Splatoon 3 feels like a fresh coat of paint for the series, with a new story mode as well as additional weapons, stages and enemies. With the main multiplayer modes largely unchanged compared to Splatoon 2, series veterans may feel agggrieved that there aren’t any substantial upgrades or new game modes. But Splatoon 3 still offers spades of fun and will no doubt be one of the leading multiplayer options on the Nintendo Switch.
- Platforms:Nintendo Switch
- Release date:9 September 2022
- Genre:Multiplayer third-person shooter
Nintendo loves to give a creative twist to established video game genres, whether it’s adding banana skins to a racer or flammable footballs in a sports games.
Splatoon is arguably Nintendo’s most creative original franchise in recent years, taking on the multiplayer shooter genre, but trading lethal bullets for globs of paint. Competing over territory with a paintball gun is a clever and unique non-violent twist to an over-saturated genre made up of the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo.
Splatoon 3 is the next entry in the blossoming franchise, and will include a trio of modes including a story campaign, Turf War multiplayer battles and Salmon Run co-op horde battles. That will sound very familiar to those who’ve already played the first two versions of Splatoon, and truth be told, there doesn’t seem to be a huge number of differences compared to the preceding two instalments.
But with a couple of new moves and weapons, as well as a slew of maps, Nintendo hopes there will be enough here to keep returning players entertained.
Nintendo offered me pre-release access to Splatoon 3 to check out the new additions and improvements. Here are my thoughts.
- Bite-sized levels make up the story mode
- Act as tutorials for new weapons and mechanics
- Features fun platforming and puzzle segments
Just like previous entries, Splatoon 3 features a single-player campaign, made up of bite-sized levels acting as entertaining tutorials for advanced moves and weapons.
I was only able to try out three levels during the preview, but one involved learning how to use the new bow-like Tri-Stringer. You’re able to charge up each shot, sending a powerful horizontal wave of paint at your enemies. Fire the bow while in mid-air, and you’ll instead fire a vertical stream of paint which can be handy for dealing optimal damage to enemies.
Each level has a gentle difficulty curve, so you’ll just be striking down standard foes at the beginning. But towards the end, enemies will use shields to protect themselves, requiring more skill with the Tri-Stringer to succeed. Completing the mission gave me a great understanding of how to use the new weapon, as well as the confidence to use it the next multiplayer session against more challenging opponents.
Importantly, Nintendo has made sure these levels don’t feel too much like a conventional, tedious tutorial. Rather than focusing solely on one mechanic, it’s also added in some fun platforming and puzzle challenges. In just three levels I was grinding on rails, scaling up vertical platforms and defeating waves of enemies.
The single-player campaign story will be called “Return of the Mammalians” and so will likely see furry critters facing off against the inklings for the first time. I unfortunately didn’t get to see any glimpses of the story during my preview session, so you’ll have to wait for our final review to find out more.
Turf War Multiplayer
- Turf War remains unchanged beside new spawning mechanic
- Shooting gallery encourages experimentation between matches
- Four additional PvP modes will be on rotation
The main focus of Splatoon 3 is undoubtedly on Turf War, which feels very similar to the experience on Splatoon 2. The 4v4 multiplayer matches still have the same objective of covering the map with as much paint as possible, while also being able to defeat rival players to slow down their progress.
One minor tweak for Splatoon 3 includes the use of spawner drones, which launches you up in the air so you can choose where to land. This affords you a little more variety in starting positions, rather than just spawning on a platform where you’ll be vulnerable to lurking enemies.
Nintendo has also added in new techniques such as the Squid Surge and Squid Roll, to improve the experience of swimming in the ink. It feels great to speed across the battlefield, and then pop out of the floor to surprise an opponent.
I also appreciated the new Shooting Range, which encouraged me to practise my aim and try out different weapons in-between matches – I’m sure this will be extremely handy when you’re waiting for your teammates to finish their toilet break.
Nintendo has confirmed that all of the basic weapons from Splatoon 2 will be returning, while the bow-like Stringers and sword-like Splatanas will be introduced too. Additional weapons will be made available in post-game updates, just in case you think the generous selection needs to be expanded even further.
There will also be plenty of stages on offer, with Splatoon 3 offering a total of 12. Nintendo has once again promised even more stages via post-game updates too.
I wasn’t able to try out any of the other PvP online matches during my preview session, but game modes such as Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker and Clam Blitz will all be available to play, albeit on rotation. It’s a shame that these game modes won’t all be playable at any time, but there still looks to be a great variety.
Salmon Run Next Wave
- New Salmon Run features even more enemy types
- Just as challenging as before
- Will be playable at any time
The third and final game mode I was able to play during the preview event was Salmon Run Next Wave – the sequel to the co-op venture that pits you against waves and waves of enemies.
Nintendo hasn’t altered the rules or main mechanics for this mode, once again challenging your team to defeat difficult boss enemies in order to collect and retrieve golden eggs. However, there will be an even larger roster of enemies, each with their own special moves that require different tactics to overcome.
I found this co-op mode to be brutally punishing, with teamwork required to ensure you harvest enough eggs before time runs out. I found myself splattered to death a number of times, with the huge boss enemies able to squash you like a bug.
You’re also given a random weapon for each round, forcing you to have an all-rounded skill set rather than excelling with one primary paintball gun. Younger children or Splatoon newbies may be intimidated by the challenge, but it’s a great experience for seasoned players who want to work together with friends.
The biggest improvement to Salmon Run is that you’re able to play at any time, rather than being restricted to a set schedule. Finding a day where all of your friends can play together is hard enough already, so it’s great to see Nintendo finally offering more flexibility on this front.
Splatoon 3 feels like a welcome fresh coat of paint on its predecessor, with a new story mode, weapons, stages and slight tweaks to multiplayer helping to improve the overall experience. But from what I’ve played so far, improvements seem to be minor, with no new game modes or signifcant mechanics that you may expect from a threequel.
The majority of the new multiplayer additions could arguably have been introduced within an update to Splatoon 2 rather than a completely new game. As a result, a lot is riding on the single-player campaign as to whether Splatoon 3 represents good value for those who already own Splatoon 2.
That said, I still really enjoyed my short time with Splatoon 3. The Turf War battles are just as fun as ever, while Salmon Run looks to be even more challenging and will benefit from being an ever-present fixture in the multiplayer roster. While it’s too early to give a final verdict, Splatoon 3 has the potential to be one of the very best multiplayer games on the Nintendo S