The Plants vs Zombies franchise has come a long way since the simple tower defense game that found its way into gamers' hearts back in 2009. The franchise has evolved since then, going from a tower defense game to a hybrid between the original genre and a shooter. While the first Garden Warfare game seemed to have a good handle on what it is, the second title in the new spin-off leaves me wishing for more.
Not much has changed between the first and second Garden Warfare titles. The premise of the game has evolved into that of a battlefield between the two factions. The Plants protect the sunny side of the map and their garden while the Zombies are protecting the darker portion of the world. In the middle is an open world map that can be jumped into without needing anything other than a character picked. It's a pleasant start to the game as it allowed me to get used to the mechanics of the game. Opting for the Plants side, I stuck with the default character of Sunflower. The third-person camera angle was difficult to used to simply because in a world where first person shooters dominate the market, it's tough to adjust to seeing your character as well as the crosshairs in the middle.
While the combat itself is fine, there's almost nothing new from the previous game. Each of the individual characters that can be unlocked have their own abilities, most of which are exactly the same as the first PVZ:GW game. The aiming mechanic has its moments of good, but mostly I found it to be difficult on certain abilities. The sunflower's shooting is fine, but even when trying to zoom in with L1, there are some major issues as the trajectory of the ammunition didn't seem to match up with the actual crosshairs. This became more of a problem as I took on harder enemies, resulting in a lot of yelling and a lack of desire to try and progress.
Garden Warfare 2's upgrades come in the form of a convoluted quest system that has a rather boring, uninteresting story behind it. It all still boils down to the same thing: The zombies want to beat the plants and vice versa. Most of the early quests come from Dave Bot 3000, whose gibberish commentary was cute the first time I talked to him and progressed to being utterly infuriating. I'm a person who turns off the subtitles when going through a campaign, so essentially being forced to read the story while this goofy robot is yelling out incoherent grunts didn't exactly make for an enjoyable experience. At least the interactions with Dave Bot are short, but even progressing from there, voice acting isn't anything more than that. It's just that he's the most annoying and the most accessible.
Graphically speaking, the game holds up quite well in the next generation. The textures are smooth and the character designs are clean. I did enjoy the surroundings, especially when just roaming the main map to see what all was around. The artists put in a lot of work to make the map look less of a battleground and more of an actual neighborhood that's being contested. It isn't anything mind-blowing, but having simple artwork that's good to look at is always a plus.
Roaming the map led to the most fun for me over the long haul. Quests give the experience necessary to progress, but the quests are essentially just tower defense and shooting which got old in a hurry. Roaming the main map allows for plenty of discovery. While I was running from a set of zombies, I stumbled into the sewers and found an entirely new area to roam underground complete with treasure chests, items, and new enemies to take on. I feel like GW2 should have shunned the questing system in the form it presented and should have had it be a far more open world with NPCs, items, and so on to discover that unlock quests in different areas. Going to a generic dashboard and just seeing a progression chart is annoying, especially when you have to go back to the base in order to access it.
My biggest issue with GW2 is unlocking the items necessary to truly hold up in the quests. Coins are earned in order to purchase cards that unlock cards as well as plants to put into the tower defense pots in each of the quests. Failure to pick these up not only ramps up the difficulty, but it makes it downright impossible to progress without gaining any major bonuses. The coins go fast and saving up takes time. When new characters are unlocked, they also start at level 1 and you basically have to start all over if you find one you like. It's the Final Fantasy 2 syndrome all over again in the next gen, though not quite as bad.
If you enjoy the tower defense hybrid, then GW2 is definitely going to get your full attention because in order to go deep into the game, you had better enjoy it and be good at it. The repetition of essentially the same thing over and over again, facing the same enemies all the time in just different waves wears on a player. This is what GW2 is, and there's really no middle ground as free-roaming will only get you so far. The campaign quests have to be done to do major progression and sometimes over and over on the same quest with different characters.
Garden Warfare 2 really can't decide what it is. Ultimately, it's a decent tower defense game paired up with a very mediocre third person shooter with aiming problems. The franchise looked like it was revamping itself with the open world roaming, but that didn't last long as soon as it becomes obvious the questing system is just a fancy way of saying you're doing the same thing, over and over again. There is a lot of potential here that's missed and will never be realized.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been writing about games and entertainment since 2006 after starting out at Xbox Ohio. Since then, I have made the jump to Gaming Nexus and have enjoyed my time here. I am an avid gamer that has a solid old school game collection that includes the likes of Final Fantasy games, Earthbound, Gitaroo-Man, MvC2, and a whole slew of others. I have a primary focus on Xbox/PC games and PC peripherals and accessories. If you ever want to game against me, you can look me up on XBL with the gamertag GN Punk. View Profile