When the original Splatoon launched on the Wii U two years ago, the game felt a bit like an unfinished product. Launching with a skimpy single-player campaign and just five multiplayer maps, many were disappointed the title didn’t have more packed into it. After all, the gameplay itself was stellar and swimming around piles of ink was re-inventive of the shooter genre. Fortunately, Nintendo continued supporting the title with free updates. By the time support for Splatoon came to an end, the game had tripled its number of maps and greatly expanded its catalog of weapons. Splatoon 2 still features much of the same gameplay mechanics of the original, but new maps, modes, single-player campaign, and promised DLC ensure that this title will surpass even the original.
Like with the first title, the main draw of Splatoon 2 comes in the form of its multiplayer gameplay. This time, the game features eight maps, albeit two of them were DLC maps for the original game. Nevertheless, the number of maps was enough to keep me from getting bored, though the map rotation system meant that sometimes I would inadvertently end up playing in the same locale for three or four matches in a row. The map rotation has been sped up to a higher frequency though, so I would regularly find myself playing on a new map pretty quickly if I ever found myself getting bored.
The map designs were crafted in a both robust and intricate fashion. On one hand, the designers threw in a bunch of environmental mechanics into the maps, like sponges and ink railings, which added to the variety of the maps themselves. On the other hand, the maps were designed with intricate paths outside the main splatter zone. Oftentimes, I found firefights were going on in the middle of the map while I was sneaking off in a side passage onto enemy territory. Not all maps have the same amount of depth, but I appreciated the various avenues that were open to me as a player other than running and gunning through the middle of the map.
Splatoon 2 also features an all new single-player campaign. Set two years after the events of the first game, the campaign feels beefier than the original, but features a similar number of levels. The bosses were a highlight of the mode, but the rest of the levels weren’t too memorable. I also took issue with the fact that most stages only allowed me to use a single type of weapon on my first playthrough. I loved trying out some of the new weapons, like the Dualies or the very interesting Splat Brella; however, I couldn’t stand the fact that the game was shoving a Splat Charger into my hands every few levels. The game was obviously trying to get me to demo out its robust set of weapons, but this came with frustration. I am a strong believer that developers should not sacrifice player choice, and it was strange that on my first playthrough I was restricted to just a single weapon in certain levels.
The best addition to Splatoon 2 was by far the Salmon Run mode. The mode is similar to a horde (zombie?) mode, where four players team up to repel waves of enemy (undead) salmon. The mode was an absolute blast to play, requiring hectic but united coordination between teammates. Out of all the modes, Salmon Run was the one that felt like it needed voice chat the most. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try out SplatNet 2 because it doesn’t launch until the game does, so I’m not yet sure how well it works. Nevertheless, even playing without voice chat was a high point of my time with Splatoon. One of the best design decisions the developers made was constricting each game to just three rounds. As players beat Salmon Run repeatedly, they rank up, unlocking more difficult runs with an increasing number of enemies. Whereas in other horde-like modes, players have to rerun the boring initial waves, again and again, Salmon Run says goodbye to easy levels once you rank up for the third time. I loved the time I spent with Salmon Run so far, and I will update this review once I’ve had a chance to run through more difficult stages with a few mates using voice chat.
Splatoon 2 is a stellar package already, but I am increasingly excited for the support it will receive after it launches. We already know Nintendo is taking competitive Splatoon seriously, given its invitational at E3, so the addition of LAN play and a spectator mode shouldn’t be a surprise. Moreover, the company’s abundant support of the original Splatoon paints an optimistic future for its sequel. Nintendo is putting together a vibrant and active online community not really seen outside of a game like Pokemon, and to a lesser extent Smash Bros. and Mario Kart.
Those that played the original Splatoon will find the sequel feeling familiar. The intuitive mechanics are still as addictive as the first time around, but a larger number of maps and the addition of Salmon Run cements Splatoon 2 as an excellent standalone value. Moreover, the addition of competitive features and promise of ongoing support will ensure players will stick with the game for a while. After all, it was hard enough for me to stop playing online long enough to recommend the game to you.