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Splatoon 2 is Fantastic. Period.

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    Splatoon 2

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    Splatoon 2 is Fantastic. Period.

    The shooters I remember fondly are the ones that were innovative for their times. Halo with its emphasis on slower tactical gameplay and beautiful map design, Call of Duty Modern Warfare for its arcade action and satisfying weapons, and Battlefield for its objective-based system and sprawling maps. For me, Splatoon was that next big innovative title with a new way to play shooters – inking the map to win. I’m happy to report that Splatoon 2 is prettier, more balanced, and so so SO much fun.

    The multiplayer at launch contains 8 maps isosymetric for each team. The maps are varied in design, but generally follow the format of having three chokepoints with additional obscure ways to traverse to the other side. Each map has a different emphasis so that tactics that make sense in one map such as the importance of taking the middleground early are not so crucial in others. This makes combat engaging as figuring out what’s the best way to win constantly changes. I often had to deliberate whether I should focus on being aggressive in expanding territory, whether to infiltrate to the other side when the other team was kicking my team’s butt, and whether or not it was smart to engage a seasoned sniper when all I had was a splattershot. (BTW it isn’t). These tactical decisions constantly change depending on the position of your teammates on the map, and on a grander scale what mode you’re playing: turf war, tower control, rainmaker, or splat zone.

    The weapons by the way, are incredibly varied. There are over a dozen different types that have different "best" attributes in the categories of range, damage output, and ink capacity. You want a weapon that’s adaptable? Get a splattershot. You want a long range powerhouse? Get a gatling gun-like splating. You want to focus mainly on inking the stage? Get a roller.

    In addition, each weapon has a subweapon, which are your grenades, and specials, which are super moves that can activated after filling your super meter. Specials are very cool to look at and more importantly, can completely change the tide of a skirmish. For example, at an early part of a game I was fighting against two other opponents competing over the middle chokepoint and while it seemed like they would have the upper hand, I activated my special which was a jetpack, which allowed me to fly up and blast paint like a righteous Valkyrie and turn the tide of war. However, the best part of specials is that specials do not make you invincible. While flying with a jetpack makes me harder to hit, I still can be hit, and this makes it so that at no point of the game will you be in a situation that’s completely impossible to win against an opponent – it just depends on skill.

    The designers really focused on making the weapons more balanced than its predecessor, so you can really find a weapon that suits your style of play instead of which is the best one. The current community weapon tier list has aerospray at a rank D, which is the weapon I use, and I’ve been consistently the best player on my team/match for roughly 80% of the turf wars I played. The only time I am concerned about a particular weapon is when someone chooses the sniper because most of the time, they’ll suck at killing and since snipers can’t really ink the map effectively, they’ll just plain suck. That being said, if you encounter a sniper who actually knows what they’re doing, you’ll be in for a hell of a time because they can fortify their zone like no other, which just goes to show that no matter what weapon you choose, you can be an effective team member.

    For the first couple days when there was the barrage of new players, the team with the best player often won. I’m happy to say that the meta has advanced very quickly that most players know what to do relatively so that the better overall team will win. However, the sore point with this is that since these are 4v4 matches, often the team will be defined by its weakest link. I’ll often see a teammate who is either too scared to go out an engage with other players or be OCD about inking small unpainted spots in our territory with only a minute left in the match. At the end of the match, players will be assigned points, which are calculated by the amount of map you covered and the number of players you’ve splatted. Everyone will have 700 points or above and that one player who cost you the win only got 200 points.

    Unfortunately, I’ve encountered being in a game with that one bad player most of the matches I’ve played. Inevitably, there are going to be new players or seasoned players experimenting with new weapon types so you can’t get too mad, but when you feel that the entire game wasn’t dictated by your skill but by that one bad player, you can’t help but feel frustrated. Hopefully, this will be remedied with larger, different maps in the future, but I think this will be an annoyance that lasts the game’s lifespan.

    The other multiplayer mode added to Splatoon 2 is Salmon Run, and it is excellent, worthy of competing with turf wars as your main mode of play. It’s a cooperative game where four players must work together to defeat boss enemies to collect golden eggs and survive each of the 3 rounds. As you gain better status (part-timer, overachiever, profreshional), you get rewards more quickly, but also experience increased difficulty surviving. There are only 2 maps out currently, but each round has randomly created factors, which makes it so each play session feels different even if you play Salmon Run for the entire day. These factors include changing of the tide level which decreases the map size, part of the map where the egg basket is located, whether there is obscuring fog, nighttime terrors, and the types of boss salmon who attack you. There are a multitude of boss salmon types including the Stinger, which snipes from afar and the Maw that will hunt underground and come up to attack like a shark. This mode has just the right amount of difficulty where you’ll quickly be able to last three rounds in the beginning, but find it very difficult to last three rounds when you’re a profreshional. But honestly, that’s the best part of the Salmon Run, when everything gets crazy and there’s a zillion enemy salmon and over half a dozen boss salmon after your lives and you go from thinking you’re the best Salmon Run player who over lived to wanting to hunch over and suck your thumb, but every game you play you’ll think to yourself, damn that was a good game.

    The single-player isn’t much to write about. It’s not bad, but definitely not the best part of Splatoon 2. You get five different worlds with roughly 6-7 levels each. The first three worlds are purely tutorial levels for the different weapons and the remaining worlds still feel tutorial-esque. I’ve heard the comparison of the levels being like Super Mario levels, which I can see as each level can be broken down to arcade like sections with hidden collectibles throughout, but the difference is that the levels remain too easy for too long and the creative concepts which are introduced in each world feel more like they exist to show the positives of each weapon instead of creating tight level design. The bosses are the highlights, and these without a doubt, are on par with Super Mario Galaxy bosses. As for the story, it’s sparse to say the least. The setup is that Callie and the Great Zapfish are gone, and you as the player need to investigate what’s going on. Throughout the levels Marie and Sheldon from the previous game will say funny or encouraging lines, but actual advancement of the story are contained in hidden scrolls of the levels and a couple of lines said between each world, which as you may have guessed isn’t a lot of content. The main appeal will be to the completionists who will want to play every level with every gun and collected all the hidden items and be satisfied at the checklist in the menu that has every box marked off.

    The two major criticisms you’ll hear from other reviews are that the lobby won’t allow for changing weapons or clothes and that Salmon Run is only available during certain parts of the week. Both are true, but definitely not as bad as people are making it out to be. Leaving the lobby to change weapons or outfits and coming back to the game takes like 20 seconds. If you’re playing in a lobby with fun players, you can expect those players to change and dilute down to all new players after roughly five matches, so being able to change your gear while being with the same group of players doesn’t feel like a good enough trade-off for quick lobby fill ups and quick transitions to matches, which we do have currently. The Salmon Run time availability is a valid concern, but I expect that it will change in the future when more Salmon Run maps are released and the developers feel comfortable enough with the format. As it stands now, most people should be able to get at least a couple play sessions in a week even with a busy schedule.

    My biggest criticism, which I haven’t seen too much of is stability issues. I have a mid-tier internet plan that allows me to stream HD videos, and I’ve had a lot of problems with connections if there is more than one thing running like Netflix or even if my torrent program is just uploading data. Since I live by myself, it’s not too much of an issue, but I can imagine if you’re living with a family or roommates who use a lot of the wireless, that you’re not going to have a fun time. Even if you personally have the best set-up possible, not everyone who plays will, so you’re going to experience players dropping out every once in awhile, and like I alluded to earlier if it’s a player on your team you will most likely lose because every player counts.

    Splatoon 2 is an amazing 60fps 1080p game with a lot of polish and humor. From the artstyle, to user-created images found in the hub world, to the new characters of Pearl and Marina, there is just a lot of personality to this game. At launch, this feels like a solid package, and will only get more robust with future free dlc. The game is so good that even if you can only play it for one weekend, the game is worth full price. I’ll even go as far as to say, if you haven’t bought a Switch because you’ve been waiting for enough good games, buy a Switch now because the library now has a decent selection, and Splatoon 2 is just that damn good.

    Rating:   4.5 – Outstanding

    Product Release: Splatoon 2 (US, 07/21/17)

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