Plants vs. Zombies: Battle For Neighborville

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: PopCap Games
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2019

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Plants vs. Zombies: Battle For Neighborville'

by Joseph Doyle on Dec. 6, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Plants vs Zombies: Battle For Neighborville is the newest game in the PvZ franchise, where you blast zombies, plants and characters across an animated PvZ landscape.

Buy Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville

Where were you 10 years ago? It was the beginning of the smartphone revolution. The iPhone 3G had come out the previous year, and the technology was becoming more affordable and ubiquitous. You'd see people using them in their spare time, entertainment and information at their fingertips. You'd see people going around listening to music and playing games like Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja and more. One of those games has had more longevity than we ever expected, and that's our topic today: Plants vs. Zombies.The franchise has gone in a different direction in the past five years, transitioning from tower defense to third-person shooter in what feels like a blink of an eye, but does the game hold up? The third installment into this new type of gameplay, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville sports quite a lot of content, but little of it is remarkable.

There's a lot to play around with in Neighborville, and that's not even getting into the bonuses and power-ups. From online challenges to collectible outfits to a host of game modes, a lot of thought and effort has gone into the title's creation and follow-through. You control either a plant or a zombie in the fight against the other faction, and you fight other online players or embark on story missions by shooting your way through enemies from the third-person perspective. Each faction sports 10 different classes, each with primary and secondary attacks, from corn cob-peppering enemies in a Matrix-like special attack to the Peashooter's slower but more powerful attacks.

As for the controls and overall feel of the game, the controls feel fine, although the movement may feel a tad sluggish, and nothing feels dropped in the online aspect. While this almost obscene amount of content may make the game seem like a good deal and give players something to grind toward, we have to remember that this title is intended for children, who are impressionable and can be influenced into spending thousands of dollars on in-game items. Funnily enough, the article includes the original Plants vs. Zombies and FIFA games, which are also developed by Electronic Arts, who has been under fire for questionable tactics in its games' online markets. While this is a fully functioning game that plays rather decently, one should think about the intended audience before making the final purchasing decision.

The most divisive aspect of Neighborville is the tone of the game. While it is consistent through the music, visuals and writing, it can be somewhat grating. It all focuses on the remnants of the "so random" culture popular in the mid- to late-2000s, birthing the likes of Fred and the Annoying Orange. If you don't know who they are, here's an example of both of them together (I'm sorry). While the game doesn't bombard you with this kind of content, the tone is omnipresent, so the dialogue feels like it was written on Hot Topic t-shirt captions. While the argument can be made that this is a game made with children in mind, it makes no attempts to bridge the gap to adults. Fortnite is an obvious point of comparison, since it's also an online third-person shooter and employs a lot of the same visuals and style that PvZ uses, but it manages to keep the game appealing to everyone. Another prime example is the Traveller's Tales LEGO games, which employ cutesy humor that seems simple to adults but is never cringe-worthy. While the technical aspects are solid, the tone of this new PvZ game is difficult to stomach and can drive away players. We should all agree to never use the word "EVAR" ever again.

Speaking of Fortnite, this installment of PvZ employs similar aesthetics to the wildly popular battle royale game. The cartoony feel of the original iPhone games is preserved through bright colors, soft lines, and the exaggerated expressions and moves from the characters, but it's all brought into the third dimension. The game also uses an interesting 2D-focused UI, so the dialogue boxes, hit points and power-ups look like something out of a Sunday comic strip. A lot of time and effort has been put into the game's visuals, but it likewise doesn't attempt to do anything new. While this isn't the type of game that seems to push boundaries, it suffers from a lack of visual individuality that gives other games more recognition. It doesn't appear that a lot has been done from the game's previous iterations, but the title's appearance feels rather generic, like another cartoony game.

The music in Neighborville is largely curt and punchy. Synthesizers boasting low sustain (the sound doesn't linger, has no reverb) chug out atop highly orchestrated, peppy drums, xylophones, strings, you name it. No expense was spared in the making of the music. It has quite a range of inspiration, ranging from disco to funk to movie soundtracks and more, so it would be a disservice to slate it in to a single category. The overall quality is solid, but nothing is highly memorable. It feels similar to a diner that serves everything (breakfast, burgers, gyros, and lasagna) around the clock; it'll be decent food, but none of it is worth writing home about. The most notable aspect of the music is how hard it drives each emotion the player should feel. You know you're supposed to feel fear once the low brass starts blaring out the slow, foreboding melody. While this isn't necessarily a huge fault, especially in a game aimed at children, it feels a little gauche at times.

Overall, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville doesn't feel like a huge departure from its predecessors: it sports similar aesthetics, game modes, maps, and missions from previous entries in the 3D third-person shooter games. The aesthetics and music are decent, and the game boasts a lot of content, but it's critical to remember why they're pushing what they're pushing. Sure, the game isn't as egregious as some free-to-play titles and app store games, but players should note that the game puts shiny costumes in front of children's faces, especially from a company that's willing to spin its own practices as "surprise mechanics" for children. While the art, gameplay and music are fine, it feels like EA made a game so exclusively for children that their parents won't want to play it with them, leaving them to be influenced alone. Even if you can tolerate the tone and have the wherewithal to not spend too much money on DLC, Neighborville is fine. It just won't be your best purchase EVAR.

Score: 5.5/10

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