Review – Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville (Switch)
Of all of EA’s main franchises, Plants vs Zombies was the one I questioned the most regarding why it hadn’t still been ported for the Nintendo Switch. A game like Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, basically a lighthearted and cartoonish take on the publisher’s own Battlefield, seemed like a perfect fit for the system. Not only due to its multiplayer capabilities, but also due to its newcomer-friendly nature and colorful visuals. It took some time for EA and PopCap to finally bring the franchise to Nintendo’s new console, but Battle for Neighborville is finally here, and its release is actually more important than you would might expect.
The main reason for such fuss can be summarised in one word: Frostbite. EA’s monumental engine powers most of the company’s in-house projects and used to be considered too complex to run on the Switch. This is why we ended up getting subpar versions of FIFA in the past. Yet, the Switch version of Battle for Neighborville marks the debut of the engine running on what’s essentially dated mobile hardware. This transition hasn’t been perfect at all, which I’ll discuss in detail in the next few paragraphs, but it’s still an interesting feat. I for one never thought the publisher would ever bother trying to make their engine run on the Switch to begin with.
The Frostbite Engine allows for some impressive graphics, with colorful visuals and a surprising amount of detail in each character and map. Sure, Battle for Neighborville isn’t as visually demanding as Battlefront, but it didn’t look like an Xbox 360 game either. This Switch version looks quite decent, all things considered, but there’s a catch: there are framerate issues. For the most part, it runs at a solid 30 frames per second, but the framerate does tend to drop whenever things get a bit too hectic onscreen. Considering its multiplayer nature, you can expect a few issues whenever playing online.
Those issues are annoying, that’s for sure, but considering the game’s simplicity and newbie-friendly nature, you can get used to them. The controls are responsive, even when taking these framerate hiccups into account. The aim assist is also quite generous, making up for the Joy-Con’s analog sticks not being exactly Nintendo’s finest piece of work. You can also use motion controls to improve your aim, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend turning them on.
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville really shines when it comes to its amount of content. It’s an impressive package, featuring a whopping twenty-four playable characters, four offline campaign modes, a colossal crap ton of cosmetics, and your standard multiplayer offerings.
None of the multiplayer modes are exactly exciting, but they are varied enough to be sufficient. The sheer amount of characters to play as means that you will most certainly find a plant or a zombie that will best suit your playstyle, in a “Battlefield meets Overwatch” kind of way. The offline campaigns are brief, clocking at around seven hours altogether and are far from being deep, but then again, they do work as enjoyable distractions whenever you’re away from a router. It’s also stupidly easy, being a great way for newcomers to get accustomed to the game’s controls and mechanics. Furthermore, they are infested with puns, which I cannot resist.
The only thing I really wasn’t a fan of is the game’s progression system. It’s an annoying grind, that’s for certain. Each class takes an excruciating amount of levels for you to unlock all of their costumes and additional features. Multiply that by twenty-four, and you can imagine how much a slog this game can be at times. Multiply that even further if you decide to play solo, as things will become even slower to deal with.
Even if the Switch version of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is far from perfect, I’m really glad it exists. Not only does it show that more complex multiplayer shooters can properly run on and find a fanbase on Nintendo’s system, but it also shows what EA can achieve with the system when some extra effort is put into a game’s coding. The sole fact that the Frostbite Engine is running on a portable, an idea once thought to be impossible, opens a wide array of possibilities for the near future.
The Frostbite Engine (finally running on the Switch!) allows for some impressive visual effects, but the framerate is subpar.
The framerate issues hinder the overall gameplay a bit, but the simple controls and generous aim assist make up for them.
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville doesn’t feature an amazing soundtrack, but it’s far from terrible either. It’s just there, doing its job. Its sound effects also get the job done in a passable way.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Even if the performance isn’t rock-solid and the progression system is a total nuisance, there’s a lot of fun to be had with this lighthearted take on EA’s more complex multiplayer shooters.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville was provided by the publisher.