“Splatoon 2’s” premier mode is it’s competitive online modes, much like its predecessor. Because of this, Nintendo could get away with skimping on the single player experience like, say, “Call of Duty,” but “Splatoon 2” once again has a properly lengthed and enjoyable single player mode.
The campaign is a great place to learn the ropes of “Splatoon 2” by trying out many different weapons. The game forces you to try out different weapons for every level and the level is designed to be played with the weapon you are given. For instance, a level that features sniping faraway targets is designed to be played with the charge shot. But, once the level is completed, it can be played again with any weapon.
There are five different worlds that each have their own set of levels. Each world concludes with a ridiculous sea creature-inspired boss fight. There are two sets of collectables that are hidden in each level: a weapon part and a secret scroll like in the original “Splatoon.” The weapon parts can be used to level up your weapons, but only in the single-player mode. The levels are worth revisiting especially for completionists who are trying to locate all of those collectables. Trying to complete a level designed for a long-range weapon with a short-range one provides a fun challenge for those who are timid about jumping into the online arena.
If you played the original “Splatoon” everything about “Splatoon 2” will look familiar. “Splatoon 2” is derivative, but that’s not a horrible thing since the original game was so different and charming. Nintendo has been releasing deluxe versions of Wii U games for the Switch, and “Splatoon 2” could almost be called a deluxe version of its predecessor. The gameplay, single player, Turf War mode and even the social hub of Inkopolis are all practically identical, but “Splatoon 2” does add some new modes and content to set it apart.
Turf War returns as the main mode for competitive play. These three-minute matches are quick and to the point as two teams of four work to cover the majority of the multiplayer map with their team’s color. It’s largely untouched when compared to the same mode in the last game, apart from the larger arsenal of weapons that can be used and the new maps.
All of “Splatoon 2’s” biggest problem can all be linked to the overall online experience. Nintendo wants “Splatoon” to be a name in esports. Competitive “Splatoon” was even prominently featured in the Switch’s console reveal. But, all of “Splatoon 2’s” barebones online capabilities cater to a casual crowd and doesn’t actually allow for any type of experienced teamwork. Once again, there’s no way to see what weapons your teammates will be using before a match. You can’t even change your weapons in a pre-game lobby. If the lobby isn’t full with eight players before the game starts, the matchmaking fails. It all just seems counterproductive to the game’s mission of competition and is entirely inexcusable by today’s online standards.
Then there’s the issue of game chat. Nintendo has always feared what happens when you bring people together in an online game. The company was pushed kicking and screaming into the world of online gaming, and even now they are afraid of what happens when people play together. There’s still no option for game chat in “Splatoon 2,” but there is the option of a free mobile app that makes it possible to chat with friends. The best thing I can say about this app is that it exists. It’s a terrible option to chat with friends. The screen has to stay on and the phone can’t go to sleep while you’re chatting. The sound quality isn’t good. It’s just a bad solution for a problem that hasn’t been a problem on the PlayStation or Xbox platforms for more than a decade. You’re better off using an app like Discord or even just hopping in a group phone call.
The addition of the Salmon Run mode adds a great challenge for friends that helps ease the pain caused by all of “Splatoon 2’s” archaic online features. Salmon Run is a four-player horde mode where friends can team up to defeat waves of enemies, and eventually a large boss. Like everything great about “Splatoon 2,” there’s a catch. It can only be played in local co-op. There isn’t any online matchmaking. So not only do you have to find three other friends nearby, those three friends also each have to have a Switch and “Splatoon 2.”
“Splatoon 2” is entirely held together by its premise and gameplay. It’s charming. It’s different. It works and it’s fun. But once a closer look is taken at the limitations of the different modes, an embarrassingly outdated set of online features and lack of onboard voice chat that those bright colors start to fade. “Splatoon 2” has the potential to be one of the best games of the year, but Nintendo needs to start taking notes on how modern game makers create an experience for a competitive scene.
7.5 out of 10