|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Release: February 23, 2016|
|Players: 1-2 Local, 2-24 Online|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Animated Blood, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence|
All these gameplay modes feel substantial – nothing bears the stink of a half-baked afterthought that you'll find in many games with multiple modes. The campaign is well-stocked with humor, Garden Ops tosses variety and optional goals into its enemy waves, and multiplayer matches give everybody clear directions as to the current goal. Sure, you'll do better once you get to know the maps, but you're highly unlikely to get lost or waste time looking for the action. Variety and silly fun are at the forefront of every activity you try. You can even invite friends into your hub world and tackle a bounty hunt challenge or set up a plants vs. zombies soccer match.
If its many gameplay permutations weren't enough, PopCap has loaded a ton of extras into Garden Warfare 2 in order to encourage continued play. You'll earn money during most activities, which you can use to open random packs of stickers. These give you accessories for customizing your characters, parts that eventually unlock new chracter variants, consumable minions, and sometimes even new moves for your heroes. Every day you'll have the chance to complete quests, earning stars that can be used to access treasure chests and mini-games in your hub world. You can even hunt down hidden garden gnomes, though I have no idea what those give you beyond creepy phone calls from Gnome Central.
The only thing that gives me pause about all of these extras is that every character and character variant must be leveled up separately. That means that if you have already leveled your Sunflower to 10, your newly-unlocked Vampire Sunflower (which is the best, by the way, with cute little fangs and a basic attack that leeches life) will start at level 1. That's a bit grindy for my taste, especially considering that you have to grind money and stickers to unlock these variants in the first place.
You might not mind, though, since Garden Warfare 2 is just so darn fun to play. There's something here for every gamer, even those of us who aren't heavy into competitive online multiplayer games. It's easy to get together with just your friends or simply challenge yourself with Solo Ops. The competitive multiplayer scene is well-served too, with plenty of gameplay types and many classes having hidden depths that skillful players can exploit. Best of all, the zany atmosphere keeps things from getting too deadly serious. It's hard to get too angry at being gunned down by a tennis ball cannon or blasted by popcorn ordinance, after all.
The love and care that was poured into this title is obvious, and translates into a terrifically entertaining experience that I encourage everybody to try out. Play with your friends, your parents, your kids; anybody who has ever enjoyed a video game should have a blast with PvZ Garden Warfare 2. In fact, I think I'm going to go load up Rose and turn some more zombies into goats right now.
Date: February 18, 2016