I’ve said before in an earlier article that I’ve got a long-standing hate relationship with Plants vs. Zombies. But it was more a lack of interest and a disdain for the popularity of the initial games, I suppose. I was never any good at them, and perhaps that threw gasoline on an already-lit fire for me. I know people who play them, and they play them exceedingly well. For me, I’d rather just take a flamethrower to the whole yard and call it good. I mean, if zombie-eating plants, and zombies themselves, are plaguing my yard, hell it’s not much of a place to live anyway, is it?

And so, here I am, swallowing a bit of my pride. Despite all the negative things I could say about Plants vs. Zombies, I’m here to express my deep and loving emotional bond with Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Having found a new enthusiasm for the series with their shooter from early 2014, I have played on and off for the past few years, enjoying the every-once-in-a-while stomp through the neighborhood, doing all the things to lawns my mom yelled at me for as a kid.

Garden Warfare 1 laid the groundwork for an amazing series of games that, in their own way, rival the enthusiasm of games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. No, I’m not really putting them in the same arena, because the hardcores of either plant murder or military combat, aside from the bleedovers, are probably committed to their type of blowing off steam, as it were. What has happened with Garden Warfare, though, is that a more friendly style of shooter has emerged that has taken its own share of the gaming market.

Garden Warfare 2 has upped the ante in many ways. First and foremost, the zombies now own the town. “Zomburbia” is now the ultimate playground for the rotting shufflers, and the plants have lost their place as the protectors of all things green and good. That being said, they’ve called in some backup.hqdefault

All of the original classes remain for the plants between Peashooter, Sunflower, Chomper, and Cactus. New to the player-choice arsenal is Citron, a bounty hunter orange with futuristic abilities and a Metroid-Style travel ball mode. Next up is Rose, the first female-type character with mage-like abilities. Third is Kernal Corn, originally a resident of Nebraska where he grew up stomping zombies in…

…okay, maybe not Nebraska, but he’s pretty awesome.

The zombies, in turn, have called Metropolis and asked for Superman’s dead brother, Superbrainz, to come to their aid against the swelling weed threat from the plants. Also among their lineup is Captain Deadbeard, a pirate style class with corsair abilities. Finally, there’s Imp and Z-Mech. Imp was previously an NPC style character that has now come into his own as a fast, tiny, and nigh-impossible target to hit. Along with his Z-Mech super ability, he’s kind of the character I’m not looking forward to fighting, to be honest.

An entire new cast of variants, along with several new additions to the AI-controlled arena, have sprung up to give the cast of characters an even larger identity.

“Weeds” are now the plants’ army of AI characters for “Zombie Ops,” the new answer to GW1’s “Garden Ops,” where you spend your time defending graveyards against waves of plant enemies and their minions.

One of the new features that I’m particularly excited about is Backyard Battleground, where you can just run out of your starter camp and start blowing up bad guys without even jumping into a game. Furthermore, the additon of offline singleplayer and multiplayer matches with split-screen support inspires further love for PopCap taking care of its fans. I was disappointed in the largely lacking offline mode in GW1, as sometimes, I like to just play with my local friends instead of dealing with the online arenas and other players. Overall, the lobby has gone from a quiet, lonely setting with static panels to a constantly evolving brawl with live, in-game play that has opened the world up and breathed life into the setting, making Zomburbia feel like a more lifelike place than just a series of roadside signs that say “Zombie and plant murder, next 3 exits!”

Two features that EA has previously discussed are that players who had already made playable character unlock progression in GW1 would have those characters already unlocked in GW2. Aside from promotional characters that won’t return, specifically characters like Citrus Cactus, Dr. Chester, and the like, your Plasma Peas and Zombie Electricians should all still be there when you arrive. Also in this discussion was the fact that a new ranking system is to be introduced, which will reduce all player progression to rank 1, in order to keep an even playing field for all arrivals.

maxresdefault (1)With 12 new maps and over 100 playable characters, the possibilities, along with the diversity of encounters, is enormous. GW1 afforded enough customization to make characters unique in their own right, but ultimately, I got used to what to expect out of specific character appearances. With the changes in GW2, it will be an entirely new game for a very long time. With any updates, new maps, new stickers for characters, or new events, Garden Warfare 2 will keep audiences entertained for quite some time to come. More than likely, untill PopCap says “Oh, by the way, Garden Warfare 3 coming!”

Okay, so perhaps I’m jumping the gun on PopCaps future endeavors. But with the amount of enthusiasm they’ve managed to get out of me for a series I previously couldn’t stand, I’m eager to see where they’ll go down the road, with new titles, or possibly another sequel in a growing, and steadily improving series.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is slated for release later this month, on February 23rd, 2016.

–Jimmy

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