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Review: Splatoon 3 (Nintendo Switch)By juzzy At 20.09.2022 11:22

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Splatoon 3 came at the perfect time. Nintendo is in hot form at the moment, and the recent Direct presentation implied that their streak won't be coming to an end anytime soon.

The Splatoon series is Nintendo's answer to the shooter genre; a family-friendly affair that sees players firing ink instead of bullets, with the aim of painting as much of the map as possible. Traditionally, two teams compete to this end, vying to be crowned the one with the most dominant display of making a mess. There's much more to it than that, though, with a charming personality and a brilliant display of mechanical perfection tying the experience together.

The joy of Splatoon 3 is not only in its mechanics but in its concept as well. This latest entry has polished the existing formula to a sheen. Everything feels tighter, whether in the well-balanced gunslinging, the more intuitive and well-formulated maps or while swimming through ink recently splatted on the floor by you or your teammates. Splatoon 3 is a joy to play, with an accessible online mode making it fun for players of almost any age.

It's graphically delightful, too. The visuals have been tightened to the limits of the Switch's capabilities while retaining a frame rate of 60fps; ink is gorgeously glossy and the calculated visual effects serve to heighten the immersion even further.

In a practical sense, this amounts to only a minor variation in the overall formula between Splatoon 2 and Splatoon 3 - this sequel is more a refinement than an evolution. This is easy to overlook, however, as it remains as novel an experience as it was when the first Splatoon launched on the Wii U 7 years ago. If it ain't broke…

The headline change in Splatoon 3 is the inclusion of an overhauled single-player experience. Single-player has never been a strong point in the series - until now, that is. Splatoon 3's campaign features bite-size levels that take the game's mechanics and push them to their limits, with a stream of shooter-platformer levels that do a great job of getting players to think outside the box. As such, it's great not just for drawing players who prefer a solo experience, but also those who are looking to discover new ways to manipulate Splatoon's mechanics. It's exactly what a single-player experience of this nature should be.

This deep dive into the mechanics is excellent fun, with each new level feeling very different from the last. The way the campaign is structured allows you to play missions in virtually any order after completing the starting area, with 6 distinct islands to conquer. You can spend time on each island, clearing all the missions and unlocking fun collectibles, or just steamroll your way through the optimal path to the next island. There's a lot of freedom here, and the fact that each level is unique means it's easy to get sidetracked as you hunt down every last mission in the campaign.

Despite the vastly improved single-player experience, multiplayer is very much still the meat of Splatoon 3. There are welcome quality-of-life changes here: the exciting Salmon Run mode is now available 24/7, and weapons have been balanced to something closely approximating perfection. The seemingly endless slew of customisation options make even the moments between battles feel rewarding, and there are some fun new weapons, too, including a new class known as 'Splatanas'. No points for figuring out what they can do. Needless to say, it never gets old dashing through foes with a well-timed sword swing, even if the ink coverage of this class isn't the best.

Topping off the new additions is the inclusion of Tableturf Battle - a new collectible card game experience which combines Splatoon's Turf War mode with Tetris. Each card takes up a certain shape on the playing board, and you must battle a single opponent to slot shapes into the most possible squares. The player with the best coverage wins. It's a smaller addition that likely won't see the majority of player traffic, but collecting new cards while playing Splatoon 3's other modes is something extra to do, which doesn't go amiss in an already lively experience.

Splatoon 3 revels in its own personality with a delight that is simply contagious. This is evident in the unique setting and cast of quirky characters, but it's the player base that truly makes the experience what it is. Strolling through the lovingly-crafted hub world and admiring the artwork that other players have created simply doesn't get boring. It's interactions like these that help the experience to feel like more than the sum of its parts.

All this being said, long-time players of the series may feel that something is lacking - perhaps something sizeable to shake up the formula they've known and loved since 2015. The overhauled campaign is a step in the right direction, but despite the undeniable charm of Splatoon 3, many may feel it falls shy of warranting a whole new entry in the series. It's fair to say it doesn't take any risks, which is out of character for a shooter whose existence is predicated on a big risk Nintendo took almost a decade ago.

That isn't to say that Splatoon 3 is a let-down - far from it. It's the most compelling entry in the series yet, but for those who've been enjoying the series for a while, you may be struck by how safe it feels. A minor point to be sure, but one hopes that if Splatoon 4 rolls around - which it very likely will given the incredible success of this entry - there's something new to take this existing formula even further into greatness.

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Final Score
[i]Splatoon 3[/i] is a delight. For long-time fans, you know what you're getting. It's more of the (admittedly excellent) same, albeit with tighter mechanics, some welcome balances and a brilliantly overhauled campaign experience. The changes here do not miss, but it could be argued that's because this entry ultimately plays it safe. If you enjoyed the first 2 Splatoon titles, you will love this. If you've never played Splatoon before, you will be absolutely charmed by what's on offer. If you were looking for something wholly different from what's come before… you may be left wanting. Nevertheless, [i]Splatoon 3[/i] is a very, very good shooter whose novelty makes it easy to recommend.

8

/10

User Comments
#1 Flynnie - on 20.09.2022 at 23:21

I just wish there was a bigger selection of multiplayer levels, I feel like they have reused far too many levels from the previous games with only a handful of news ones put in. It is still great fun, but I am a little bit disappointed with the lack of new levels!


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