Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Review – There’s Disco Zombies

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Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is the third installment in the Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare franchise and adds more than just a new name to the series thanks to new classes, new missions, and an entirely new story. Let’s find out whether or not it’s worth enjoying.


Pros:
+Tons of none-PvP missions to enjoy
+Cosmetics are 100% earned and can’t be purchased
+Prestige system is straight forward and easy to learn
+New perk system is a delight and adds a sense of depth to the gameplay

Cons:
-Performance issues happen during Turf War
-Giddy Park feels under utilized


When it comes to Plants vs Zombies, I’d be surprised to state that I’ve come to enjoy the series as a whole. I’ve had countless hours in the first two games, both Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare and Garden Warfare 2. I found my love for the series in an unlikely way, which was hitting the bargain bin for the firs tone, snagging it up, and running with it.

I couldn’t help but realize my love for playing a support-based role, preferring the Sunflower over the Scientist. This time around, my third installment later, I decided it was time to try something new: A disco zombie that throws lightning bolts from its fingers and a dragon-type plant – I can only assume this was inspired by pepper plants – as my primary go-to characters of choice.

As the shenanigans began, I figured out one of two things: One, this is a heavy improvement on its predecessors and gets everything I had issues with from the previous two right. Second, this is actually what I had hoped the second one would have been from the very start.

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Let the Battle for Neighborville begin

If you aren’t already familiar with Plants vs Zombies, don’t worry, you don’t need to be for this entry as the story itself, what little there is, is already well-established from previous games. The idea here is simple: Zombies are invading, the plants are trying to stop them, and it’s up to you to decide whether they win or lose depending on what team you are on.

The gameplay here is fairly simple too. Starting out, you’ll begin with a minor set of tutorials that will help you become acquainted with the game (mostly how the new central hub works for each side).cquinted wit From there, you’ll get acquainted

with the gameplay itself, learning how each ability works for a generalized character, how cooldowns work, leveling up, and even purchasing customizations themselves actually work. This includes how prizes work, where story zones are, and how to operate the mode selection hub that will determine whether you play player versus player or player versus enemy depending on what modes are up.

Now, one main take away that should be noted from the get-go is that Single Player content does exist. While this is a ‘game as a service’ or GaaS for short, it is effective, and it’s one of the few games that manages to get this right. If you are expecting a microtransaction laden title, you’re int he wrong game, as everything is unlockable without spending a dime (there’s not an in-game store either).

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Story zones are simple and yet effective areas to teach both veterans and newcomers alike

Getting accustomed to each and every character within Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville isn’t easy. The game is large, there’s a lot to it, and the amount of learning you have to do is rather steep. You have new characters to learn, new mechanics to master, and even a few new adjustments to make as you level up characters, unlock new perks, and work your way through the game.

These zones, are a blast, and each of them has its very own unique story as you are playing two opposing sides in an ongoing battle. As plants, you’ll work side-by-side with Major Sweetie in an attempt to thwart the zombie invasion while the zombies will attempt to take over Pressure Pier in order to stop the Plants dead in their tracks.

As stupid as it might sound to some, the story is charming, funny, and it actually carries on that well-established Plants vs Zombies silliness we’ve come to know and love over the years. You’ll capture objectives such as lawnmowers, which zombies some reason really hate, and even try to infiltrate a “zombies only” party through the use of cunning and disguise.

Both stories are rather comical and actually deliver quite a bit of amusement through various minigames and mission types. You’ll even get to rescue a few familiar faces along the way, which will help you complete various tasks before they go about their way. It’s a great way to get used to the mechanics of the game and even learn some of the brand-new characters.

There are quite a few despite some of the returning cast from Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. You can also unlock a few outfits, level up, and even make some coin while you’re at it.

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Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville does progression right

One of the key elements of this game, aside from combat, is progression. Because of progression being so important, you will want to spend time doing daily challenges, story missions, and even a bit of PvP. The reason why might not seem so simple at first, but leveling up will unlock class-specific perks that will help you get an edge over those you play against.

Specific perks will enable that plant or zombie to do things such as extra damage, perhaps a bit more radius to their attack or various other quirks. Leveling up can be done in several different ways. You can level up through simply playing, which will see players accrue their experience by eliminating enemies or completing specific tasks or by simply spending coins at the level-up vendor.

If players do decide to use their coins, this will eliminate their ability to unlock skins and customizations for their characters, but at the ease of becoming a bit more capable in battle. While useful, it does take some careful planning as earning coins can take a good few minutes as fifteen thousand coins are needed in order to level up while the vending machine for customizations requires thirty thousand.

After hitting level ten, you can prestige a character, which will unlock special benefits such as brand-new perks that can be used if you have the perk/feat points available to you. Be careful as your amount of points available is limited and some perks can require three points in order to equip them.

However, each is quite capable of giving you an edge against your foes. Getting wrecked during a match and want a little bit of extra life after dying repeatedly? No problem, there’s a perk for that. Want to revive teammates and top them off even more? There’s a perk for that too.

Depending on your play style will depend on how you build your character and what perks you use. If you are unsure if they are for you, take your perks, test them out to see what ones work best for you.

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Let’s talk combat since that is the focal point of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville

If you’ve played any Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare title, you’ll know what to expect. Combat unfolds in a third-person view, allowing you to aim, jump, and maneuver in a third-person perspective. Because of this, pacing has been tweaked as has the field of vision to help keep players from becoming too overwhelmed by what’s going on around them.

Much like any shooter game on the market, you’ll find many of your abilities being tied to L1/LB, R1/RB, and Square/Y based on what platform you play on. This approach works rather well, allowing players to feel less overwhelmed. The only thing players will need to do, both veteran and newcomers –  learn what their characters actually do, which can easily be done in the character selection tab.

Pacing itself is rather well-designed since each character comes with their own unique style. For the review, I did spend adequate time on my former favorites while trying out newer classes such as the Snapper, Acorn, 80s Action hero Nightcap, Electric slide (yup, she shoots lightning from her fingers), and the new Space Cadet. They’re all fun, they’re all silly, and each of them come with different play styles.

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New Plants and Zombies will change how you approach combat itself

Out of the entire group, you will find characters such as the Snapper, Nightcap, and Electric Slide to be the most aggressive. Each one comes with their own unique abilities that make them formidable foes for those that fight back against them. The Snapper is the most enjoyable of the lot, allowing it to double up as both offensive and defensive play styles.

With an explosive Blue Blazes that can wipe out enemies, it’s a great class for quickly burning through grouped up enforcements or using Blazing Trail to clear enemies out of an area or block it off. If those are on cooldown and you need to dive into combat fast, Swoop Slam is your third-best option, allowing you to dive in on an enemy or group of enemies, dishing out some rather quick damage and them belching flames with your basic attack to deal damage rather quickly.

Standing out from the lot on the zombie side comes my favorite of the group, the Space Cadet, which can meld with other cadets to make an absolutely devastating force to be reckoned with. This class can team up with three other Cadet friends to form a devastating Space Station that can wipe out any enemy forces that attempt to push up on it.

While in its station inflation, the Space Cadet’s abilities change based on what it can do, which includes transformed versions of its ability Gravity Smash, and Big Bang Beam. All of them are absolutely devastating and the more players there are connected, the more devastating it gets thanks to its ability to have over shields. The downside: This class requires communication, it requires players to know how it works, and it also requires a lot of situational awareness since it is not as mobile as the rest.

Even classes such as the Nightcap and the 80s Action Hero drastically change how you’ll approach combat, especially in modes where the tally of plants and zombies that have been cut down to size and laid to rest actually matter. For what it’s worth, combat remains largely unchanged outside of how perks actually work.

You’ll still shoot, you’ll still sight in on your enemies, and you’ll still run about like a puppy looking for the ball it just lost. For what it’s worth, it’s fun and this feels like a heavily improved up Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 that we’ve been waiting for.

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Game modes do rotate in and out alongside weekly challenges

One thing that’s nice about this game is the highlighted mode of the week. This is done through in-game challenges, allowing players to work for exactly a week to unlock the experience that they need, level a few classes, and have some fun dedicated entirely to a select class or classes. You’ll sometimes find a focus on snipers, a focus on classic PvZ characters, or simply one of the modes that are already in the game.

Some modes may also include a non-PvP mode where you’ll defend a central node, doing the best you can to keep A.I. Plants or Zombies away from the point itself (think King of the Hill or a glorified Horde mode). It’s spectacular as it does add a sense of change to the game itself and allowing fans to try something new day in and day out.

There are also your basic modes which do tend to stay in the mix such as Team Elimination and Turf war, both of which work rather well and have not been changed what-so-ever. The rules are the same: Complete objectives, push forward, and keep the enemy team working as hard as they can to defend or attack the point, depending on the side you are on.

However, the more players you get on the screen, the game does tend to get a bit more unstable than it should be, which leads to some weird things happening on the screen or with the audio.

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Performance does take a hit in modes like Turf War

While the graphics are absolutely gorgeous, it’s hard not to take note of some minor issues the game does face when playing modes such as Turf War. During our time with the PlayStation 4 version on a PlayStation 4 Pro, we did take note of some minor issues that have become rather common, which comes in the shape of performance and audio anomalies when playing the game itself.

Most of the time, it’s hard to not notice that audio anomalies become an issue, cutting in and out and getting choppy when the going gets tough. You’ll find it most commonly when both teams are clashing in all-out warfare, causing the audio to get choppy, robotic, if not fuzzy before clearing back out over time. While it does become easy to ignore given time, it is worth noting this seems to be a Turf War issue, which could be due to all the commotion going on through the battlefield itself and the background events.

Framerate itself will fluctuate, sometimes dipping into what feels like sub-30 frames per second. This one is a bit rarer, but it does happen, and it does get frustrating when trying to enjoy one of the best modes the game has to offer. That aside, the game is a delight and it’s hard not to enjoy what PopCop and EA have to offer with such a beautiful series.

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The Conclusion – Zomboss and Dave have their work cut out for them

Minor issues aside, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville takes the safe approach in doing things right. It adds in a few minor classes, tweaks a few gameplay variants to add in a change of pace, and continues on with a comical storyline that fans of all ages can enjoy despite the comic book mischief.

Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville
Platforms: 
PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Version Reviewed:
PlayStation 4
Developer:
PopCap Games
Publisher:
Electronic Arts
Release Date: 
Available Now
Cost:
$39.99

That being said, it’s also nice to see a lack of microtransactions cluttering the game, allowing players to not concern themselves with buying cosmetic packs and just working their way to their customizations. Overall, it’s a step in the right direction and this very game gives me a lot of hope for the future of the franchise.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.


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About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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