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Splatoon will take over my summer

Things are looking promising for Nintendo’s new shooter.

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Splatoon

Things are looking promising for Nintendo’s new shooter. Splatoon.

Was it a demo? A beta? Or a bit of both? Whatever you call it, the Splatoon Global Test Fire event demonstrated one thing: we should be excited by Nintendo’s new game.

That a Nintendo game is good shouldn’t come as a massive surprise, but the fact their debut online shooter is such an accomplished title is pretty remarkable.

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Splatoon Global Test Fire was available to play during three hour-long sessions last weekend, with players getting the chance to indulge in a few rounds of the game’s Turf War mode.

First impressions were good. Before jumping into a match a brief tutorial explained the traversal and shooting controls. My initial worries about the Wii U GamePad camera controls were unfounded and after a few minutes of acclimatisation the gyroscopic movements became second nature.

As for the matches, they were riotous and fun. The two maps I played were tight and well-constructed, with dead-ends, short-cuts and choke-points offering plenty of opportunity for tomfoolery. There was also a pleasing sense of verticality, with balconies and gantries offering places to hide and stalk opponents from afar.

Weapon selection made a genuine difference to how I played each match, both offensively and defensively. I particularly enjoyed both the measured approach of using the sniper-like Splat-Charger from high vantage points and the visceral thrill of smothering the ground with the Splat-Roller while my team mates provided cover. Each game was quick, only lasting a few minutes, but nonetheless the balance of power continually shifted back and forth, ensuring a nail-biting conclusion to each match.

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Splatoon’s most impressive concept is found in the connection between shooting and traversal. Every shot fired improves your team’s chance of success, but it also provides you with new paths to move along. It’s an elegant combination of two game-play systems that work in tandem and compliment each other.

In terms of online, connecting to matches was fast and stable. Yes, voice-chat would be nice but the game (and shock-horror, the map on the Wii U GamePad) does a fine job of communicating the ongoing state of play. In fact, the action is so chaotic it’s hard imagine there being much scope for serious strategic chatter.

And, being a Nintendo game, it was refreshing to play a shooter that wasn’t over-serious or pretending to be mature. Splatoon captures the tension of a hard-core shooter but combines it with the child-like thrills of the playground. Just like last year’s Mario Kart 8 I can imagine this becoming my game of the summer.

So, a big thumbs up?

Well, yes, but with a slight note of caution. Last week’s Splatoon Nintendo Direct revealed that the game will only launch with a slender roster of five multiplayer maps. In addition, many game modes will not be arriving until a free update in August. It’s extremely disappointing news.

Out of the box Splatoon does include a single-player campaign, Amiibo integration and a multitude of customisation options, but it remains to be seen if this will make up for the paucity of content elsewhere .

Still, at its core Splatoon is just what you’d hope a Nintendo shooter would be. Let’s hope it receives the support required to make it an essential purchase.

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Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Paper Mario: The Origami King, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe.

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