Garden Warfare 2 Is Fun As Hell And You (And Your Family) Should Play It

by Jeff Cork on Jul 04, 2016 at 12:00 PM

It started when my kids and I were looking for something to play together. I flipped through my digital library for a while, and stopped on Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 for no real reason. I played it for a while when it first came out in February, but I moved on to who knows what – probably Diablo III, now that I think about it. We fired it up on a lark and jumped into some split-screen multiplayer. That was several weeks ago. Our home has been invaded.

My kids are at an awkward age, as far as games go. At 7 and 9, I don’t think they’re old enough for the vast majority of shooters, even as the genre pulls at them with its siren song. We’ve decided that they’re able to watch a lot of PG-13 movies, provided that mom and I do some research ahead of time, but they’re definitely not ready for the Call of Dutys of the world – even though they won’t stop telling us about so and so from school who is allowed to play that and GTA. 

At any rate, Garden Warfare 2 hoes a great row for us right now. It’s silly, and the violence doesn’t rise beyond pea-shooting plants or zombies who use electro-beams as improvised herbicide. When you defeat your opponents, they crumple into little heaps, not gory rag-dolling corpses. While its combat doesn’t features buckets of viscera, it’s still intense and fun.

Fewer things hold my kids’ attention than the freedom of exploring an open world. If given the opportunity, they would spend entire days roaming around the streets of New York City in Lego Marvel Super Heroes or building their own playscapes in Disney Infinity. Garden Warfare 2 taps that impulse as well, with its central hub. It’s bustling with activity (and activities), but they’re perfectly content simply walking around and attacking the home base of whatever the current enemy faction is.

For me, I’m sucked into the progression and unlock loop. Like Diablo III, it’s a great game if you enjoy grinding while listening to podcasts. You earn XP while defeating enemies, but taking on missions and playing online is a much more lucrative way to rank up your characters. The latest update for the game just released, adding community challenges to the world, as well as pizza-delivering missions where you can deliver pies as a goat. No, this game isn’t in any danger of taking itself too seriously.

I’m still not in love with the game’s reliance on consumables, which summon either plant or robot helpers depending on your orientation, but they’re far less egregious than they were in the first game. If you’re making a point of completing tasks and diving into the occasional online match, you should be earning coins at a pretty steady clip, anyway. While you can spend it on blind packs of those helpers, I’ve been saving up and purchasing additional characters, since that’s where the fun is for me. My kids generally try to do that as well, but sometimes the allure of instant gratification wins out and they splurge on what they can afford at any given moment. Hey, it’s a good life lesson on saving and spending, too!

I don’t think any sane person would put Garden Warfare 2’s multiplayer on the same level as fellow hero-shooter Overwatch, but it’s still a blast. From what we’ve heard on voice chat (before I muted it), it’s drawing a pretty diverse crowd as far as age distribution goes. That makes me feel a little better, too, since I don’t feel like I’m dropping my kids into a wolves’ den when they venture into the matches. 

Not many kid-friendly shooters exist on console (go figure), and I’m glad that we’ve reconnected with this one. It’s also great to have more common ground as a gaming family, where we can commiserate over, say, our dislike of Chompy and his zombie-devouring move. No game is perfect, after all.