The Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare series feels like a fever dream in many ways. Taking the tried and true hero shooter formula and applying it to the weird world of Plants vs. Zombies is strange enough, but the fact that Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is the third entry in the series has my head reeling.
To add yet another strange caveat, the series is now debuting on the Nintendo Switch with this massive “Complete Edition” which becomes the first game for the portable home console to run on EA’s Frostbite engine. That creates some pretty big expectations, which is weird to consider when this is a game all about shooting the undead as an anthropomorphic peashooter.
Thankfully, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville mostly lives up to those expectations. It’s a little bit simplistic and feels like it’s struggling to run on the Switch at times, but I was surprised at how easy it was to fall into the game’s multiplayer, and a little bit floored at how much content is on offer here.
Let’s start with the performance and presentation since that’s arguably the biggest point of interest with this port. Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville looks surprisingly good on the Switch, with the Frostbite engine making everything look cartoony yet detailed. The detail on the plants and zombies themselves is pretty good, whilst the maps and visual effects are all pretty pleasing to look at.
It’s impressive that the game manages to play on the Switch as well as it does, especially with multiple other players running around the maps at the same time. It’s a great first showing for Frostbite, and certainly does the game justice.
The only downside is that the framerate is a little iffy at pretty much all times. It never goes beyond 30 frames-per-second, which is expected, but it dips pretty often and always feels unstable. Weirdly, the cutscenes seem to suffer the most and their framerate falls even further below 30 frames-per-second. It’s not the end of the world and the game still looks and plays great, but it can feel a little sluggish at times when I might have preferred for the graphics to take a little hit instead.
By all accounts though, EA has done a great job porting the game to Switch, which just leaves the question – how is the game itself? It’s nothing mindblowing, but Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville continues what its predecessors set up and manages to be a fun, if simple, time.
Having played the other games in the series, jumping back into Plants vs. Zombies was like catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, with far too many characters, collectables and objectives thrown at the player from the moments they start, but once you get to grips with it, it’s easy to sink back in.
At its core, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is a hero shooter, with the big twist being that the heroes are all strange plants and zombies. This entry adds in a few new heroes, and it feels like they ran wild with the concept this time which feels like a lot of fun. The main loop here will have you picking a hero, learning how they work, getting good with them, and then moving on to learn another. It’s surprisingly addictive.
The shooting itself isn’t anything special, but it still feels pretty good, and each hero feels unique from one another and well worth trying it out. I was originally pretty boring and stuck with the ’80s action hero zombie, but I soon tried out the Imp and found him to be my new favourite. You really won’t get the most out of the content on offer here if you aren’t switching things up and playing all the heroes at least once.
Speaking of content, this release is the “Complete Edition” of the game, which means that it comes packed in with tons of content updates and features. This usually wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville launched in early access originally, so it might be worth checking it out if you originally found it lacking in content.
Lacking in content is certainly not a phrase you could use here either, as Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is almost too full of things to do. Not only do you have the game’s multiplayer mode to keep you busy for a potentially endless amount of time, but you’ve also got four unique single-player campaigns, two for each side. Add that to all of the cosmetics and upgrading to do for each hero, and it quickly starts to feel like a grind.
These campaigns are fun enough to start with, but quickly recycle the same objectives and feel too similar to one another. The only difference is the context behind each fetch quest or defence mission, and these usually rely on cringey jokes that made me groan. This is simply a game that works better in multiplayer, and after jumping into matches with other players I found it hard to want to go back to playing on my own.
Even though the jokes often missed, one thing that Plants vs. Zombies has in spades is personality, and it shines through here. Although many of the jokes in the campaign are cringey, the little animations for each character and the items found throughout the world never failed to make me smile. Seeing the Imp zombie slam into the ground whenever he sprints is a good example of what I mean, and this amount of heart does elevate Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville above similar games in the genre.
This isn’t a perfect port to Nintendo Swich, but it’s certainly an impressive one considering the game’s size and Plants vs. Zombies remains as fun to play as it ever was. If you’re looking for a fun hero shooter with plenty of content to sink your teeth into (no zombie-related pun intended) then Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Complete Edition might just be the game for you.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Electronic Arts