PLATFORM: XBOX ONE, PLAYSTATION 4
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 18, 2019
DEVELOPER: PopCap Games
PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts
NOTE – A copy of this game was provided to Gaming Instincts by Electronic Arts for review.
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is the latest sequel in the ever-popular Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare franchise from PopCap games. Known for its cartoony, Pixar-like visuals, the game originally debuted at E3 2013 at the E3 Briefing. The trailer boasted impressive visuals, and showed how it took the Plants vs Zombies franchise to a whole new playing field—as a third person competitive shooter, as opposed to the classic tower defense game the series was known for.
At the game’s launch, it was well received on both ends of the spectrum and later spawned a sequel, first announced at the E3 press release in 2015. Released a year later in 2016, Garden Warfare 2 expanded on the game’s multiplayer aspects, introduced new playable plants and zombies, and had a much more centralized hub zone for gamers to play in and explore.
In September 2019, EA and PopCap shadow dropped the third game in the series, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, as an early access title with a $40 price point. However, the game did not include all the intended content at launch, and instead new content was released on a week by week basis. In October 2019 the game was released as a full fledged title with the same price tag, and many fans may wonder just what’s so special about the new entry in the series, and what it offers to loyal fans and newcomers alike.
Let’s find out.
New Additions and Gameplay
Battle for Neighborville brings quite a lot of new additions to the table. First and foremost, the biggest new attraction are 6 new playable characters—3 for the plants, and 3 for the zombies. One of the most notable of the new playable characters is the Night Cap.
Night Cap is a mushroom who fills the role of a stealth ganker. She has unique abilities, such as being able to vanish mid combat or even out of combat for a few seconds, which renders her invisible and allows her to escape danger while boosting her movement speed at the same time. Her main purpose is to catch multiple opponents off guard, and use her insane damage ability called Fung Fu. Fung Fu makes Night Cap enter a frenzy state and kick opponents from multiple sides, assaulting those caught in the center with high area of effect damage.
Last but not least, the skill that really makes Night Cap shine is her ability to drop a shadow dome. Any friendly teammates, as well as Night Cap herself, become invisible while inside the shadow dome, which is super helpful for setting up ambushes, or even solo kills on high priority targets.
The other two new additions are Oak & Acorn, and the Snapdragon for the Plants side. Oak & Acorn act a tank and defensive plant, able to switch between a small Acorn that can run really fast and travel around, and an Oak tree equipped with rolling logs, ranged attacks, and a lot of health for defending teammates and objective points. The Snapdragon is another DPS plant that breathes fire non-stop, or shoots fireballs into the distance if you use aim mode instead. He can also jump into the air, slamming down on top of enemies, and create walls of fire for both defensive and offensive situations.
The Zombies get 3 additional new playable characters as well, including Electric Slide, 80’s Action Hero, and Space Cadet. The Electric Slide is an electro dancing DJ on roller blades, who uses electricity as their main source of damage. He can zap enemies from a distance for a moderate amount of damage, and send out tornadoes towards the direction he’s looking to cause area of effect damage or zone enemies away from objectives.
The 80’s Action Hero, as the name implies, is a throwback to 80’s action movies which have a ton of explosions, and exciting fight scenes. The 80’s Action Hero is equipped with a crossbow which can be fired in quick succession for less damage, or charged up to 3 times for 1 big arrow that deals much higher damage. The player can drop dynamite behind him as an act of defense, to trick and bait enemies, and can also jump on a rocket which shoots out a bunch of explosive missiles.
Last but not least, the final new Zombies playable character is the Space Cadet. She is classified as a tank/defender on the Zombies team. Space Cadet controls a UFO with laser shooting capabilities, and most importantly, an ability to team up with other Space Cadets and create a space station armed to the teeth with weapons and defenses. If you are a player who enjoys playing as support and having the help of other teammates, then Space Cadet would be the perfect choice.
The New Hub World and Questing
Other than the six new playable characters, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville’s biggest and most impressive change is the new hub world and campaign story structure. It’s a huge step from Garden Warfare 2’s Battleground Backyard, which had 2 sides, a town hall, and a middle where you could plant a flag to fight AI hordes for experience and coins. Neighborville’s hub world is much larger, more immersive, and has more things to see and do as opposed to the previous game.
The middle is now an amusement park which is officially called “Giddy Park”. In Giddy Park, players can go socialize and battle it out with their friends on both sides.The new world hub structure almost feels like an MMO in a way, but on a much smaller scale—which is really cool, because everyone is always connected. You can meet other people, use emotes or expressions, participate in different social activities, and interact with other players in a way you could not in earlier games.
The previous game also had quests you could complete for both the Plants and Zombie sides. This time around, PopCap has decided to take it to the next level when it comes to questing and campaign structure. Each side has its own whole map which you can visit that acts as their own world, full of different NPCs that you can meet and complete quests for. For the Plants side you’ll be venturing to Mount Steep. Meanwhile, for the Zombies side you’ll be going to Weirding Woods.
Both of these worlds have plenty of quests to complete, and many side activities to do as well. Completing quests progresses you further in that world’s story, offers plenty of rewards and lets you unlock new hidden areas on the map which were previously closed off.
Other than the main quests, there are also bounties to complete, treasure to collect, gnomes to find, and plenty of other side activities that will keep you busy, particularly if you want to complete 100% of each world. It was impressive to see how much, and how far PopCap has gone out of their way to deliver a whole new experience on this kind of level. Not only is this content a lot of fun, it also has a lot of funny moments, beautiful visuals, and plenty of things for players to discover and look forward to.
Visual Upgrades and Audio
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville boasts some of the most impressive visuals on current generation consoles thanks to updates to the Frostbite 3 engine, and a change to the art style in comparison to the last two games. The game’s art style is extremely vivid, colorful and of an almost Pixar-like quality, running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second during gameplay. Sound quality is also excellent, with the humorous sound effects noises that fans know to expect from the franchise.
There are very few games on the market right now that look as good as this one, when it comes to a cartoon-like style. Frostbite 3 continues to impress with this and other games, such as Anthem and the latest entry in the Battlefield franchise. It’s obvious now that Frostbite 3 is an engine capable of handling many different styles of art, whether they are more on the realistic or cartoonish side.
PvZ: Battle for Neighborville also runs on the Xbox One X at 4K resolution, employing HDR in addition on the PlayStation 4 Pro. Owners of these systems will see great benefits, as the game is enhanced greatly on both platforms. Overall, If you loved how the previous Plants vs Zombies shooter games looked, then you will not be disappointed in Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville.
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is a solid sequel. It has everything you’d expect a sequel to have, such as better visuals, engine upgrades, additional characters to play, new areas to explore, and an evolution to the campaign gameplay. Honestly, it was surprising how much this game packed in when it comes to brand new content, especially for a generous $40 price point, as opposed to most other titles with a cost of $60.
PopCap has done a great job with this latest entry in the Plants vs Zombies franchise, and it’s exciting to see where it might head next. If you are a fan of the first two games, or are looking for something that’s different from other online shooters, then this might just be the game for you.