Popcap has taken control of the plantation again with a sequel to the much-loved Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. We really liked the original release, praising its ability to "stay true to its roots" while still offering an olive branch to new audiences by "switching up the franchise's familiar format". But by returning to the allotment, does Plants vs. Zombies 2: Garden Warfare improve upon its predecessor? Yes, peasily.
For those who have been living under the shade of an especially large sunflower, this spin-off series adopts the guise of a multiplayer-focused third-person shooter where plants are pitted against zombies. It's got lots of game modes that take inspiration from Call of Duty with some added twists, including the likes of Team Deathmatch, Domination, and more. Even better, all of these modes can be played solo, in split-screen, or, of course, online.
The sequel expands upon the first title by adding an extra six different classes – three zombies and three plants – to the original eight. This – for those of you who aren't good at maths – means that there are a total of 14 playable classes in the game, and hundreds of different types of characters within those can be unlocked.
Among the new types is a zombie imp who can summon a power mech, a rose with a magic wand who can turn the undead into goats (no kidding), a corn – appropriately named Kernel Corn – who uses a rather corny chain gun, and three other weird and wacky additions that we'll refrain from spoiling. Needless to say, they all add something novel to the release, and are welcome arrivals.
They're not the only extras, though, as Popcap has responded to criticisms regarding the lack of a single player mode in the original outing. You'll find the solo options in the lobby area where you'll receive quests from Dave-bot 3000, a secret L.E.A.F. agent who asks you to complete different tasks. Some of these require you to complete simple defensive tasks, while others involve hunting down huge bosses, such as SHRIMP – an imp in a shrimp mech suit. Once you've bean through about a dozen quests, you'll eventually unlock an infinity mode. This essentially sees you take control of a super powerful character, and has you face off against waves of all types of enemies.
We should mention that the lobby itself is a huge addition, as it's a fairly big area which you can explore and interact with. The map consists of the plants' home town on one side and the zombies' mansion on the other, with each zone consisting of various modes for you to select from. In the middle, however, is a flag that's being fought over by AI characters, and you can join that brawl at any time. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the lobby are collectibles and other minigames to engage in – all of which add girth to the outing.
The amount of care and attention that's gone into the game is evident across the board, and it's quite spectacular really. There are a wealth of customisable items and unlockables, and the vibrant presentation adds a charm to the release that's seldom seen in shooters.
But, despite all of the additions, it's the multiplayer that's the crux here, and it's still as fast, fluid, and frantic as ever. The title has been re-balanced ever so slightly to give the zombies a better chance, and the presentation sticks rigidly to a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second. If you haven't burned out on the original, then you'll find plenty to hold your attention here.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 improves upon its evergreen predecessor by expanding the scope of the title with single player content and new classes and modes. Popcap has responded to the criticisms pointed at the original release well, and while this isn't a revolution by any stretch, the format has been precisely pruned for shear joy.