Nintendo EPD / Nintendo
Splatoon 2 is out this Friday and yer man Scullion’s been playing it for the past week. Well, sort of.
You see, I received my review code the day I headed out to Canada to visit my father-in-law, and it turns out my Switch can’t detect his router (it’s fixable but I don’t want to mess about with his stuff).
As such, my online multiplayer experience with the game has been limited to about seven or eight matches that I’ve had while sitting in Ontario malls, connected to the mall Wi-Fi as I’ve waited for Louise to finish shopping.
That certainly isn’t enough to justify a review of the game’s multiplayer aspect, so here’s the deal: having an offline Switch still hasn’t prevented me from rinsing the utter piss out of Splatoon’s single-player Hero mode instead.
Here, then, is my review: not of Splatoon 2 as a whole, but of what you have available to you any time you’re playing without an internet connection (on certain public transport, for example).
The main solo campaign, as in the first game, is Hero mode. Here you make your way through a series of stages, taking out octopus-themed enemies and learning a bunch of new techniques along the way.
There’s a new story this time, one linked to the previous game in a very real way. Fans of the first Splatoon will remember Splatfests, the series of limited-time online battles in which players had to choose a side – cats or dogs, burgers or pizzas etc – and win as many matches as they could to try and help their side win.
Well, the game’s last ever Splatfest divided the community big time, as it asked players to choose between Callie and Marie, the two Splatoon mascots who had become cult favourites by that point.
In an extremely close battle, Marie edged it with just 51% of the share, leaving Callie fans despondent… as well as Callie herself, it emerges.
You see, while fans didn’t realise it at the time, that final Splatfest was actually forming the basis for the next game’s single-player mode, and the story built around it.
After losing the Splatfest, a depressed Callie has gone missing and Marie’s worried she’s ended up in danger. On top of that, the Great Zapfish – the electrical fish that powers all of Inkopolis – has also fucked off again, causing Marie to believe the evil Octarians are to blame for both its and Callie’s disappearance.
Cue you, as the newly recruited Agent 4, tasked with working your way through the new Octo Canyon region (as opposed to the first game’s Octo Valley) and recovering the Great Zapfish, while trying to find out what happened to Callie and inking the complete and utter fuck out of any Octarian knobs who get in your way.
If you played the first Splatoon’s Hero mode the sequel’s will feel similar for the most part. Once again you’re placed in a series of hub areas where you must find each level hidden in the landscape before covering it with ink to activate it. And once again these levels are inhabited by the octopus-like Octarians (some of whom have shields and must be attacked from behind as before).
The level structure should also be familiar, with each stage introducing a new gameplay mechanic to keep things interesting. One minute you’re spraying ink at fan-powered platforms to keep them moving, the next you’re doing stealth-lite sections by avoiding the Octoseekers: massive floating drones with searchlights that unleash inky hell should they see you.
Playing through this mode in its first playthrough will take you around 6 or 7 hours, similar to the first game’s Hero mode, and that’s before you go through again to try and gather the remaining hidden Sardinium and Sunken Scrolls you missed the first time around (each normal stage has one of each: the former is used to upgrade your weapons, the latter reveals more about the game’s lore).
That said, given that the Switch’s handheld nature means you’re more likely to find yourself in situations where you don’t have an internet connection, it’s safe to say single-player gameplay needs more longevity here than it did in the original Splatoon, where it acted more like a tutorial for the ‘main event’ that was online multipayer.
Extra replay value, then, has been added in the form of different weapon types. Whereas there was a whole host of weaponry available to you in the first game’s online multiplayer, the Hero mode restricted you to just one gun, the ‘Hero Shot’ (a modified version of the game’s standard Splattershot).
In Splatoon 2 it initially looks like the same situation as you’re once again given a Hero Shot and told to get on with it. However, once you reach the game’s second world things expand greatly.
At this point you’re contacted by Sheldon, the chap in charge of the weapons shop, who asks you to help him out with some new guns by trying them out so he can collect performance data.
Most of the levels from this stage, then, start with Sheldon picking a weapon for you. This forces you to not only master the Hero Shot, but also other weapons you’ll encounter in multiplayer like the Splat Roller (a big paint roller), the Charger (a powerful sniper-like gun that must be charged first) and the Slosher (just a big bucket of paint, basically).
You’ll even encounter a new weapon or two: early on you’ll get to try out the Splat Dualies, the new dual-wielding guns that let you dive about like you were the star of a John Woo film (or John Goo, if you’d rather).
Some of the Hero mode stages introduce mechanics which are built around the weapons you’re given when you first play them. For example, in one stage you’re given the Charger and are then told that you can use the glowing orbs floating in the sky as grapple points if you can hit them with a charged up shot.
This helps make Hero mode continue to feel fresh as you play through it, as you’re no longer limited to just using a standard gun but are instead given a variety of them.
Here’s what gives it longevity, though: once you finish a stage for the first time you’re then able to play through it again with any of the guns you’ve already unlocked in Hero mode. Some levels are tweaked slightly to accommodate this: that stage with the grapple points adds ink fountains so you can get closer to them and throw bombs at them, which does the same job for some reason.
According to the game’s progress screen, then, a level isn’t considered 100% complete until you:
• Beat it once with the weapon assigned to you
• Beat it with all nine available weapons (once you’ve unlocked them all)
• Found the hidden Sardinium and Sunken Scroll on that level
Doing all this will likely push you well over the 40 or 50 hour mark. This may sound like a bit of a slog, but bear in mind you only really need to finish each level once to ‘beat’ the game. This extra grinding has likely only been put in place for situations when you’re on the move and have no online connection: as such I’ve been really grateful for it while I’ve been on holiday.
Other than Hero mode, what is there to do offline? Not a hell of a lot, really. Even the weapons and clothes shops in the main Inkopolis Square hub need an online connection, mainly because the latter rotate their stock every day and the game obviously doesn’t want you screwing the system by keeping your Switch offline until you can buy all of yesterday’s t-shirts.
There is one more nice little feature you can play offline though: Squid Beatz 2, the arcade game sitting against a wall in Inkopolis Square.
This is a fun little diversion that I ended up putting a couple of hours into: it’s basically a Sound Test that lets you listen to any of the in-game songs you’ve already encountered and therefore ‘unlocked’, but also gives you the option to turn on a rhythm action game where you have to press the D-pad and shoulder buttons to the beat.
In all, Splatoon 2 offers a good amount of content for single-player and offline gamers. While much of the meat of the game remains locked until you connect online, the Hero mode should keep you busy for a while, especially if you’re the sort who won’t mind replaying levels multiple times with different weapons.
While it goes without saying that you really do need to go online to get the most out of it, there should be enough here to occupy you offline on long train or plane journeys. Or when you’re staying at your father-in-law’s house and his router is shite.
Multiplayer – initial thoughts
Let me be clear here: my Splatoon 2 review has now finished at this point. This article was only a review of the single-player element of the game, because that’s the only mode I’ve been able to play in great enough detail to give a verdict on it.
That said, I have been able to play some of the game’s multiplayer content: certainly not enough to include it in the review, but enough to give my general first impressions so you at least know whether or not I’m sold on it.
Long story short, I am. As I mentioned at the top of this article, I’ve managed to get a few online games going by connecting to the Wi-Fi in a couple of malls here in Ontario.
While mall Wi-Fi is notoriously slow, I didn’t notice a single instance of glitching or lag in any of the Turf War matches I played, which to me suggests the netcode is shit hot (though of course it’s still too early for me to definitively say).
Turf War plays exactly like it did in the first game: eight players are divided into two teams of four, and the aim is to cover as much of the floor as possible in your team’s colour of ink. When the time runs out, the team that’s spread the most hue is the winner.
If you’ve played the first Splatoon you know exactly what to expect here. It’s just as addictive as ever, and I’m sure once you level up and unlock new weapons (I got the excellent Splat Dualies when I reached Level 4, but only got to play one match with them before I had to leave the mall) things will get even more entertaining.
There’s also Salmon Run mode, which at the moment is local multiplayer only (but will be made an online event at set times).
Although I wasn’t able to play this on my review copy of the game, I did try it a couple of weeks ago when I visited Nintendo’s UK headquarters and it’s a whole fuckton of co-op fun.
My review embargo for Splatoon 2 says I can’t talk about LAN play, and I’m not sure if my time with Salmon Run counts as that. Just to keep myself safe, then, I direct you to Stephen Totilo’s report on the mode for Kotaku, which I agree with 100%.
That’s it so far: I don’t want to talk too much about the online side of things because I would just be pulling assumptions and guesswork out of my arse. I only want to tell you about what I’ve played: there will be plenty of other Splatoon 2 reviews out there focusing on the online multiplayer, so check out a selection of those to get a general consensus.
Needless to say, if you’ve played any of the Global Testfire demo events or the recent free Splatfest event on your Switch, you’ve probably played as much of the online as me, if not more, and should be in a perfectly good position to decide whether it’s the sort of thing you’d be interested in.
In terms of single-player, though, I’m happy.
Splatoon 2 is available on 21 July, priced £49.99 / $59.99 on the Switch eShop. You can also buy the physical version from Amazon UK.
In order that I could write this review, I received a free copy of the game from a PR. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.
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Thank you Chris Scullion