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5 Tips to Grow Stronger in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2

Sure, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a wacky-looking game. This third-person shooter takes all the silliness of the tower defense genre and expands it to the size of a whole world. But beneath its cartoony, colorful, sometimes-cuddly exterior lurks a game with surprising depth and challenge. Here are five hints to help you navigate that challenge.

Play through the story missions.

The original Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was a multiplayer-only affair, but this time the game includes a healthy set of solo missions – for both Plants and Zombies, of course. Completing them offers a whole lot of benefits: Not only do they afford you the opportunity to get familiar with the game before jumping into multiplayer, but they also pay out rewards in the form of coins and experience points. You’ll need coins to unlock sticker packs (which contain new characters and consumables, plus cosmetic items), and you’ll need XP to level up and unlock new abilities.

Claim your bonuses.

Garden Warfare 2 does away with pesky menus and puts most of what you need right out in the game world, in a hub area that’s safe from marauding enemies. One potential downside, though, is that you might miss some very helpful bonuses. For one thing, you’ll start the game with a bunch of really useful sticker packs, but you’ll need to interact with a sticker vending machine to claim them (plus buy more, of course). Another easy-to-overlook feature is character upgrades; when you hit levels 5 and 9 with each character, you earn an upgrade that can significantly improve your performance – but you have to manually equip it in the character customization screen. And finally, make sure you visit the quest board in your home space to pick up extra daily challenges. Complete enough of these, and you’ll earn bonuses to XP accrual – plus a bunch of stars to exchange for various other things in the game.

Turn the odds in your favor.

The thing about the quest board is that some of the challenges can be very specific: Vanquish 10 enemies while they’re frozen by a teammate, for example, or heal a teammate 50 times. However, you’ll only get a handful of new challenges each day, so you don’t really want to just ignore them. The solution? Whenever possible, set up a solo multiplayer game specifically for completing a challenge. For example, say one of your challenges is to defeat 25 Scientist Zombies. You can set up a match with only Scientists as your enemies, and no A.I. teammates to steal your kills. (If you really want to play dirty, you can even go into “Crazy Settings” and activate Ridiculously Low Health – so a single shot takes them out). Get the idea?

Use turrets strategically.

Garden Warfare 2 is, at its core, a third-person shooter – but it still retains elements of the original Plants vs. Zombies. In certain game modes, you can place turrets in designated spots to help take down the enemy. But don’t just drop whatever you have, wherever you are; as in most tower defense games, you want to keep your heavy-duty turrets well-protected, and give your long-range units good lines of sight. If you’re defending an objective, you might want to place close-range units nearby, as a last line of defense. And you certainly want to keep tabs on your turrets’ health, repairing or replacing whenever necessary. But the Garden Warfare franchise adds free-roaming shooting to this mix, so you want to factor that into the equation as well. One good rule-of-thumb is to be out in front of your turrets whenever possible; you’ll get the best bang for your buck if they’re backing you up rather than mixing it up on the front lines. Regardless, don’t forget that turrets are one-time-use consumables. Once you set one up, it’s there until it’s destroyed or the mission’s over. In order to replenish your stock, you need to visit that sticker vending machine… which is why racking up coins is so important.

Remember that precision counts.

Sure, your enemies look like cartoons. But don’t let that fool you; you’ll want to be just as careful with aiming as you would in any other shooter. In most cases, for example, head shots do extra damage. Certain characters even have a specific weak point that will result in significantly more damage if you can manage to focus on it. So don’t just spray and pray; take the extra time to line up your shots and you’ll find yourself mowing through the enemy in no time. And on a related note, make sure you actually try out all of the different characters! Each unit has a distinct feel, distinct weapons, and a distinct role – so try them all before settling on a favorite. Where you end up might surprise you.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is available now on Xbox One.