When Splatoon was revealed at E3 last year it did perk up some interest. It was a new take on the third person shooter, with a focus on gaining territory for your team rather than killing opponents. As information about the game was released it really looked like a great idea. In a dedicated Nintendo Direct presentation on 7th May, Nintendo announced the Splatoon Global Testfire; an online multiplayer demo to be played in hour long set time slots on 9th May. After playing in 2 of the sessions (the first was at 4am) here are my impressions.
Starting the demo when first connecting to one of the time slots, entered into a tutorial. It could be skipped but it was very useful for getting to grips with the controls. Aiming is done with the gyro in the WiiU gamepad and the right stick is used to adjust the camera left and right. This can be changed to just the right stick like most games (along with standard settings for sensitivity and invert axis) although I found the Gamepad aiming very comfortable. The Gamepad also displays a map, and touching a teammate’s icon on it allows you to quick jump to their position at any time. The map is very useful for keeping track of things. After that it was possible to select a weapon set and move to a match. The matches in this demo were in the Turf War game type. You play as an Inkling, an anthropomorphised squid, with the aim of covering more ground in the arena than the opposing team. Inklings spray ink from their weapons and can swim through their own ink in squid form; even up walls (doing this also replenishes ink when empty). At the end of the match a cat name Judd decides the winning team.
There were 4 weapon sets available to play, each with a different main, sub, and special weapon. Main and special weapons use ink to fire and special weapons could be used after filling a meter by claiming territory. The Splattershot and Splattershot Jr. are similar weapons that shoot ink in a rapid fire way. Splattershot Jr. had a shorter range but faster rate of fire; it also came with a bomb that could be thrown and explodes into a puddle of ink. Its special was called the Bubbler. It acts as a shield against attacks until the meter runs out and can also be passed to nearby team mates. The sub weapon for the Splattershot was the Burst Bomb, a bomb that explodes on impact and uses less ink. The special gave unlimited use of Burst Bombs for a short time. These sets were easiest to use. The Splat Charger shoots ink in a long line in front of the player. The longer the charge, the further the range. It acts more like a sniper rifle from other games, although it isn’t possible to hit people from the other side of the map. It’s probably the most difficult weapon to use. The sub weapon was the Bomb again, with its sub being Bomb Rush working in the same way as the Burst bomb version. Finally, there’s the Roller, a kind of melee weapon. Holding the button and running creates a wide path of ink quickly. It also has a short range attack of tapping the button. The Roller is powerful as it covers ground quickly and running people over is fun. However, it can be stopped with good shooting from the other weapons. The Suction Bomb was its sub weapon, one that attaches to any surface and explodes after a few seconds. Its special weapon was the Killer Wail, produces a powerful sound wave that splats all opponents in its path. It doesn’t produce ink however. It’s great when you nail all of the other team.
Matches are 4-on-4 teams and last for 3 minutes. The action is very fast and things change very quickly in those 3 minutes, and that makes for a genuinely enjoyable experience. Both sessions I took part in went by very quickly because it was fun and I wanted to keep playing. Everything about the game works very well. A very nice touch is that while waiting for a match you play an 8-bit style mini game on the Gamepad. The game looks good with a cool art style. The netcode in the game was solid. There were not any issues with lag or slowdown. It worked really well as I seemed to have been playing with people globally. Everything ran smoothly there were occasional connection errors but they were few and far between. This has really perked my interest for the full game. If everything about it is as solid as it was in this demo, then it should be great experience.
The full game is released on 29th May for WiiU. Also a final Testfire session will take place on Saturday 23rd May at 11pm BST. The Demo software is available to download from the WiiU eShop.
Images from Nintendo UK’s Splatoon Facebook page