Refill your paint canisters and throw on your freshest gear, because the latest entry in Nintendo’s squad-based (or should that be squid-based?) shooter, Splatoon 3, is here! It’s been five years since the last entry in the franchise, and with a rabid core-fanbase and swathes of casual players returning, it feels like Nintendo have timed their newest release perfectly.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Ink-credibly fleshed out single player|
+ Huge number of customisable gear
+ TableTurf card battle is awesomely addictive!
|Negatives||– STILL no integrated voice chat |
– No load out customisation
– Multiplayer largely unchanged
|Price (When Reviewed)||£44.99|
|Our Playtime||75 hours|
|Available On||Nintendo Switch|
Both Drew and Joe fell in love with Nintendo‘s fresh take on the multiplayer shooter when the original title was released on the Wii U way back in 2015. After seven years, they have both decided to tackle the latest entry to see if it is a worthy entry into the Squid stacks up to what has come before it.
Starting where all good online multiplayer games should start – the single-player mode and that’s for a good reason. Previous Splatoon games treated the single-player as a cobbled-together tutorial that forces players to use the game’s various weapons and experience all of the game’s mechanics. Inspiration from the Octopass Expansion from Splatoon 2 lies at the heart of the mode. Each of the six levels has a variety of challenges to tackle, ranging from the simple ‘race to the finish’ type modes to something a little more difficult such as the brutal course where you cannot touch any enemy ink.
Most levels allow multiple weapons to be selected, which not only gave practice for each weapon class but also ramps up the difficulty of certain missions. One particularly tricky level fires targets in rapid fashion, and if one is missed, it’s game over. The level has you choose between a pair of quick-fire Dualies that takes out the targets with a satisfying rat-tat-tat-tat or (for those sadistic Inklings out there), the slow-charging sniper rifle that requires reflexes like a cat in order to clear the challenge.
Where Splatoon 3 differentiates itself from what has gone before, it is the care and attention to the plot. Through the course of the 10-hour story, Nintendo fleshes out characters who have just appeared and along with explaining in great detail how Squids and Octolings came to be. It certainly is one of the more charming aspects of the game.
Turf War, the main draw for the game that sees teams of four battle together to cover as much ground in ink as their opponents in a 3-minute battle is once again back with a wealth of new maps and a couple of returning ones. It’s the same turf war we’ve seen throughout the series so far, complete with a two-map rotation that changes every few hours. It seems that Nintendo‘s approach is “If it isn’t broke then don’t fix it” the only difference of note is you now shoot in from a coffee machine in the sky, a cool feature as you can choose where your inkling respawns but nothing game-changing. The more competitive modes, which are now renamed Anarchy Battles, follow along the same lines. The capture-the-flag-style ‘Rainmaker’ mode has had a very welcome checkpoint added that makes the mode much more enjoyable, but we were disappointed to find that no new modes had been added at launch.
Salmon Run, an absolutely brilliant addition to Splat 2 makes its return, again with a couple of tweaks. Mr. Grizz’s hunt for Golden Eggs is now a 24/7 operation that sheds one of the more annoying aspects we saw in Splatoon 2. There are some great changes to the fish-based horde mode, with a greater number of ranks now available, a more detailed tutorial being added, and even a few new Salmonids introduced that inject further variety into the well-tested formula. Especially notable is the introduction of the Cohozuna, an enormous king-sized Salmonid that will take all of your collaboration to bring down, and who offers unique rewards to crews who manage to overcome it, but the multiplayer modes all feel like slight improvements on the established formula rather than something exciting and fresh.
We are left with teases for new modes. A Salmon Run-specific timed event, much like a Splatfest, where players will seemingly have to defend the Splatlands from waves of scaly Salmonids is due at some point, along with more Anarchy Battle types. While we are excited to see how the game evolves, it feels like these should be available from the off so that Nintendo can differentiate this game from the two previous titles.
If you are getting tired of splatting enemy teams or collecting eggs, TableTurf is a new mode designed to offer some respite and the simple card game is a wonderfully addictive addition to the game. Each player takes control of one side of a grid-lined game board that represents the battlefield and has cards that are collected throughout the single player or are given as rewards in the main game.
Each card represents different attacks based on weapons from the game. Each card is marked with a pattern that shows how much turf it will cover when you put it down – the idea is to cover the most squares in your colour after 12 turns to win. The new addition offers a genuinely fun alternative to the standard shooter game modes, and I think you’ll still be playing TableTurf by the time Splatoon 4 is announced!
Making their triumphant return are regular Splatfests; events where players declare their allegiance to one of two teams and duke it out over a weekend to earn clout. Unlike the previous two games though, Splatoon 3 adds an additional team into the mix to go head-to-head (-to-head!) against one another. The first 24 hours of a Splatfest play out with the usual 4v4 matchups, but on the second day of the festival, Tri-Colour battles are unlocked.
These battles have all teams together on one map in a 2v4v2 battle, with the leading team having a full complement of Inklings and the other two teams having a pair of players each. It’s an exciting take on the established experience, and while having three teams vying for turf, it still needs work as the system can be easily gamed. If your team has the highest proportion of votes then you’ll be given more chances to win battles and secure more clout. Nintendo is working on this, so we do expect to see improvements over the coming years.
Where Splatoon 3 does deserve its praise is through its soundtrack. The series has always been heavily influenced by electronic samples with distorted J-Pop lyrics creating some of the most upbeat bangers ever seen in a Nintendo game. ‘Anarchy Rainbow’ which plays in the town square during Splatfests is the perfect example of this, the track showcases just how talented the music team is, as it brings together a mess of multiple genres including electronica, J-Pop, funk, and a smattering of Carnival spirit from Brazil, and combines them to make a two-day party anthem that even Eyeball Paul would be proud of.
Praise can be lauded in the visual department too. The world of Splatoon has always been an ultra-vibrant affair in which paint manages to bring pops of colour as it slops and slosh around what would otherwise be a dull post-apocalyptic setting. It never gets old seeing a blank canvas at the start of each game, a concrete jungle full of greys and browns, and as soon as the klaxon sounds, it begins to feel alive with thick purples and greens filling up the screen. The Inklings have also seen an improvement, with more customisable options available that haven’t been seen before, such as multiple eye colours and textured jeans.
While the aesthetic items are a given on a series that is dedicated to style and ‘looking fresh’ it also comes as an attempted distraction by Nintendo. Splatoon 3 is very structured when it comes to weapon loadouts – that is you buy a pre-set gun, that comes with secondary and special attacks. There are no temporary buffs or nerfs to guns, or the ability to customise a loadout to suit individual playstyles and while there are additional stats for clothing, Nintendo should have embraced the chaos theme a little more and given players temporary advantages for a few battles, instead of implementing the same old stiff weapon system we’ve seen in the previous two entries.
Nintendo has added some new items to build on the formula though, such as ‘Freshest Fits’, which allow you to save your favourite load-outs and A new locker room has been built into the new look lobby, as well as banners, known as ‘Splashtags’, that are displayed at the beginning of every battle. Items, stickers, and new tags are unlocked through playing various modes or using certain weapons etc., but most will come from the general store and the seasonal catalogue. The catalogue is a new feature that is effectively a free ‘battle pass’ that has been seen in every battle-royale game since the Year Dot.
Sadly, the voice chat continues to be an unenviable mess. Nintendo has dug their heels in about the use of the Nintendo Online mobile phone app which is still required to ‘officially’ process voice chat in Splatoon 3, but why exactly you’d bother with this clunky affair when more robust options like Discord or even Whatsapp are available is beyond me. It’s absolute madness that this is still required in 2022, and from a AAA company launching its third installment to the series.
Success in squad-based shooters is underpinned by good communication, and without dedicated voice chat, you’re left with the simple ‘Booyah’ and ‘ This way!’ pre-fabbed pings that are absolutely no use at all. If Nintendo continues to fear strangers actually talking to one another over voice chat then they at least need to integrate customisable quick-chat options, much like Pokemon Unite does – it’s far from a perfect solution, but it’s infinitely better than what Splatoon 3 offers at present.
Despite us labouring on the negatives, make no mistake that Splatoon 3 is a very fun experience – it’s just that the good bits (of which there are many) all feel rather familiar. Its characters are just as quirky and endearing, its world remains loud, colourful and vibrant, and its gameplay continues to be frantic and incredibly fun. Those are all wonderful positives to be sure, but they’re not especially fresh takes. In the final Splatfest of Splatoon 2, Chaos reigned over Order. This victory should have determined the franchise’s theme going forward and it feels like Nintendo could have leaned into this so much more than they did. The desert environment of the Splatlands seemed like the perfect setting but isn’t utilised outside of the briefest of introductions, and instead is just teased for a moment before Nintendo takes us back into the urban safety net that we’ve seen twice before.
Overall, Splatoon 3’s single-player and tabletop modes are refreshing, but the multiplayer modes and equipment play things super safe. There is a bucket load of enjoyable tweaks to the game, and Splatoon 3 is undoubtedly the most accessible and entertaining entry so far, but issues dating back to the original Wii U version (like voice chat and the stability of the online experience) are yet to be addressed, and after 7 years, it’s starting to wear thin. But despite the negatives, Splatoon 3 is a fresh coat of paint on a tried-and-tested formula and a perfect starting point for those looking to squid-jump into the series.