Before diving into our demo of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, PopCap Games creative director Jeremy Vanhoozer describes how the dynamic has changed in the ongoing battle between the flora and the flesh-eaters. “For the first time in PvZ history, Zomboss has won and suburbia is his,” he says. This tableturning twist manifests itself in many game-changing ways, making this more than another familiar follow-up.
For starters, Garden Warfare 2 is much prettier than its predecessor, thanks to the team’s additional time learning the new-gen ropes and the power of the Frostbite engine. On top of the paint job, the series’ suburban battleground has also been given a menacing makeover.
Vanhoozer promises a variety of fresh environments – from snowy tundras to a time-travel theme park – but our hands-on unfolded on the Zomboss Factory map. Featuring an appropriately evil armory, lab and aquarium, the setting is a far cry from those previously occupied by the plants. On top of robot-zombie production lines, there are cool call-outs to series staples, such as the traffic-cone headgear.
When not ogling our surroundings, we keep a sharp eye on the newly aggressive plant life. Playing a round of Garden Ops, we and a trio of co-op pals are tasked with thwarting five waves of increasingly deadly plants, including the Weeds and Giga Torchwood. The former are minion-like hordes who mindlessly hunt and kill; the latter is a chaingun-brandishing miniboss with a flaming stump for a body.
Thankfully, the zombs also have some new recruits. As Super Brainz, we’re able to shoot lasers, deliver powerful melee attacks and land awesome dropkicks. Best of all, we can occasionally turn into an undead tornado, a screen-clearing trick that proves especially handy when Giga Torchwood gets too close for comfort. Of course, these fresh – and rotting – faces only represent a fraction of the new characters battling for the ’burbs. The final game will feature six original classes, as well as a dozen new maps and modes, including solo and local split-screen options.
Our demo barely scratches the surface of the promised delights, but we can’t wait to attack as the plants and defend as the undead when the game infects consoles early next year.