In promoting the new Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), both the publisher, Electronic Arts, and the developer, PopCap, have repeatedly said that this sequel would feature a single player mode. But having a single player mode and having a mode you want play on your own are not always the same thing. Which is why I decided to play this game solo to see whether it’s worth buying if you don’t play well with others.
For those unfamiliar…
with the Plants Vs. Zombies games, or the original Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare, the former started this series out with a bunch of tower defense games that pitted the living impaired against some flora, while the latter turned this conflict into a multiplayer-only third-person shooter. But a somewhat unique one. While it didn’t have some of the elements common in these kinds of games — you couldn’t duck behind cover, for instance — it added depth in other ways. For starters, you not only had rechargeable special attacks along with your regular ones like you do in a role-playing game, but it also had an RPG-ish leveling up system, complete with unlockable characters as well as customization of both the aesthetic and skill variety. It even included elements from the tower defense genre, such as how you could set up auto-turrets and have non-player characters as assistants.
Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare also boasted a rather wide variety of colorful characters, with the playable ones all boasting their own unique regular and special attacks. But while there were some story bits here and there — the two factions are fighting for control of a place called Suburbia — the game didn’t have a story-driven single-player mode.
Sadly, neither does its sequel. While Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 does add a single-player mode to the aforementioned list of mechanics, it isn’t a typical story mode, with plot points and character developer and all that good stuff. Instead, this mode is just a series of battles that pit you, as a plant, against hordes of zombies, using the set-up and rules of the multiplayer modes.
Now, admittedly, this is a bit more evolved than what we got in the original Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare, where you could opt to play the game’s multiplayer modes on your own. There are some narrative elements explaining what you need to do and why, and there are points within these missions where the rules may change. But it’s not the same as having a single story told over the course of many missions.
This, of course, may not seem like a big deal. And it’s not. But it is disappointing because the little bits of story you do find in Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 are often funny and weird. Especially when there’s toast involved. Maybe I’m overestimating the good people at PopCap, but it seems like game could’ve worked really well as a parody of modern military games — y’know, like maybe Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare — as well as a satire of suburbia’s foibles.
That said, Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 does have one terrible tenet: when playing the solo mode, you can’t pause the game. It’s almost as if the people PopCap and Electronic Arts have never had the pizza delivery person come while they were playing a game.
the flipside of all this bitchin’ and moanin’ about Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is that, even without a real story, it’s still rather fun (though the no pausing thing is inexcusable; pizza people don’t wait). The solo section has a good variety of missions and enemies trying to stop you from completing them, and the employing of tower defense and RPG elements makes what could’ve been just a simplistic shooter into something a bitter deeper and more involved. And sure, that just makes the lack of a true story mode that much more glaring, and thus it’s hard to recommend getting this if you’re not going to play the multiplayer modes, which are the true core of the game. But taken for what it is, Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is still a entertaining way to kill a couple hours. And a couple zombies.