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Splatoon a shooter like no other
Jun 9, 2015
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Splatoon is arguably one of the biggest risks Nintendo has ever taken. The gaming giant isn't exactly known for new IPs or for online shooters, after all. What's absolutely astonishing is that despite some terrible design choices in the game, Splatoon proves to be completely addicting.
Nintendo prides itself on offering experiences that differ from those on Microsoft's and Sony's home consoles. And sure enough, Splatoon may be a third-person shooter, but there are no headshots to pull off, exo-suits to equip and upgrade, or deathmatches to win.
Instead, Splatoon tasks players with covering maps with ink, and it's truly a premise that's brilliant in its simplicity.
The meat and potatoes of Splatoon is its 4-on-4 online competitive Turf War mode. Teams are plopped onto a map, and players use whatever weapon they have at their disposal - ink guns, rollers, and even sniper rifles, among others - to cover the map with their team's colour. The team with the highest percentage of the map covered in its colour at the end of the three minute round, wins.
Again, it's not rocket science, but after countless matches, and despite a very limited amount of maps, I never got bored of inking. The reason for this is because there is plenty of strategy involved in Turf War.
Players are able to "splat" (Nintendo's politically-correct way of saying "kill") opposing players, and considering the wide variety of weapons, sub-weapons, and special weapons, it takes a lot of practice to learn when to go on the offensive, and when to fall back.
Players are also able to transform from a human to a squid at the push of a button, and this also opens up all kinds of strategic options. When you're in squid form, you're harder to find, but you also can't attack the other team. You move faster in your own ink, but get stuck in the other team's ink.
In a brilliant move, players can launch themselves to any teammate by simply tapping that player's icon on the Wii U gamepad. It allows you to get into the action further down the map a lot faster, but with an icon popping up showing where you're about to land, you also alert your upcoming whereabouts to the other team, who could easily ambush you when you land.
What's certain to appeal to players not used to shooters - a demographic I'm certain Nintendo was aiming for when creating Splatoon - is that "splatting" other players is completely unnecessary, and simply running around painting the map is a help. In fact, it's downright crucial.
You could be equipped with a sniper rifle, for instance, and even though you're missing every player on the other team with every one of your shots, you'll still be painting the map with your team's colour. In other words, even when you're bad, you can still be helping out your team.
I also commend Nintendo for creating a shooter that employs exactly three buttons. It's a game that's dead-simple for casual players to pick up and learn, and it takes no time at all to become quite adept at quickly and smoothly getting your kid/squid around the well-designed maps.
Where Nintendo has faltered is in the way it completely ignores the player who is experienced at shooters, and wants to strategize and, well, win every time.
For starters, there is no voice chat whatsoever in Splatoon. Players can join in on their friends' games, meanwhile, but there's no guarantee they'll actually be placed on their friend's team. Not only that, the more difficult Splat Zone ranked battles don't even allow you to join friends' games.
I was forced to either use Playstation voice chat or Skype while playing with friends. And while it did help a little bit with strategy, it was just nice to be able to chat with my buddies while playing the game, just like I do in virtually every other non-Nintendo video game. It's baffling that Nintendo wouldn't allow at least friend-to-friend voice chat.
There also doesn't seem to be any sort of matchmaking. A team of low-ranked beginners could easily be matched up against a quartet of level-20's (the highest level in Splatoon). That said, in my experience there were few matches that were complete blowouts.
Despite these annoyances, I couldn't help but play match after match of Turf War. Nintendo hasn't forgotten the carrot-on-a-stick mechanic of unlockable equipment - a staple of any shooter - but that's not what drove me to keep playing. Believe or not, my high-level character is still equipped with the default weapons given to everyone at level 1.
Beyond the multiplayer modes, Splatoon offers a single player campaign that attempts to both train the player on advanced tactics, as well as tell a story of why the game's "inkling" characters are doing what they're doing. It's a nice-to-have, and the levels themselves are fun and can offer some decent difficulty, but it's not what will have you coming back to the game.
Splatoon doesn't get everything right, but it gets the most important thing right - quite simply, this game is a ton of fun. I've spoken at length to fellow Splatoon-ers about how annoyed I am at the lack of voice chat and matchmaking, as well as the sub-par party system, but inevitably I'm right back at it, shooting, splatting, and swimming my way through gallon after gallon of ink.
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.