Review: Splatoon 2
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Third Person Shooter
You may remember when we previewed Splatoon 2 as part of the Switch preview event and made comment that it looked almost identical to the Wii U version. For a full release game, fans are deserving of having more than just a rehash of the same turf war based combat and somewhat ham-fisted single player. The good news is that Splatoon 2 takes what made the original fun and expands on it as well as improving the parts I didn’t enjoy in the first game.
When first starting the game it will force you to complete a quick tutorial which utilises the motion control settings rather than aiming with the right analog stick. As a slightly more traditional gamer, I found this experience incredibly jarring and difficult, which was only exacerbated by my time playing Breath of the Wild. In Zelda the game allows you to use motion to refine your shots, rather than disable your stick aiming and after pouring so many hours of my life into the title having the option to only use one or the other took some serious getting used to. I opted for no motion, which I think will be the common route for most folk and find the game to be quite smooth once you get used to it, especially with a Pro Controller.
There is a surprising amount to do in Splatoon 2 especially compared to the original and one of the biggest improvements comes in the games single player. The first Splatoon I only bothered with the single player to unlock weapons and stopped playing almost immediately after I had done so. Splatoon 2 has put a lot more effort into crafting these single player challenges which force a mix of combat and platforming on small tight levels to see the player to their goal. The set up feels almost like a Super Mario Galaxy game not only with how they feel to play but also with each area being incredibly self-contained and unique. Players will often be asked to use specific weapons in which levels are designed around for their first playthrough so they also act as good tutorials before you hit the multiplayer aspect of the game.
The most surprising aspect of these single player games was the difficulty sometimes involved. Splatoon 2 is such a bright and cheery game with relatively friendly – despite being competitive – multiplayer and so when I found myself having to replay levels after dying, sometimes multiple times I was quietly amused and impressed by how hard the game could be. Difficulty, however, is not always a good thing and there were times that I felt the game could present an unfair challenge or sudden spike compared to the rest of the level or area, making for frustrating and unexpected challenges rather than a natural progressive curve.
Splatoon 2’s multiplayer comes in a few different flavours but by far the most prevalent are the regular Turf Wars. These team based battles see the player trying to ink as much of the stage as possible, while also taking out members of the opposing teams. They are incredibly similar to what was on offer in the first Splatoon only with a few different maps that rotate more frequently. Many of the weapons on offer are also the same as the original game, however there are some new editions and all of the special weapons which can only be unleashed after inking enough turf are all brand new. The games are fun and fast, only lasting 3 minutes each in total and the range of weapons and play styles allow for those who aren’t exactly pros at shooters to still be effective.
At the end of each match participants can view their stats including how many kills they managed and more importantly the amount of turf inked compared to everyone else. This is a surprisingly necessary feature in Splatoon 2 as it can be difficult to tell how much you’re contributing amongst all the inky sludge. Players are also granted experience and currency which allows them to purchase new weapons or clothing which come with different boosted stats. Then you can choose to queue up for a brand new game and while you may find yourself matched with the same players this tends to keep matches fair rather than one sided. Perhaps the only real failing is that load outs can not be changed while in this lobby area, so to change or purchase weapons or clothes you have to leave the queue completely.
Once leveled up enough through regular matches players can choose to join in on ranked competitions. Ranked varies from the usual Turf War coming in 3 different types of game. The most similar would be Splat Zone which is essentially a king of the hill mode, so instead of inking the entire map a section of the map will be the focus of ink domination. Tower Control sees players pushing a vehicle into enemy territory which is reminiscent of Overwatch style Payload mechanics and Rainmaker involves carrying a weapon into the enemy base to unleash bright coloured hell. Ranking high enough in any of these battles will allow players to compete in the 2 hour long League matches for some elite competition.
Again all of this is not dissimilar to Splatoon 1 but there’s enough polish and added features to make it a worthwhile upgrade, even without it being on the Switch. The biggest addition, in my opinion, I’ve saved for last, and that’s the new Salmon Run mode. Salmon Run allows for a team of four to participate in horde mode style PvE battles which pit the colourful inklings up against waves of dull Salmonids. The battles take place on a boat where players must work as a team to defeat Salmonids and the various Salmonid Bosses to collect eggs for their mysterious bear statue boss. Waves increase in difficulty as the player levels up in play and the game keeps with the Splatoon style of small bites of gameplay by making these runs only a few levels at a time. Salmon Runs are incredibly fun and can get very intense when a team is being overrun by the enemy. I was pleasantly surprised by this addition to the traditional Splatoon styles of play and feel that this adds a variety and longevity to the game which was missing in the original title.
There is also a surprsing visual overhaul that Splatoon 2 has almost snuck in over its predecessor. I remember honestly thinking that it looked almost identical in preview versions of the game but now that I have it on my TV at home to inspect there’s so much more involved in how this game looks. Characters are fantastically bright with a huge variety of kits to distinguish them from others and conversely modes like Salmon Run and the single player adventure show off how dark and gritty other aspects of the game can be. The juxtapositioning really brings to life how colourful the Splatoon world is and it made me notice other little changes like the way the ink now sparkles and how fantastically sloshy it is when you run and jump through it. The two new idols Marina and Pearl are also prime examples of the visual improvements in Splatoon 2 with so much detail going into the aesthetic and animation of these new characters.
These impressive visuals are also potentially the cause of one of my only gripes about this game. Fantastically Splatoon 2 is locked into a rock solid 60 frames the entire time it plays and never have I noticed the game skipping a beat. This is definitely a positive from most angles but I believe that Nintendo’s dedication to making this game as stunning as it is has also cut out the option for couch co-op. The Switch is such a great console for co-operative same system play and the omission of this as an option, even just in modes like Salmon Run really feels like a missed opportunity for more great ways to experience the game. This is also partnered with Nintendo’s odd decision to put most of the friend controls through its new Nintendo Switch Onlineapp which feels like another barrier towards playing with friends.
Splatnet 2 which features as a subsection of the Nintendo Switch Online app is, however, not all bad. Players can view their stats for the last 50 games including who won or lost, who was on which team, what load outs they were using and what percentage of turf was covered. The app also lets you see which maps are currently available for play, if new clothes are available for purchase and whether or not Salmon Run is available all without turning on your Switch. All of these features feel like a useful addition but time will tell if this is a viable solution for teaming up with friends and voice chat.
Splatoon 2 is loaded with Nintendo charm, from the colourful inklings to the silly enemies. It really feels like a true sequel in that everything the original Splatoon did well has been preserved and improved upon and where it was let down has been picked back up. It’s bright and pretty with clever design and a surprising amount of sass and heaps to do – which is perhaps the biggest let down of Splatoon 1. The only real downside is the lack of couch co-op and perhaps the same playstyle of ink the turf, kill the enemies may get boring for those looking for something a bit deeper. In its heart, Splatoon 2 is a team based shooter and feels like a very solid one at that. The extra modes are icing (or ink?) on the cake to give players more to do and the execution is fantastic from the fun modes and quirky music right down to the glitter in the paint.
|Splatoon 2 features fun standard multiplayer modes as well as an excellent Horde mode edition to the game in Salmon Run. The single player has seen a massive improvement since the first game and everything feels crisp clean and funky fresh. While some players may tire of the accessible mechanics, those that do enjoy Splatoon's inky battles will find a very polished sequel with tonnes to do.||4.3 4.3 ( on 4 rating)|