e3 2014

Hands On With Nintendo's Splatoon [Trailer Added]

by Bryan Vore on Jun 10, 2014 at 06:53 AM

We got some hands-on time with Nintendo's 4-v-4 ink shooter and discuss our thoughts on the game.

Kyle: Nintendo is finally readying a brand new IP after what seems like far too long. It's a shooter, but it's a Nintendo shooter, which is to say it sort of rests near the genre as opposed to being inside of it. We got to play a few matches and while it felt and sort of controlled like a third-person shooter, its goals are radically different.

Jeff: That's a great way to put it. Unlike traditional shooters, where your goal is to destroy your enemies as many times as possible, the victory condition in Splatoon is spewing more paint than the other team. Sure, you're encouraged to take on your opposing paint-spewers when you see them running around, but you actually do more for your team by being smart and aware of what areas need a good coat of paint. OK, technically it's ink, because your characters – cartoony people – also turn into squid.

Kyle: The characters are... interesting. All we saw and played was the four versus four mode, which didn't lend much personality to the characters at all. I asked if there was a story or a planned campaign mode, but Nintendo carefully stated, "All we're talking about today is this multiplayer mode." They sort of look like children who have squid tentacles for hair. I'm excited to have a new person to add to Nintendo's roster of characters, but right out of the gate, they were kind of forgettable.

Bryan: One of the most unique elements of the game is transforming into a squid and swimming through all of your team's ink quickly. It refills your ink supply, and lets you climb up walls to reach higher areas for sniping and such. You're also completely invisible so you can pop out and shoot someone in the back.

Kyle: I had fun with the gameplay. There were a lot of mechanics I really appreciated and embraced immediately. Your map appears on the bottom screen, giving you a visual representation of how much paint you have splattered over the level, and where your teammates are. If you tap a buddy, your squid-person will be immediately launched to that location. If you want to be part of the action, it's just a tap away, which is awesome, but you will still be useful even if you're away from the action just painting the ground. I also really liked that you don't actually learn who won the match until the end. Other than seeing the map gather color on the gamepad, there is no numerical qualifier for who is in the lead, which means you end up just focusing on the painting and helping your friends. The way the final score is tallied at the end really puts you on your toes too as you watch the percentages gather, unsure of who will be called the winner. The shooting controls, however, could probably use some work.

Jeff: Yeah, that was definitely my biggest overall complaint with the demo. There were two control schemes available in the demo, and neither one worked well for me. The tilt controls were OK, but I usually prefer using the right analog to look around. Unfortunately, the analog stick was horrible at controlling the camera. I play a lot of shooters, and Splatoon made me feel like I'd never played a single one before. There's a certain amount of sloppiness baked into the controls, since you're spraying paint through a hose-like gun, and it's not the most precise tool by design. That said, I need to feel more in control. I found myself looking wildly at the floor and sky at the least-opportune times, barely in control of where I was aiming. Maybe it can be fixed by tweaking sensitivity controls that weren't at my disposal. I hope so, because I like the basic idea.

Bryan: Agreed on the controls. I immediately wanted to get rid of the gyroscope controls and was surprised to find the analog controls were even worse. I imagine they had to have done plenty of play testing. What human could enjoyably play with either of these terrible setups?

Kyle: We're a little spoiled by the control schemes of games and developers that live in the genre. I think at the state we played the game, the overall mechanic is very fun, which is arguably the most important part, and the controls are – hopefully – just a matter of making tweaks and adjustments until they feel accurate. I walked away from the game excited at the prospect of playing the game with groups of friends, and I am hopeful the characters will gain more personality as we get to spend more time with the game.