I know that it’s been out for a while, but I wanted to actually really get into each mode before throwing my verdict out there. Turns out I didn’t really need to, but more on that a little later. So, the breakout hit of the Wii U has got a sequel on Switch! I can’t say I’m overly surprised, and I completely loved the original (despite it’s flaws), also I could have easily seen a follow up coming. However, how does Splatoon 2 stand up against the original and how does it stand now that gaming has moved on a little since its predecessor?
In terms of story, this game is doing barely anything different from it’s predecessor (a theme that will run through this whole review). The Great Zapfish has been “mysteriously” stolen and the player is enlisted by Marie, of the original game’s Squid Sisters, to track it down and reclaim it from the Octarians. Hidden throughout the campaign, like in the first game, are scrolls that contain snippets of story to catch up on too, so the lore is there if you want to find it too. The bulk of the story is essentially the game Inklings engaging in fun competitions involving their specially made ink weapons.
Gameplay is my main mark of contention, and the place where this game scores the most points with me. All of the wonderful paint-splattering gameplay returns from the first game, with all of the standard shooting and swimming through ink that made up the entirely of the previous game’s premise. Essentially, you can shoot and use other weapons in kid form, and can swim through your own team’s ink in squid form. What you are using your ink for is largely dependent, however, on the mode you are playing.
The Turf War and various Ranked Battle modes are available out of the box, although you have to have achieved a certain player level before tackling Ranked or League Battles. To give a brief overview, Turf War involves two teams of Inklings attempting to cover more of the arena with their ink than the other team within a certain time limit. The carnage and fun that ensues is incredible, and it’s undeniable that Splatoon as a franchise is a thoroughly enjoyable experience from beginning to end. The only problem with this mode, and it’s not a new problem, is the lack of an ability to switch weapon load-outs when you’re between online matches. This was an issue in the previous game, and I can’t deny that it’s disappointing to see it still here.
Splatoon 2 contains a new game mode for this iteration, Salmon Run, which is a co-operative horde mode that sees players team up to take down waves of enemies and collect salmon eggs for a mysterious benefactor. This mode, despite the random weapon selection in each wave (a minor irritant) is easily my favourite addition to the game. The mode is frantic, enormous fun, and is a great break from the often over-competitive other online modes. Now, if only Nintendo would let me fucking play it. The fact that this mode is locked behind timed windows is the most infuriatingly dim-witted decisions made with Splatoon 2. You’ve created a fantastic game mode, that’s enjoyable but challenging … Let. Us. Play. It. But, enough on that for now.
Salmon Run and the other modes can all be played in local multiplayer and, having played the various modes with friends, they are all fantastic gameplay experiences when played with others in the room. In fact, I think that (given that voice chat is a total mess on Switch, putting it lightly) playing with friends together in the same room is really the only way to play these modes if you wish to play with friends. I do need to point out at this point though that this is difficult to orchestrate this situation and Nintendo have seemingly bent over backwards to make it as hard as possible for friends to play together online both mechanically and with the abysmal voice chat “functionality”.
The game contains a tremendous amount of content; firstly, a large variety of weapons, sub weapons and special abilities that are once again unlocked as you progress through the game. On top of this there are various items of gear that can be purchased using in-game currency giving additional abilities and stat boosts, whilst keeping your Inkling looking fresh. The stage rotation for each mode happens quite regularly (every two hours) but the lack of overall stages does grate a little.
Overall, the gameplay is solidly made and great fun to play. The main issue that could be found with the game, being the variety available out of the box, can be easily overlooked as there is always something that can be played at any given time. The choice of modes, once unlocked, are quite diverse and the variety of gear genuinely, yet subtly alters the gameplay. The remarkable gameplay of Splatoon is all here, one area of the game that I’m very glad Nintendo didn’t change.
To watch in motion, this is a complete masterpiece, based on what it currently there. The visuals, although only slightly upgraded from the prior game, are absolutely stunning. The new stages are all complex, enjoyable playgrounds and are beautifully realised conceptual areas of the game world. The music is bouncy and upbeat, but somewhat lacking the punch and definitely the variety of the previous title. That is one problem with the game though from an aesthetic point of view, there isn’t enough of it yet. The lack of stages and music become grating very quickly and given Nintendo’s promise of a year of new content, it will be a while before the variety is even close to what it really should be.
Whether to recommend Splatoon 2 is a difficult one. If you haven’t played the first game, it is a resoundingly strong yes. The game is a wonderful experience, and a unique take on the team-based shooter. What’s more, once a decent amount of content is available, Splatoon 2 will have enough to keep anyone busy for a long time. If you have played the previous title, it becomes far harder to recommend. If, on one hand, you want more of Splatoon’s gameplay, then this is definitely the place to come. This game has all of the same great gameplay and charm of the original. However, all of the faults and a few more from the first game are here so this game has all of the hallmarks of Nintendo once again not learning anything, so it’s likely that any issues you might have had with the first game are still here. A truly remarkable game, but the recurrence of previous issues make it impossible to give top marks too. This all being said, see you on the Spattlefield.