PopCap is back with another spin off entry in its 3rd person shooter franchise that roots itself in the Plants vs. Zombies universe. Once again there is plenty to do in this colourful world that blends solo and multiplayer action in a family friendly environment. Just in time for Halloween, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Details
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Third-person shooter
Modes: Single player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Everyone 10+)
Fun for all ages and skill levels
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is the third in the “Garden Warfare” series, spinning off from the original tower defense-style games. I have to admit I’m a big fan of the series, having spent countless hours in Garden Warfare 1 and 2. Despite dropping “Garden Warfare” from the title, make no mistake—Plants vs. Zombies: The Battle for Neighborville is a big dose of what fans know and love from the franchise.
For me these games feel like a much more accessible foray into the competitive multiplayer shooter genre. Unlike highly competitive adult shooters, like Call of Duty for example, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville offers a greater sense of balance. There’s a learning curve for new players to be sure, but you aren’t likely to drop in and get knocked out by pros with godly loadouts before you can even get your bearings.
Furthermore, in the same vein of games like Nintendo’s similarly family friendly Splatoon franchise, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville dispenses with real-world violence and horror. Instead you have cartoon characters launching everything from giant peas and corn kernels to footballs as ammo. Enemies don’t die violent deaths, they are simply “knocked out”.
I not saying there isn’t ultimately an element of conflict, but it’s a far cry from what we see in most competitive shooters. Of course these games have their place as well, but sometimes it’s fun to kick back and compete in this genre without being reminded of the deeper issues that games like Call of Duty can evoke. Personally I’m very glad that games like Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville exist to fill that void.
Welcome to Neighborville
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is built much like its predecessors. Players load into a hub world in one of two locations—either the “Plants” or “Zombies” home base. In between the two hub bases is a free-for-all PvP zone dubbed “Giddy Park”, where players can go to test their loadouts and compete in unranked/untracked combat.
From the hub world players can launch into various activities. The game naturally features both competitive and co-operative multiplayer. These modes aren’t any different from those in previous Garden Warfare games however. They are simply a rehash of already familiar modes like Turf War, Team Vanquish, and others from previous titles.
Co-op mode features Garden Ops and Graveyard Ops, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville‘s take on the classic “Horde” mode. Teams of players take on increasingly difficult waves of enemies, ending in a boss fight for large rewards. Again, this will be largely familiar to those who have experience with the franchise.
Huge new single-player maps
The largest leap over previous entries in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is its single-player component. Both factions have access to new maps brimming with solo content. The primary objective of each map is to follow a series of quests, ultimately leading up to a huge boss battle.
These maps are also full of a variety of fare such as collectibles, side quests, bounties, and other repeatable activities. Each also has its own theme—such as “Steep Canyon”, which has a western aesthetic. In addition to the regular coin currency, each map also drops its own unique currency (such as tacos or sheriff badges), which can be used to purchase unique rewards.
These solo adventures are a lot of fun, especially for those who enjoy “ticking boxes” in solo open-map scenarios. Considering that much of Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville feels the same as prior entries, this is a good mode for players looking for something new and different.
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville features 20 playable classes, 6 of which are new. These include characters such as the Night Cap and Snapdragon on the plants side, as well as the Space Cadet and 80’s Action Hero for the zombies. Altogether this makes for a healthy roster of unique characters that offer a great variety of gameplay.
The new classes are well-designed to add depth to the game. For example, the Snapdragon has a powerful fire-breath blast, perfect for close-quarters combat. This makes Snapdragon a great asset for bottle-necking enemies at narrow choke points.
A huge variety of customizations
Ultimately the name of the game in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is customization. Firstly, each playable class will earn XP as they participate in all activities across Neighborville. This will allow players to unlock increasingly diverse and useful skills in order to create the perfect loadout for each character.
Furthermore, players will also earn coins as a reward across the gamut of activities in the game. These coins can be spent a few ways, but primarily they are used to spin for random prizes in the form of unlockable styles, emotes, and other customizations. As such, the primary gameplay loop of Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is to participate in activities to continually unlock new aesthetic rewards.
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is primarily more of the same for the franchise, and that’s OK!
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville definitely feels more like an expansion or upgrade to previous games than a brand new title, but in my opinion that’s just fine. Keep in mind that it is in fact priced lower than most full new releases. Furthermore, the game appears to be taking on a “games-as-service” approach—with new activities, seasonal events, and more planned in regular updates.
For me, it’s more of the familiar gameplay I love, with new maps, a few new characters, and an increased focus on single-player activities baked in. There’s definitely more than enough content to satisfy out of the gate, especially considering the asking price—even if most of the multiplayer and co-op fare remain largely unchanged mechanically.
+ New solo maps
+ Solid, family-friendly gameplay
+ Tons of unlockable customizations
– Only a few new characters
– Limited innovation in multiplayer/co-op modes
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES: BATTLE FOR NEIGHBORVILLE
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4.1/5 (83%)