Title: Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Third-person shooter
Official Site: EA.com/games/Battle for Neighborville
Release Date: October 18th, 2019
Version Tested: PC
The Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare series has been a profitable one. It’s been so profitable its birthed two sequels. Perhaps the third game in the series, Battle for Neighborville, should be the series’ last. If the story, mechanics, and game modes are anything to go by, EA is out of ideas.
Sometimes good things have to come to an end. The original Garden Warfare was fun. It was fresh. It was new. None of those adjectives can be applied to Battle for Neighborville.
Instead, the third game in the trilogy is a rehashing of what made the other games fun, without offering many additions. That’s not necessarily from a lack of trying. It’s hard to come up with something truly new in the third-person shooter genre.
Having plants fight the walking dead was new enough back in the day. PopCap has ridden that gravy train all the way from computers to mobile devices to a couple of generations of consoles. Apparently out of ideas, it could be time to call it quits. It’s unlikely that will actually happen.
Even Bland Games Can Still Look Pretty
If there is one thing that Battle for Neighborville does very, very well, it’s looking pretty. The plants and zombies have both been polished up to a ridiculous degree. The world the game takes place in is plenty of fun to look at too.
The problem is the fun ends there. While the world is plenty attractive, there isn’t much there, there. Each new set-piece is good looking but relatively small. Other than the contraptions that fire you from one place to another, it’s not particularly interactive either.
The problem with games that look pretty but don’t offer much else, is they can’t hold your attention that long. That’s especially the case when talking about a world that isn’t all that big or explorable.
Considering that one of the pitches for Battle for Neighborville is that it’s a somewhat open-world game, that’s not a great sign. On the flip side, the newest Plants vs Zombies iteration has new characters for you to look at.
Combined with some of our old faves making a return, they are really fun to play with, for a short period of time. It’s just that once you’ve played with them, you run out of things to do with them quickly.
More Modes Should Mean More Fun
I said earlier that Battle for Neighborville falls short, but it’s not for a lack of trying. There are brand new modes in this latest iteration in an attempt to give players more to do. There are a couple of modes that feel very Call of Duty.
EA has certainly put out some big third-person shooters over the years. It makes sense that some of the things that made those games popular would be squeezed into this one.
It might be apropos to bring up Call of Duty because this year is the first time in a long time that the story mode in Modern Warfare is fun to play.
An actual story mode in this year’s Plants vs Zombies could have done the game a world of good. Something, anything offered up to keep players coming back other than what they did would be an improvement.
There is also a touch of Destiny 2 in the game. Side missions, which are even more boring than the main modes, offer up coins. Those coins can be spent on ways to juice up your favorite plants or zombies.
That method of powering up is almost enough to keep someone coming back. Loot shooters are making a heck of a comeback these days. It’s quite an accomplishment that Battle for Neighborville takes everything people love about loot shooters and somehow make it boring.
Big Aspirations, Tiny Map
Destiny 2 might be the best way to illustrate why this game fell short. Perhaps the new king of the loot shooters, it is that way because it offers at least several different planets to travel to. It has missions that are at least somewhat different.
When that game didn’t offer all the much originality or planets to see, it wasn’t liked all that much either. Battle for Neighborville hasn’t learned that lesson.
Missions like “go around the corner and use a machine” aren’t missions at all. Having to, for some reason, come back around the corner to tell the little flower you did so is even duller.
There are a few different maps you can travel to in order to fight either plants or zombies, depending on your preference. They don’t look different enough to really pay off. That too was a complaint of Destiny early on. It’s a shame the latest Plants vs Zombies didn’t learn from its mistakes.
Verdict: Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville isn’t a bad game. It’s not something that has a ton of game-breaking bugs. It’s a very good looking game. It just doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to getting people to come back and play it over and over. Considering its predecessors did a better job of offering a reason to come back. That might really be a sign the series needs to end.