Splatoon 2 continues a grand Nintendo tradition: this is another in a long line of stellar first party offerings from Big N. Not only is Splatoon 2 every bit its predecessor’s better, but it could be the freshest (sorry) take on a competitive shooter in years. With a decidedly engaging single player adventure, pitch-perfect multiplayer modes, and an overall addictive progression and gear system, Splatoon 2 can keep you busy and smiling for months. This is our Splatoon 2 review.
As we covered last week in our look at the single player campaign, Splatoon 2 ups the ante a great deal over its original in that it packs in a meaty solo offering. You can ignore it completely if you’d like, but for first-time players, it’s a great way to a.) learn how to play and b.) unlock a bunch of stuff to use in the multiplayer mode. The story, writing, and puns are all on point, but it’s not serious dark and grim shooter affair here. We’re talking about a race of Squid People, a missing pop star twin sister, and stolen electric fish that power their world.
What matters is each level of the five main worlds’ design. It’s Nintendo at its best. Hidden secrets, perfect platforming puzzles, and excellent boss fights. As I wrote before, though the single player experience only lasts a handful of hours, it feels every bit as worthy of your money as the extensive multiplayer options available.
When you’ve had your fill of the solo affair, that’s where the real fun begins. Splatoon 2’s a multiplayer shooter at heart, but don’t let that push you away if you’re squeamish about the idea of competitive play. Splatoon 2 may be the friendliest way to shoot other people online. The chief beginning game mode, Turf War, concerns itself more with shooting the arena than the other team. In it, you’re tasked with using your gun, which fires paint, to cover as much of the level’s terrain as possible in your team’s color. Meanwhile, the other team of four will be doing the same, and you’ll all butt heads and shoot each other when you cross paths. But a team that focuses solely on killing others will wind up losing the match because the main goal is to get that paint everywhere. You’ll get points for your kills or “splats”, and there’s even a recap when you’re splatted.
Once you’ve leveled up a great deal through TurfWar, you’ll be able to enter Ranked Battle, where the stakes are higher. Splat Zones, Tower Control, and Rainmaker modes are only available in Ranked, or local play (though you only gain ranks in Ranked mode). Then of course, once you reach a grade of B- or greater in any of the game modes in Ranked, you can enter League Battles. League battles require at least a team of two to enter (though full teams are matched to four), and you can compete to see who’s the very best against other teams online.
And lastly, there’s also Salmon Run, the newest and dare I say the freshest part of Splatoon 2. At its heart, Salmon Run is Horde mode. It can be played locally or online, and it pits you and up to three others against bosses and collecting golden eggs over a specified limited time. Each match is 3 waves long, and you only advance to the next wave if you manage to collect enough golden eggs while fighting off hordes of enemies. Different things can affect each match, from the rising tide to the enemies taking your golden eggs back into the water. You can revive or be revived by teammates too, which is key. Don’t focus too much on the enemy that you forget your friends!
All of these modes earn you experience and gold, which increases your level and lets you unlock more and more items from the many stores available in the game’s main lobby. It’s this progression, key in online shooters, getting new items, leveling them up and unlocking new skills, which keeps Splatoon interesting over dozens of matches. Over time, Nintendo will be releasing free DLC with new maps, new items, and new weapons. Additionally, over the course of the next two years, they’ll be hosting special events with their own special rewards (like this past weekend’s Cake vs. Ice Cream Splatfest).
There are issues. The inability to leave an online queue while the match tries to find members can be annoying. You have to wait until the time runs down. Motion controls, while lauded by some, just don’t seem to work well in handheld mode. Thankfully, you can easily turn them on and off. Twin stick controls on the pro controller are brilliant though. And of course, the VOIP solution of a special smartphone app that’s coming out soon is a halfway measure at best. The game should have it inherently. One shouldn’t need a smartphone to access basic online social functions. But that’s also a shortcoming of the Switch itself.
Now, if you missed the original Splatoon, which most people did because not many really owned a Wii U, you owe it to yourself to pick up Splatoon 2. Not only is it better than its forebear in every way, it’s simply one of the best shooters released so far in 2017. It’s a must buy.