At long last, I finally got a copy of Splatoon 2 for Switch, after participating in the Global Testfire and other previews Nintendo had leaked out last year. I did not own or play much of the first Splatoon on WiiU, so I was excited to finally see what Nintendo could do with an online “shooter.”
I guess I should preface my thoughts with the fact that I haven’t played a whole lot of online shooters in recent years. I played my fair share of Call of Duty and Halo on console, and played a lot more of Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 on PC. As is probably the case of most people, my enjoyment with online shooters was maximized when played with friends. As time has passed, I’ve spent more time with single player games, as have those that traditionally partied up for online games. Given that, my enthusiasm for online games has waned.
Despite this trend, I’ve still been interested in mainly PC online shooters, notably titles like Battlefront. Without a required subscription (which is a whole other topic to discuss), PC shooters have still found their way into my play time here and there.
Now, we have Splatoon 2. Nintendo does not currently have a paid online subscription, but they will soon. Regardless, Splatoon 2 brings a fresh splash of color and style to the online shooter genre. Combined with its portability, Splatoon 2 has pulled me right in.
As stated, I’d played the Global Testfire, so I had a good idea of how the controls and how the game played. However, I had not been exposed to the lobbies or the customization and upgrade systems.
The basic gameplay of Splatoon involves teams of four competing on a single map in trying to lay down the most paint of their team’s color. Players do so through a variety of different types of weapons including basic pistols and rifles, but also things like paint buckets and large paint rollers. Players can also “splat” (kill) each other via throwing paint on the other team. Based on how much of your team’s color covers the map, a winner is determined.
To begin, each round is only 3 minutes long. Initially, I thought this might end up leaving more to be desired. However, I quickly enjoyed the shortness of each round. It makes a one-sided round less onerous, and also lets you switch up your load out or style between games. Further, it puts more emphasis on getting paint down ASAP, which impacts the gameplay.
The gameplay is oddly addicting. Perhaps its my desire to be as efficient in possible in having a cleanly painted surface in whatever color I’m promoting that round, but focusing on laying paint over a clear priority on splatting the other team makes me feel like I can contribute more early and often then when entering some other shooter game communities, where upgrades, experience, and skill can quickly create separation.
In addition, Nintendo has perfectly injected the genre with a color and style that really freshens a game type dominated by the military-realism or sci-fi of recent times. Having a more care-free silly setting makes it stand out, along with the bevy of color and uniqueness the game has.
While I am really enjoying the game, its not without its faults.
First, when you enter a lobby to find a game, you are stuck. There is no backing out once the game begins to search for other players. The only way to get out is to simply force close the game on the Switch dashboard (at least that’s all I can find). Why Nintendo?
In addition, you can only change loadouts between games. This negative is less of an issue given how short the rounds are, but again, once you are in the search lobby, you are locked into your load out. You can choose to change gear between games, but other than that cue, you are stuck with what you already have.
While I do appreciate the range of upgrades between weapons, abilities, and clothes, its not made initially clear how any of it works. I like the ability to test each weapon in the shop, but the bigger problem is that shops are not laid out clearly. You can go into the menu and immediately get to a shop, but that’s not laid out clearly. I imagine many players probably walked around the little city square trying to sort out which of the shops had what. It also doesn’t help that you can’t cleanly skip the explanations of new weapons when they arrive in the shop. Why not add an option to skip?
I am also not a fan of the motion controls. I’ve been playing mostly in handheld mode, and the motion controls have been nothing but burdensome. I quickly switched to the more traditional dual joystick targeting, but the opt out to that scheme seems like a bad decision.
The game modes have good variety, with the maps switching up inside each mode every so often (which can be a bit bothersome when it kicks you out of the lobby to load the new maps in). The Salmon runs are a fun horde mode that has everyone working together (although this is often the downfall as well). Salmon Runs and also the larger Splatfests are timed events that only occur at certain times.
Lastly, I have to say the online multiplayer is quite awful if you are trying to play with friends. I haven’t tried to play any 4v4 private lobby games, but I have tried to play basic matchmaking with friends. Besides the fact that you need to use the ridiculous app system through your phone to communicate, you also can’t form parties and enter matchmaking. In 2018, this is baffling to me. In order to play together, one person starts matchmaking and the other has to join at about the same time to try in get in the same game. You cannot party up, and you aren’t guaranteed to be on the same team. I cannot figure out why this system is what Nintendo chose.
Despite these shortcomings, overall, I’m really enjoying Splatoon 2 so far. While there are some head scratching decisions made by Nintendo regarding some of the online components, the basic paint laying gameplay is addictive, and the visuals add a fresh flair to a genre that has recycled the same themes for a while.
What are your thoughts on Splatoon 2? Is there something I’m missing with the upgrades or the back-out features? Comment below!