Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare sort of came out of nowhere when it launched in early 2014. Taking the simple, but ridiculously fun tower defense title and turning it into a class-based third-person shooter seemed like an odd choice. However, great character design, combined with some fantastic mechanics to turn the franchise on its head and create a new great entry.
Now, Popcap is heading back to the series with Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, with Senior Creative Director Jeremy Vanhoozer promising that it takes everything they learned from the first game and makes it even better. I sat down at the Xbox Media Showcase to chat with Jeremy and check out the game’s newly announced Graveyard Ops mode, trying out one of the new zombie characters at the same time. In just my short time with the game, it felt like they were delivering on that promise.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is sort of a post-post apocalyptic world. The plants have finally lost their battle against the zombies, and their leader, the Zomboss. Suburbia is now totally taken over by the zombie army, turning it into Zomburbia. This seemingly simple story shift is enough to totally change the game, putting the zombies on defense, with the plants attacking for a change.
Along with the change in strategy comes all new character classes. Six in total with three for each faction, with the new zombie characters taking the major focus at the moment.
Super-Brains is the apparent new face of the game, with his superhero antics taking the stage at EA’s E3 press conference. He’s the new melee character for the zombies, throwing punches and kicks at plants left and right. The Imp and Z-Mech character, which is the one I tried, seems to be the real star though. He’s the fastest character on the team, but also one of the most deadly, and his Z-Mech can fall from the sky to turn him into a walking turret. Finally, Captain Deadbeard is the zombie team’s first sniper class, and mirroring the cactus’ drone ability, he can send his parrot high into the sky for some aerial combat.
Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 Trailer
On the plant’s side come a few new characters as well. Citron is a cyber punk bounty hunting orange, which functions as the counterpart to the Z-Mech. Rose, a literal rose, is an all seeing sorceress, who uses magic attacks to take down the zombie horde. Colonel Corn was the guy in the trailer with gatling corn hands, so he should be a fan-favorite.
All of the new characters look fantastic, as usual. I asked Senior Creative Director Jeremy Vanhoozer how they go about designing new ones for the series. He said that they go through something called the “action figure test”, which asks whether they look good enough that players will want to buy a figure of them. I’d say they’re passing the test so far.
And, of course, the customization options are back for Garden Warfare 2 “in a massive way” according to Vanhoozer. Players will be able to buy sticker packs just like before, and create their own take on the already great characters.
Jumping into Graveyard Ops, the first of nine gamemodes planned for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, I quickly felt right at home. The gameplay has certainly changed, but not in a significant enough manner that fans will be upset, at least not in this gamemode.
The biggest changes come from the characters, with the Imp becoming a fast favorite for me. Running and bouncing around while popping off headshots was great fun, but once I dropped in the Z-Mech it became a whole new story.
Slowly making my way across the map, I could take out swaths of enemy plants with ease. Combined with a healer, I became a major factor in our team’s eventual victory.
The gamemode itself might be a reskin of Garden Ops, but with new characters, maps, and “turrets” come some fresh takes on the gameplay. The level we played on contained a lot of warps, which sent you to different areas of the map. Others, Vanhoozer promised, would feature their own new elements, such as Time Travel Park which will send players to different time periods as they traverse the map. The end goal of all of this is to make the 12 new maps feel bigger, better, and more alive.
Jeremy Vanhoozer said that their first goal in creating a new Plants vs. Zombies game is simply to “make the fun”. They’ve been accomplishing that goal for years now, and Garden Warfare 2 looks to continue the tradition. If you enjoyed the first title, or just never got the chance to try out its unique brand of class-based shooter mechanics, then you’ll want to keep an eye on this as it makes its way to release in Spring 2016 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.