I like online shooters, but they're getting to be kind of beat. Historically, I've enjoyed my fair share of Call of Duty and Halo, and even some off-brand multiplayer (Dukematches in Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?) But lately, all these years of enjoying different titles has taken its toll. Most major shooters are starting to ape one another. Most online players are insufferable jackasses. Most leveling systems, perks, weapons and game types are starting to bleed into each other. I'm bored, basically. Bored of the same-ness and bored of the communities that grow around these games.
Imagine my surprise, then, that Nintendo ended up releasing the solution to every single problem I have with playing shooters online, and then some.
Splatoon never really fired up much interest in me when it was first revealed. A squad-based multi-player shooter that looked to basically be a cuter, friendlier version of Team Fortress 2? Yeah, no, I thought I'd pass. But initial hype from on-sight E3 demos and more promotion in the months following the big reveal got me intrigued in the unique mechanics. Covering turf in ink, swimming in that ink, and turning into a fucking squid sounded like a goofy, fun time. Plus, those amiibo were godly and I needed all of them. I ended up getting it on launch day, expecting a fun, quirky diversion that wouldn't have much longevity.
I'm happy to report that I was wrong as wrong can get.
With 2015 coming to a close, the hype train for Splatoon is still going strong, while titles like Halo 5 and Star Wars Battlefront that only launched a few months ago are already in their death throws. This, coming from a publisher who has been routinely roasted for its alleged inability to put out a decent online game. Despite. Y'know. Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8. But I digress. Point is, a publisher often criticized for its online additions to the gaming landscape ended up making perhaps the best online shooter I've played. Considering I've been playing them my whole life, that's pretty high praise.
What makes Splatoon work so well? In my review back in May, I argued that it was pretty much a combination of everything. For starters, it's not just a shooter. It's a platformer, shooter, and a handful of other things, skillfully blended together with Nintendo's signature panache for art direction and music. Then there's the fact that there's the utmost attention given to balancing the game to make sure everyone has fun. Over the year, I've seen overpowered weapons get nerfed, weaker weapons get buffed, and everything in between, resulting in a game where there practically isn't a bad weapon. Some high-leveled players use the starter weapon and dominate whole matches, while theoretically strong weapons are useless in the hands of people who don't know how to use them. Unlike most multiplayer shooters, you don't see a few select weapons repeated throughout dozens of matches. Everyone's almost always using something different, meaning players have to not only learn how to get good with what they like, but learn how to survive against every weapon type.
And there are plenty of weapons to choose from, too, because the biggest praise I heaped upon Splatoon in May still rings true: the sheer amount of content. These days, every shooter launches with a season pass and a bunch of other extra shit that costs more money. Not Splatoon. This is a game that's received a huge amount of content post-launch, from maps to weapons to gameplay modes, and it's all been free. In less than a year, Splatoon has gone from an excellent title with a decent bit of a content to an excellent title with a staggering amount of content, and it hasn't cost an extra cent. That's not even mentioning the fun single-player, the excellent amiibo capabilities, and the fun, cutthroat SplatFests. There's just so much here, and way more here than most 60 dollar titles these days.
Oh, and the limited communication is nice, too. No angry man-children yelling about how they're going to do awful things to you, your mother, or anybody else in your life. Which is a plus!
Splatoon is the best multiplayer game I've played this year, and perhaps the best I've ever played. With a smattering of extra content still in the pipeline and an active online community, it's a title I'll be playing for a long while. And if, at some point down the line, there's paid content offered, I'll gladly buy it. Because the core title is strong enough to feel like nothing's missing, and any extra money spent would just be extra content, not content cut off to cynically exploit consumers.
Which, and this should go without saying, is how it ought to be.
Read my original review for Splatoon here!