Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Review – Kick Some Grass and Make Heads Roll

    Title: Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville
    Developer: PopCap Games
    Release Date: October 18, 2019
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Electronic Arts
    Genre: Third Person Shooter

There comes a time when a game falls right into your lap that you never imagined would. Then, you start playing it… and play it some more… then all of a sudden, something clicks: You think to yourself, “Wow, I didn’t know I needed this game in my life.”  It’s a strange, eureka moment that I’m sure many of us have had.

This is what happened when I decided to play, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, developed by PopCap Games and published by Electronic Arts. Having never really played a previous Plants vs. Zombies game, Battle for Neighborville‘s quirky-ness is what drew me in at the start. But, once I explored its hub world and played through a few online matches, I came to realize that the game is really addicting and surprisingly massive.

In Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, there isn’t a story at all. It’s more of a backstory — which is what I expected. Set in the quaint yet extensive town of Neighborville, where the never-ending tension between the plants and the zombies is in full-force. However, humans do roam around the town enjoying all that it has to offer like Giddy park and a human theme park where the people of Neighborville ride rides, play mini-games and enjoy each other’s company. But when the Plants and Zombies come out to play, humans go into hiding, and that’s where you and other players come into the picture as you either take a stroll around the Plants base, Dave Manor, or Zombies base, Zomboss HQ.

Rather than causing mass destruction in Neighborville, the Plants and Zombies are gracious enough to take their battles to the outer edges. Regions in the game include Mount Steep, Weirding Woods, and Neighborville Town Center, sandbox maps filled with quests to complete, enemies to fight, and items to discover like Golden Gnomes. With these regions, in particular, it’s clear that PopCap Games made Battle for Neighborville intending to have players buddy up to take on battles. I’m not one to compare games with one another, but if I were to compare Battle for the Neighborville with another game, I’d say it’s like a quirky, family-friendly version of Destiny.

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While there isn’t a single-player campaign to be found here, like in Destiny, thankfully, there is a slew of non-PvP options. The best option is Ops, a cooperative, defense-based mode that has you and squad of up to three friends fight off waves of enemies in the regions mentioned before. Having fought my way through wave rush multiplayer modes before, I thought that the offering in Battle for Neighborville would get repetitive, but that wasn’t the case at all. It’s primarily because of how every wave that my squad and I went through was never the same. There was always a new challenge thrown in to keep us on our toes — for instance, the enemies getting more complicated or having the chance to complete bonus challenges. Also, the bosses in this mode aren’t a joke as they don’t go down without a fight.

Along with this mode, you can also enjoy mingling with other players and take part in some other activities, like going on a Ferris wheel ride or stepping on a giant piano, that the central social hub offers. Sure, many players pretty much run off and do their own thing, but I did run into a few that wanted to hang out and have fun. There’s a reason that I found players like this, and it’s because the hubs themselves have so much to do in them.

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From unlocking character cosmetic awards and customizing characters’ upgrades and outfits, to taking on and completing quests to collect rewards, social hubs in Battle for Neighborville doesn’t have a shortage of things to do. Within the main hub, there’s a free battle pass system via seasonal “Festival Prize Maps,” to earn rewards. Still, there’s also “Rux’s Emporium” a shop in which you can use premium currency, Rainbow Stars — either gained in-game or thanks to using your cold hard cash — to unlock specific items, along with the “Mr. Reward – a -Tron 9000” where you can get a random reward.

So long story short, yes, there are microtransactions in this game, but fortunately, there are various methods of unlocking rewards. For me, I love the number of customization options available. It’s one of my favorite features of the game. The characters themselves are already are unique enough as is, but really, it’s hard not to love customizing them any way you’d like.

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PvP multiplayer is probably the reason why most of you want to jump into for Battle for Neighorville, and I’m happy to report that it’s wonderfully done. Similar to PvE, Battle for Neighorville isn’t lacking at all when it comes to PvP, as there’s a mode or modes that any player can enjoy. Battle Arena is an intense round-based elimination mode that has two teams of 4 battle it out in The Funderdome. This mode not only tests a player’s skills but also tests how well players can work together as a team. Running and gunning isn’t an option here, which is why I happened to like this mode a ton.

Along with this mode, there’s Turf Takeover, an objective-based mode, Team Vanquish, a team deathmatch mode, Vanquish Confirmed, an orb-collecting, point-based mode, Vanquish Confirmed, a bomb-focused mode, and last but not least, Suburbination, a capture-the-zone mode. So as you can tell, PvP is massive in Battle for Neighorville — there’s something for everyone, and that’s what makes it so addicting. But another incredible feature to mention is that a friend at home can join in on the fun since Battle for Neighorville has split-screen couch co-op in every mode, which, I think, is unbelievable as split-screen multiplayer is hard to come by these days in games.

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All the parts of Battle for Neighorville come together so well, especially with how easy to learn yet hard to master its gameplay is. Both on the Zombies side and Plants side, all 20 characters are split into one of three classes: Attack, Defend, and Support. Also, each character has specific abilities and weapons and can be leveled up. For the Zombies side, my favorite character is, hands down, the 80s Action Hero with his badass crossbow. Then for the Plants side, it’d be the stealthy NightCap that has the ability Shadow Sneak that allows the hero to disappear and move swiftly.

What’s remarkable about all the characters is that they all play so differently. One is not like the other, which makes it so that players can find a role that best fits their playstyle. From what I can tell in the many matches I played, there isn’t an OP (overpowered) character by any means, so PopCap Games did a great job with character balancing. That said, I’m sure that the more I play, I’ll probably notice some characters that can use some fine-tuning. But I genuinely have to applaud the developers for making every character so unique and fun to use.

On the topic of something being unique, Battle for Neighorville‘s cartoony art style is bright and beautiful. It’s basically like a DreamWorks or Pixar movie that’s come to life. Character designs are wonderfully done, and the level designs all have a charm to them that never gets old. The only problem I have with the levels is that some of them are a tad too large. I didn’t experience any noticeable bugs or framerate issues. However, I did stumble upon a few funny glitches here and there — like one of my opponents somehow got wedged in between two buildings and couldn’t get out. The game’s soundtrack doesn’t exactly stand out at all. However, it’s good enough to the point that it’s not distracting.

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To my surprise, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is one of my favorite multiplayer shooters of 2019. I never thought I’d say that, but here we are. With just how fully-loaded it is, from its various PvP multiplayer modes to its well-crafted presentation, it’s hard not to love Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. It’s a shame that the game’s singleplayer is barebones, but Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is a fun time for everyone.

Score:
/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brad Crespo

Editor-in-Chief - On a quest to play as many new games as possible while trying to finish an endless backlog.