shooter last year. The first Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was a lighthearted and unique blend of the classes and tower defense mechanics of the original and traditional team-based multiplayer shooter mechanics. Garden Warfare was content with being a fun shooter that had some depth in its character and class customization. So the question remains, how does Garden Warfare 2 improve on the original’s mechanics and gameplay? In short, it doesn’t.

On the surface, Garden Warfare 2 is a very nice looking game. Environments are bright and colorful, everything feels like it’s ripped right out of a Saturday morning cartoon. If you’re a fan of over the top ‘50s era suburbia aesthetics then you’ll love what’s on offer here. To that extent Garden Warfare 2’s improved visuals really help nail that art style. All of the maps and environments are varied and all as equally detailed as the opening hub-area. From zombie-fied suburban neighborhood to an ancient Egyptian temple and even the Moon, all of the maps are as nice to look at as they are big. They’re almost too big at times, thanks in part to the lack of movement options. As nice as the maps are, these few stages are the only environments in the game. That goes for single-player, too. Sure, it might serve to familiarize you with the multiplayer maps during the campaign, but it’s a disappointing lack of variety, especially since there’s almost no context for most maps in the story mode.

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The campaign itself has its own set of problems. After playing a very short tutorial as a sunflower you’re taken to the Plant side of the game’s main hub. From here you can either switch to the Zombie campaign or choose any of the various gameplay modes. You can pick up daily quests or talk to the Dave-Bot 3000 to do main story quests in this hub or jump into multiplayer from this hub as well. The daily quests are essentially just challenges that award you coins, this game’s main form of currency. Coins are used at card shops to buy card packs that can unlock new character variations and contain customization items and assist characters. Outside of the assist characters everything gained from card packs is completely vestigial so it isn’t necessary to ever spend coins at these shops to progress your character. The story quests you pick up from either Dave-Bot or Dr. Zomboss are all missions that boil down to one of two things: defend a certain area or landmark for a certain period of time, find and destroy X amount of landmarks with the occasional boss fight at the end of a given mission.

The nature of the missions means that this game gets very repetitive very quickly. Sure, the campaigns are short, but when every other mission repeats the same two objectives each mission drags that much more than the last. The shooting mechanics themselves are solid however, landing bullets is satisfying and every character feels unique. Each character has different abilities, such as healing allies if you’re a sunflower or grenades if you’re an orange. Leveling up these characters will unlock new abilities and passive upgrades which in theory adds depth and strategy to the single and multiplayer but in practice it hardly makes a difference. The action is so fast and frantic that you’ll do just as well with a basic character just running, gunning and spamming your abilities as if you had a fully customized character. This isn’t really a bad thing since it lets you invest time into a character and immediately jump to a new one whenever you want without feeling hampered by an un-upgraded under-leveled character.

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There are five multiplayer modes besides “Welcome Mat” which only features un-upgraded characters and serves as a tutorial mode. Team Vanquish (team deathmatch), Turf Takeover (zone control), Vanquish Confirmed (kill confirmed), Suburbination (multiple zone control), have been done to death by this point, and don't do enough new or different besides adding a PVZ skin to things to stand out. However new addition Gnome Bomb, in which players must find and use the Gnome Bomb to destroy one of three opposing bases are the five multiplayer modes, does offer some bright and wacky mayhem. After a few matches though, it doesn’t feel like any progress you’re making online actually matters. Sure, this gives the multiplayer modes a nice pick-up-and-play feeling, but that clashes a bit with the upgrade and customization systems in place. Multiplayer wears out its welcome almost as quickly as the single-player campaign thanks to its all-too similar modes.

Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is essentially the first game with a fresh coat of paint on it. All of the unlockable characters from the first game are available from the start, and some the of multiplayer modes are just DLC modes from the first game as well. Garden Warfare 2 does nothing new outside of those new maps and the hub area, which really isn’t that much. This sequel feels like a “complete edition” of the first Garden Warfare only with different maps. The weak campaign and lackluster multiplayer modes outside of Gnome Bomb aren’t doing it any favors either. If you were hoping Garden Warfare 2 would offer a different kind of multiplayer shooter experience, you won’t find much here outside of a couple of hours of fun and whole lot of repetitive gameplay.

This review was completed using a download code of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 provided by the publisher for Xbox One.

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