Splatoon 2 is the follow-up to the popular 2015 Wii U team-based third-person shooter, Splatoon. It puts players in control of squid like creatures known as Inklings who use brightly coloured ink fired from an array of weapons to attack opponents and clear certain goals.
Having missed the excitement of the original I was a little dubious entering the fray of the sequel. Nintendo hasn’t historically handled online gameplay very well, and with the main bulk of Splatoon 2 being held in virtual space, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive.
My immediate thoughts of Splatoon 2 were quite mixed. Booting up the game I was greeted with a character creation screen to create my very own inkling representation. To say the variations of choice is limited would be an understatement. While there seems to be a number of options for skin tone and eye colour; Nintendo has only provided four options for hair, one of which is an obnoxious top-knot. For such an online-centric experience I was genuinely surprised with the lack of individuality on offer.
Fresh from the character creation screen I was fired directly into the tutorial and forced to use motion controls; no option of choice or ability to change this in the initial training stage. I found this setup to be clumsy and alien. I know Nintendo is trying to market their cutesy third-person-shooter to the masses, but forcing a gimmicky control scheme on everyone from the get-go is not the way forward. This can, of course, be changed once you enter the main bulk of the game, but I can’t help but feel it should be a choice from the very beginning.
My complaints about controls and lack of customisation aside, I can honestly say that Splatoon 2 is one of the best shooters I’ve played in a long time. Nintendo has taken a genre which is over-saturated with realism, grit and gore and turned it into something family friendly and a hell of a lot of fun. Splatoon 2 offers a variety of game modes which it seems Nintendo can alter on the fly to shake up the experience.
While Splatoon 2 is primarily a multiplayer experience, the single-player aspect feels solid and well rounded. Accessible from the main Square through a sewer grate, it’s more of a platformer by nature where players venture through various levels to rescue the Zapfish from the formidable Octarians. Players don the guise of a secret agent and must use their trusty ink-powered weaponry to help them complete each mission and take down bosses. The entire experience does feel like a tutorial for the online modes, and hands out some tips and tricks on how to play.
While it’s not necessary to play through the single-player mode, I would highly recommend it. Not only is it good fun, but it helps build skills that will be transferable to the multiplayer part of Splatoon 2. Unfortunately, unlocks and gear doesn’t move from one mode to another which is a little disappointing.
The multiplayer modes of Splatoon 2 are where the game really shines. Play with up to seven other Inklings in various game modes to prove who is the best. Regular Battle will be your first taste of online gameplay in Splatoon and it’s more of a casual event. This mode gives players the chance to level up some gear and gain the experience needed to take on the Ranked game modes. Players can join friends in this mode, though they may not always be on the same team. The Ranked modes, on the other hand, is where the more prestigious players like to hang out and offers a few different modes that rotate on a regular basis.
Another nifty feature of Splatoon 2 is Nintendo’s ability to pull off on-the-fly events. I’m talking of course about their Splatfest weekends. Having recently taken a side in the August ‘Tomato vs Mayo’ event, I was surprised at how slick the entire fixture unfolded. The entire Inkopolis Square got a makeover with charming handwritten messages from players in-game along with a night time scene and bright lights. Usual online matches were suspended with players being able to pick a favourite condiment and fight for their side in Turf War. Even the usual brightly coloured ink was replaced with representations of your teams dipping sauce of choice.
I must admit, I find the online matchmaking to be much better than previous Nintendo titles. Most notable of late is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which suffered – and in all honestly, still suffers from – continual disconnection errors, difficulty with friends joining and an overall poor online experience. While Nintendo has done away with a number of the issues which plague Mario Kart, it’s still far from perfect. The decision to relegate in-game chat to a mobile app is a curious choice, but I understand the logic behind it; though I’ve not yet managed to get the system to work correctly and ended up opting for Discord over Nintendo’s own option. I can’t help but feel Nintendo is scared of online gaming and only add it in to appease their fans, it feels as if they’re ten years behind everyone else. With this being said, at least they’ve put in a queue function if you’re trying to join a friend that’s already in-game.
In addition to my point above, not all modes or maps are available to play at all times. Every two hours maps rotate with the server choosing which is to be played on. I found this could get a little repetitive, especially when you play the same map three times in a row. With the addition of proper game lobbies, Nintendo could easily add in a voting system so that map rotation was more fluid; instead of hoping a favourite map was currently in play, players would have the choice to pick and choose among themselves. A system that’s worked well for the Call of Duty series for years.
With this being said and flaws aside, I found Splatoon 2 to be a solid third-person shooter. The number of connection issues has been non-existent and I’m found myself playing in both docked and undocked mode fairly equally. I can’t say I was a fan of the series before I started, but without a doubt, I can say I’m a convert.