What’s Splatoon 3 like for a Splatoon newcomer?

I have long held the belief that a new game in a series needs to do two things to be successful: iterate on the previous titles to satisfy existing fans and be good enough as a standalone product to create new fans.

As you may have guessed by the headline I fall into the latter category, having missed both previous Splatoon games that launched before the latest incarnation simply titled Splatoon 3. Has it managed to create a new fan in me or is this one strictly for those who jumped on the train earlier?

The start of this journey wasn’t the best as the tutorial defaults to gyro controls for aiming. Putting aside my disdain for gyro controls in general, I was using the Hori Split Pad Pro for my playtime, a set of officially licenced Nintendo controllers that do not have gyro functionality.

While gyro can be turned off in the settings menu, this is locked during the tutorial.

This massive pain aside the tutorial is quick and the controls are rather simple. Despite having never played the previous games I am familiar with the core concept of shooting ink both as an offensive measure like a gun, but also as a defensive measure as enemy ink damages you. This system is rather clever as ink on the ground, which you can “swim” through by turning into a squid, is also how you reload your weapons.

It’s a very tight package of gameplay ideas and a nice deviation from the standard firearm-based third person shooters.

This fun with the mechanics is, again, halted by extremely slow game speed. The player character moves and shoots extremely slowly for no real reason I can see. While you swim through ink faster the difference in speed is so negligible that through all my hours of playing the feeling of lethargy persisted.

Once finished with the tutorial I was transported to a hub world where you can interact with the various multiplayer-specific components of the game as well as accessing the singleplayer campaign.

This look at Splatoon 3 will stick to singleplayer as the pre-release copy I have been provided by Nintendo only cover it. When Splatoon 3 launches to the public on 9th September I will be trying multiplayer out along with everyone else.

The singleplayer starts with some character introductions and a smidgen of story but even as a newcomer I didn’t feel left out. With a world as bizarre as Splatoon you can skip over small world / story details when you remember that you’re a squid person fighting a war with ink weapons.

The main thrust of the singleplayer mode is conquering several islands and beating back invading alien fur that instantly kills you upon contact. You need a resource called Power Eggs to destroy the fur and these are rewarded by completing missions.

The variety of these missions just may be the best part of Splatoon 3. The developers really tried to make each unique and even those with similar goals, such as defeating enemies or solving puzzles, differentiate themselves well.

There’s also a great sense of progress as you fight back the fur with the snow-covered islands forming the levels slowly transformed into your own turf where you can freely explore to find upgrades, cosmetics for multiplayer and snippets of lore.

For those worried about jumping into this third game and missing the story, this lore helps to fill things in but that is dependant on your willingness to hunt it down. It may be better to wait for this game to release and just read the completed entries on a wiki or something similar.

That being said, loading into the first level and seeing the Eiffel Tower upside down and embedded in the ground against a backdrop of snow and alien fur does do a lot to excite intrigue.

Unfortunately my happiness with constant progression and the unique levels started to be greatly whittled down near the middle of the singleplayer. Not because the levels were becoming harder, but because the challenges presented to the player started to focus on elements of Splatoon 3 that are the weakest. The pathetic movement and shooting speed of your character, combined with a vertical jump barely higher than a Tic Tac, makes traversal missions and absolute chore.

Missions under strict time limits also feel less like a test of your game mastery and more of a fight with your sluggish character.

Missions requiring precise shooting are also a nightmare. Listen I used to be a crack shot with a PlayStation 3 controller back in school during the (original) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 days, but asking me to be so clinical with controller shooting in a singleplayer game is too much.

It’s a simple fact that the movement and shooting mechanics are not the star of Splatoon 3, the entire squid and ink mechanics are, so it’s a shame when missions are so punishing with the weaker elements, especially with such meagre rewards as easier missions usually provide the same bonuses.

A massive plus side is that Splatoon 3 looks great throughout. The fun cartoon style combined with relatively good fluid mechanics for the ink make it a pleasure for the eyes and, again in singleplayer, the performance held up great on a Nintendo Switch OLED.

The music was a real let down here as is the sound design which I guess could be a bonus if you plan on mostly having he game on mute in handheld mode, or using Splatoon 3 as something you play while listening to music or podcasts.

In the end I had a lot of fun with my time in the singleplayer Splatoon 3 experience. Have I been converted to a fan? Maybe, but the first trailer I see for Splatoon 4 better show that the speed as been doubled.

This is a fun game that’s a blast to turn on and play for 30 minutes to ink stuff up and make progress and I will be playing a bit more especially when multiplayer becomes available.


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