Written by: Mike Pixley
Last weekend, Nintendo rolled out their Splatoon 2 open beta for all of us lucky Nintendo Switch owners. For everyone who didn't own a Wii U, this was an excellent way to show the world Nintendo's newest IP.
For those of you in the dark, Splatoon was a highly stylized 3rd person 4 on 4 shooter based around a post apocalyptic universe in which humans destroyed the ecosystem, allowing squids and octopi to evolve to the point where they could walk on land and become intelligent! Yeah, and if that wasn't weird enough, after years of war they now hold paint gun tournaments to see who is the top squid-dog in Inkopolis, a city occupied by squid kids who look like they're straight out of a late 90s Blink 182 music video.
I not only bought this game the day it came out, but became so involved in it and its communitythat I eventually captained a semi-pro team which entered into a couple tournaments (which we lost...(shout outs to FTI <3)).
Regardless! Splatoon is one of the fastest, most action-packed online multiplayer shooters on the market. It came with a year's worth of excellent and FREE DLC as well. I can't sing its praises enough.
One of Splatoon's most unique traits is the ability for your inkling (yes, that's the name of these creatures) to change shape and become a very "blooper" like squid, which can then move quickly through your own color of ink. You can even swim up walls! This allows for serious versatility in play style and top players are easily identifiable that way.
The main multiplayer mode is simple. If you've ever played a Tony Hawk game, then you already know the concept of tag so this shouldn't be hard to digest. You and your team must use your respective ink guns and cover more of the stage with your color than the enemy team. You're free to kill the enemy players but you get no extra points for doing so. The ranked multiplayer option adds in a list of other modes randomized throughout the day but in our Splatoon 2 testfire, the only mode available was the standard multiplayer.
What we got was a serious update to the look and feel of Splatoon with "Switchitized" controls (I'm coining that, you read it here first).
Set in two boxy levels with an option of four of the many, MANY weapon layouts Splatoon has to offer, players were dumped immediately into online standard play, no hub world, and little options. Relatively standard for a beta test. The gameplay remained more or less the same, with some interesting quirks. First off, whether or not you're playing on the TV with a pro controller, handheld, or even tablet mode, the game felt great. I particularly enjoyed playing with just the joycons as the motion controls are only tied to your right joycon. This does a good job of simulating the use of a real fire arm, at least as far as 1-to-1 point and shoot action goes. What's important about this is that to "get gud" at Splatoon, mastery of the motion controls is essential. Compare it to playing something like Overwatch on PC, but choosing to use a controller over mouse and keyboard. You'll get crushed.
That being said, there seem to have been some slight changes to the motion control. From what myself and my old teammates can surmise, the lateral movement has been slightly restricted. Why? We can only guess. Most likely this has something to do with playing handheld and lateral movement obstructing your view of the console. This change tripped me up but didn't ruin my experience by any means.
Another change seems to be in how badly you get stuck in the other team's ink. If you make the mistake of treading on the other teams color your movement gets reduced and your health goes down, essentially turning you into a sitting duck-squid. This effect can be reduced by adding upgrades to your outfits, but seems to have been substantially increased in this sequel title. I died more than a few times from this, so it's something to look out for!
Mechanically, that's about it; besides a tease of new weapons to come in the form of the splat-dualies, essentially dual pistols that have no range but add in a duck 'n roll mechanic I found interesting, but ultimately frustrating to try and master in a beta. There's also new HAIRCUTS. If that sounds ridiculous and trivial to you, obviously you don't know Nintendo fans. From the launch of Splatoon, the Ninten-babies were screaming for haircuts, pants, and even customizable rooms from tumblr to the MiiVerse. Hopefully they're satiated for now because the cringe was penetrating.
There's also some cool little Easter eggs hidden in the beta which were a lot of fun to play with! One of the best things about the original Splatoon was the way it occupied you during (sometimes VERY long) matchmaking sessions with little mini games. That being said, there were no mini games in the Splatoon 2 beta, but by playing with the buttons and analog sticks you could influence the background music. The letter buttons activated lyrics and the direction buttons activated backup vocals, left analog controlled the music speed and the right changed the pitch leaving the bumpers to add in sound effects, a nice touch!
So what should we be really thinking about? The answer is connectivity. The Nintendo Switch hasn't really been put to the test as far as wireless connectivity goes and Splatoon is a taxing piece of software. So far we've received mixed reviews. On LAN (which you can purchase on Amazon for about ten bucks USD) it ran fine, virtually no connectivity issues. However with two Switches on WiFi, my girlfriend and I had non-stop issues, drops, lag, sometimes we couldn't even get into the game. However, Grimlock managed to have no issues at all using his 4g Verizon hotspot to play Splatoon 2 mobile. Others have had similar WiFi issues as I have, some have had none. It's looking like it will all come down to your connection speed and how much bandwidth is available for you during play. That being said, I doubt you'll be playing Splatoon 2 online at your local Starbucks unless Nintendo is able to drastically improve their servers. I'll save my score for the full review when the game comes out. Until then I'll be waiting anxiously for the release of Splatoon 2 with the rest of you!
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