Splatoon 2 Review
Splatoon 2 is an over-the shoulder shooter, where you spread ink out of your arsenal of weapons, and then use the same ink of your color, to traverse different types of terrain. You can maneuver obstacles in inkling form (humanoid), or the much more unique traversal mechanic has you transform into a squid with the press of LR, which enables you to swim up and through anything that has your color of ink on it.
As far as weapon selection, you have your primary weapons, that do the most inking, a secondary weapon (usually grenades, or other helpful items such as the Ink Storm), and your Specials, that charge up throughout the match which are powerful if used correctly. With each level up, a new weapon is unlocked, (2 are unlocked at every sequence of 5) and with each weapon, a new mix-up of sub weapons and specials are tied to that kit. I do wish that you could customize a kit to your liking, but I understand the decision to have them grouped. This balances the game so that you’re not seeing the same weapons continually, and encourages different playstyles.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my discomfort while playing Splatoon 2 in handheld mode. This is one of the first Switch games that actively requires the player to use both Joysticks consistently (I refuse to use motion controls) and unfortunately, it doesn’t feel great. Without being able to grip the console, I found myself straining to bounce between the joystick and face buttons. I played a majority of this with a Pro Controller which, in my opinion, is far superior from an ergonomic standpoint, even when compared to rival controllers like the DualShock 4, or Xbox One Controller.
The universe of Splatoon is a unique one in that you play as these squid teens known as “Inklings.” The world is somewhat resemblant of a J-Pop marine universe where all of it’s inhabitants are different creatures of the sea instead of people.
The Story Mode in Splatoon 2 is a refreshing break from the online gameplay. You are selected to become Agent No. 4, by Marie, one of the main characters from the original Splatoon. Your mission: to find out where her sister, Callie has disappeared to, and locate the Great Zapfish. The aesthetic and traversal is slightly reminiscent of Mario Galaxy, in that you travel to multiple different hub worlds, clear each level once there, and then fight the final boss to advance to the next area. The levels are varied, and each contain different challenges and puzzle mechanics throughout. The boss battles are equally as creative, which have the player learn patterns to avoid certain death and attack when a vulnerability is exposed.
Splatoon 2 offers a full online multiplayer experience, and is arguably, the main focus of the game.
The main mode, Turf War, has two teams of four fight against each other to cover the map (their turf), in their ink, all the while picking off rival Inklings who have the exact same objective. Whichever team has most of the map covered at the end of the 3-minute match, is declared the winner.
The other main online mode you’ll be playing is Ranked. Once you’ve reached an online level of 10, you’re able to play in competitive mode. With each victory, your ‘competitive rank will increase or decrease’ in letter-grade as opposed to number-grade. There are currently three different game modes that vary based on the day that you’ll play. One is called Tower Control, where two teams of four must ink and control a tower, then escort it to the opposing team’s side. Another mode you’ll play in ranked is called Splat Zones. In Splat Zones, the game is much like King of the Hill where the objective is to ink and control only a specific section of a map. Whoever controlled the zone for the longest is the victor. The last mode for ranked matches is called RainMaker. RainMaker is like capture the flag where one team must take the “Rainmaker” and escort it to one side of the map.
League Battle is another multiplayer mode in Splatoon 2 unlocked after you achieve a rank of B- or higher. In a two hour period, players team up in a group of two or four and compete with other groups to earn as many points as possible. At the end of a two hour period, whichever teams has the most points, wins.
Salmon Run is the last multiplayer mode that players can partake in. However, this mode is only available at certain time-blocks that Nintendo designates. It’s essentially a horde mode where four players must work together to take out onslaughts of enemies as they collect eggs to place in a basket. After three rounds, the run is complete, and players return to the lobby to run another, more difficult run if they’ve progressed far enough. Salmon Run is at it's finest when playing with friends, but I had a pretty good time matching up with random players as well.
Splatoon 2 offers an excellent online experience, with multiple varied modes that will have players coming back for hours.
Gear customization is something that I’ve still yet to really understand, but care to learn more about. There are three different clothing categories: headgear, shirts, and shoes. You level up your gear by playing any of the above-mentioned modes (sans Salmon Run), and as they level up, you unlock different abilities. If you just cared about collecting different clothing options, there’s already a ton here, but there’s even a deeper meta that comes with this game by altering your existing gear.
On top of trying to unlock every weapon or clothing item, most online game modes in Splatoon 2 are scheduled. Every hour, on the hour, the maps you compete on are cycled out, so it always feels like a different experience when I log back on. I can also see myself checking back every time there is a new Splatfest, or some free DLC just dropped. Good news, Nintendo seems adamant about supporting Splatoon 2 for quite some time.
Splatoon 2 isn’t Nintendo’s most graphically impressive game they’ve released on the Switch however, strong art direction and sound design are superb. The game runs at a steady 1080p resolution when docked (720p undocked), and maintains 60fps in either mode. In testing both modes, I hardly noticed the drop in resolution and would be happy to play Splatoon 2 in tabletop mode as long as I have my pro controller.
I’ve had a blast playing Splatoon 2 and feel properly incentivized to try out different game modes and weapon combinations. There’s a lot of unlockables via online multiplayer, and hidden treasures to find in Octo Canyon. The control scheme in handheld mode really hurts the experience, but as long as you have a proper controller, playing Splatoon 2 in tabletop mode or on the TV feels fantastic. I have a feeling that I’ll keep coming back to Splatoon 2 every month or so, to sneak in a few rounds of Turf War, and check out the sick new digs at Inkopolis Square.