Neal stayed up way too damn late last night playing Splatoon. Here are his initial thoughts on the final game.
Bleary-eyed and exhausted, I look up to realize it’s a little after 1 a.m. In front of me is the tantalizing post-match screen of Splatoon asking me if I want to battle again. I’m torn; I want to keep playing, as I have been doing for the past three hours, but I also should go to bed. That turn of events was not my initial expectation when I turned on my review copy of Splatoon for the first time. I figured I’d mess around with the hub world and the interface for a while and dive deeper another time. Clearly, that’s not what happened.
Along with other players reviewing the game (including our own Daan Koopman), I wound up playing Splatoon online for three hours straight. It was sometimes tough to get a game together (since the game isn’t out yet, the only players are reviewers and Nintendo employees), but all that did was give me time to play Squid Jump or quickly duck out to buy more weapons and gear. In all that time, not once was I bothered by the lack of voice chat, outside of wanting to high-five GameXplain’s Andre Segers (that dude is a ringer at this game) when we were on the same team, or complaining when Daan snuck up behind me and splatted my brains out. Playing online was a fluid, wonderful experience that didn’t show signs of wear or boredom even as we just played on two maps the entire time (Walleye Warehouse and Urchin Underpass). There are other maps in the game, but only two are available in each multiplayer mode at a time.
The weapon selection slowly opens up as you play online and level up. At first, you’re just given a basic Splattershot Jr. and you can purchase the other three weapons that were present in the Global Testfire. But you quickly discover purchasable variations on those basic concepts, including a Splat Roller armed with the ridiculous Kraken power-up and a Splattershot armed with the Killer Wail. Additionally, all of the different gear, which changes daily, has its own quirks and buffs that range from faster movement to quicker respawns. While it’d be nice if you could seamlessly buy or equip different weapons and gear in between matches (you have to back out to the main menu), the online experience was wonderful. I’m chomping at the bit to play more so I can try out new weapons, mess around with different perks, and learn different maps.
Last week, I wrote about how the team shuffling and lack of custom matches at launch could hurt the online experience of Splatoon. I think my assumption might have been wrong. Granted, playing with less than a dozen people over the course of one night doesn’t totally refute that, but the shuffling of teams made each match distinct and exciting. I’d be thrilled to be paired with people that I know and then be just as thrilled as that trio became the core of my rival team in the next game. The team shuffling keeps you on your toes and while you’ll stumble upon a hideously unbalanced match every now and then, changing team members ensures that’s not a permanent issue.
Real talk: all that matters is that for those three hours, Splatoon’s online multiplayer was incredible (ink-credible?) (editor’s note: No, bad Neal). For better or worse, when I looked at the prospect of staying up even later last night to play matches, I decided to say “nah” and back out of the online lobby. But then I then proceeded to plunk an hour into customizing my inkling and playing the surprisingly robust single-player mode. By the time I finally turned off my Wii U after 2 a.m., I went to sleep extremely happy about my first night of Splatoon. If this game can keep up this kind of online electricity, it might truly be something special, regardless of voice chat.