Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 Puts the Flowers on the Offensive

Sequels to popular series often take the “bigger and better” approach, refining and polishing what fans loved the first time around – while also giving them lots more of it. Electronic Arts’ and PopCap Games’ Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is raising the bar on this concept by not only fulfilling the requirements of a superior sequel, but also putting a fresh spin on the age-old fight between pretty flora and undead freaks.

The follow-up brings back its predecessor’s 24-player online matches, personality-packed presentation, and crazy cast of characters… but also adds more modes, maps, and classes, all steered by an unexpected narrative twist. According to Franchise Creative Director Jeremy Vanhoozer, the tables have been turned: “For the first time in Plants vs. Zombies history, Dr. Zomboss has won… suburbia is his.” For players, this means going on the attack as the plants, rather than protecting the ‘burbs from the zombies. Or – in the case of our demo – defending the living corpse-occupied suburbs from newly aggressive plants.

During a match of “Graveyard Ops,” a four-player co-op mode that pitted us against five increasingly difficult waves of foul flowers and peeved plants, we got a taste of this new dynamic. In addition to hordes of minion-like Weeds – whose “only job is to get to you and take you out,” said Vanhoozer – the plants have added a number of new threats to their sprouting army. Kernel Corn is a powerful run-and-gun character, while the delicate-looking Rose can float around the map and morph zombies into goats.

As we discovered during wave four of the onslaught, the plants have also added some bosses to their ranks. Giga Torchwood, for example, is a large, minigun-wielding stump that also happens to be on fire. Thankfully, the zombies have some new recruits as well. We played as Super Brainz, a pompadour-sporting, spandex-clad undead superhero with a powerful melee punch, a diving kick, and the awesome ability to temporarily turn into a map-wiping tornado. The walking corpses also welcome Captain Deadbeard, a sniper class zombie who can control a laser-eyed parrot to do his bidding.

Our brief demo only teased what Vanhoozer referred to as “a fireworks show” – a cool, fun, chaotic blend of new characters, fresh abilities, and (of course) the series’ signature sense of humor and storytelling. But those latter two elements came across especially well on the map we played. Dubbed “Zomboss Factory,” it displayed a very different suburbia, one where zombie robots are churned out on an assembly line and iconic series’ items (like orange traffic cones and screen doors) are manufactured. Vanhoozer playfully called the town’s makeover “Zomburbia, a place where the zombies can eat brains, free from persecution.”

Players both defending and attacking this walking corpse paradise will be treated to plenty of fresh content. On top of new modes, the sequel sports six new classes (encompassing 40 characters), 12 new maps, and a solo play mode. Vanhoozer wasn’t ready to share many details on the single-player experience, but promised it would be a “cool, replayable mode” that could be enjoyed locally alone or split-screen, and without an Xbox Live Gold account. It will also feature customizable matches with A.I. enemies, allowing players to ease into the game’s more competitive side. Seasoned Garden Warfare players can also bring over online characters from the original game.

Whether you’re looking forward to kicking those pesky plants off Zomburbia’s front lawn or you’re a weed sympathizer anxious to take back the suburbs, this content-packed sequel promises plenty of rewarding backyard battling when it crops up on Xbox One early next year.