Splatoon 2 is just over a month from release, and during the first day of E3 2017, we got our hands on the game's new horde-style co-op survival mode, Salmon Run. After playing through the mode (including a few botched attempts), the thing that stood out the most is just how challenging Salmon Run can be.
In Salmon Run, you work together in teams of up to four to collect Salmonid eggs. The mode is split up into three waves. Each wave gives the team a quota of eggs to collect, as well as a time limit. The goal is to defeat enemies, causing them to drop eggs. You must then haul those eggs back to the basket. If you meet your quota (and you're still alive) when time expires, all remaining enemies retreat and you move on to the next round.
The first time we started up, the difficulty was set to 5% out of a possible 100%. Despite this, some of the boss characters proved tricky for us to take down. The first heavy Salmonids we encountered had armor in the front, so we had to distract it out front while one of our Inklings flanked it to blast ink at its exposed backside. While that creature did little to trouble us, the two of these creatures in tandem served as an effective distraction. While all fire was focused on this creature, an influx of minions surrounded two of our players, incapacitating them and putting our team in dire straights early on in our first attempt. When Inklings take too much damage in Salmon Run, they can be revived by a teammate shooting them with ink.
After we took out the two heavies and deposited the eggs into the basket, another boss character emerged. This time, it was in the form of a tall, slender creature approaching from the shoreline. I quickly swam through the ink layered on the ground to see that he was just pots stacked on top of each other. I began blasting away at the bottom pot, causing it to disappear and the creature to shrink. I continued taking the pots out from under him until he was reduced to nothing, not unlike how I used to do to the Pokey enemies with Yoshi in Super Mario World. With the second boss out of the way, we cleaned up the rest of the minion Salmonid that surrounded us until the timer ran out for the wave.
Wave two followed much in the same way, but the bosses were much more difficult. The first boss to emerge was a massive metal eel. At first, the eel seems invulnerable to our attacks. The eel rains down hostile ink, taking out some of our teammates. Once the eel serpentines its way past you, however, we can see that it is being driven by a Salmonid creature. We immediately blast the operator, destroying the eel and dropping eggs. Another boss appears, this time with two trashcans attached to the side. The boss hovers over the battlefield, seemingly invincible. Suddenly the trashcan opens and it rains down blobs of ink onto us, taking out all by one of us. While this boss spelled our doom in each of our last two attempts, we learn that you can take him out by tossing bombs into the open trashcans.
Though enemies appeared in greater numbers in wave three, we were in a rhythm and took the wave as a victory lap. This wave was particularly easy since we had all saved our ultimates (each player gets two total ultimate uses to deploy over the course of the three waves). We retrieved the rest of the eggs and wiped out the rest of the enemies to claim our victory.
Following our triumph at 5%, we wanted to put Salmon Run's difficulty to the limit. The Nintendo representative giving our demo said that 40% was the highest difficulty people on the Nintendo E3 team could beat. We decided to set the difficulty on 100% just to see how overwhelming it can get. Right from the start, a huge group of blindingly fast Salmonid creatures unlike anything we saw in our 5% run swarmed us and annihilated our entire team. The image you see below is a screenshot from one of our phone's stopwatch app showing how long we lasted.
Salmon Run is a short, but fun co-op mode. I had a lot of exciting moments spread across the three brief rounds, and working together with a full group of four was a blast. I was worried going in that the mode would prove too easy for seasoned Splatoon players, but clearly that is not the case.
In addition to Salmon Run, Splatoon 2 also features a single-player Hero mode, the popular competitive team-based multiplayer modes, and various Amiibo challenges. Splatoon 2 hits Switch on July 21.