Splatoon 3 Review (Switch)

Splatoon 3 Review: Still Splatoon

Splatoon 3

Splatoon 3 may well end up being the game released in 2022 that I play the most. Even seven years after the series began, its formula of short matches that give you something to do in a shooter other than try to kill your opponents is a winning one that I can play for a few minutes or hours at a time. Despite this, it’s also a game which doesn’t noticeably move its series forward, with most of what feels truly new not having a major impact.

 

What Players Expect

 

Splatoon 3

Let’s start off with what you come to Splatoon for. That’s the multiplayer, which is still the same addicting shooter it’s been since the series’ first installment. Two teams of four players all have weapons that spread ink all over the place. The goal is to cover as much of the level in ink as you can within a three-minute period. Whoever has the most covered at the end wins. You certainly can take out your opponents, sending them back to their base and costing them time, but you ultimately don’t win based on kills or deaths.

There are other modes, too, like splat zones where you fight to control specific points on the map, or tower control, where you have to control a moving tower and get it to the other side of the level, but little here is new. There are certainly new weapons, like a rather cool windshield wiper-inspired weapon, as well as new specials like the crab tank, which is difficult to master but can be very powerful in the right hands. These are tweaks, though, fundamentally, this is the same Splatoon we’ve been playing since 2015. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; it’s still incredibly hard to put down.

 

Improvements Around The Edges

 

Splatoon 3

Most of what has changed comes in the form of quality of life improvements. There’s now a test area while you wait for a match instead of just staring at a menu, which is welcome. You can keep teams together now, so you can consistently play with your friends. Unlocking weapons has been streamlined, which returning players will welcome. Most of the updates regarding levels changing over time play in the background instead of locking you into watching several minutes of updates. A lot of it feels like small stuff, because it is, but these are welcome changes. The most significant change from an actual gameplay perspective is that you now start matches in the air, able to land where you want on your side of the map, which makes spawn camping by talented opponents much more difficult and allows for additional levels of strategy, though I’m not sure I love the actual feel of launching from the air.

A new selection of maps is welcome, though only five are truly new to Splatoon 3. Four return from the last game, while another three return from the original. Some of those from the original are very welcome, I’ve missed Museum d’Alfonsino in particular. The choices from the second game are solid as well, and I’m sure more will be on the way, both in the form of new maps and more returning ones. Still, none of the new maps have really stood out as a true favorite for me yet, which is a bit disappointing.

 

Staying Connected

 

Splatoon 3

My biggest issues so far with Splatoon 3 online have just been trying to play. While it’s not unexpected for a popular new shooter, I’ve had far more connection issues in my short time with the game than I ever remember with Splatoon 2, even around the launch of that title. It’s only ever a minor delay, but it still can be a real pain. This past weekend’s Splatfest also seemed like an excellent opportunity to try out the new three-way battles that are supposed to be a part of it, but despite queuing for them for hours, I wasn’t able to get into a single one of these battles. Nintendo noted that they would be hard to come by, but perhaps they might consider making them easier next time.

Perhaps my favorite change in Splatoon 3 is Salmon Run. A horde mode of sorts that was first introduced in Splatoon 2, I was rarely able to enjoy it there because of the strange scheduling choices Nintendo made there. That’s gone now, with Salmon Run available any time, and I’m loving this mode where you take on hordes of enemies and special bosses to earn golden eggs. It’s a delight, and there’s a lot of new content here compared to Splatoon 2 as well. There’s also a new card mode called Tableturf Battle, which is a cool concept, especially because it attempts to translate the actual gameplay of Splatoon into a card game. In practice, though, it’s a bit too simplistic to really grab my attention, and I feel like making it so hard to ink over turf your opponent has already claimed goes against the feel of the core game.

 

You Can Go Alone

 

Splatoon 3

While single-player has never been the focus of Splatoon, each game has had at least a solid solo adventure, and that’s true of Splatoon 3 as well. This time you end up in an adventure featuring characters from throughout the series with you needing to rescue Cap’n Cuttlefish. In a strange underground world, you’ll work through a gauntlet of levels which are all individually designed with unique challenges, giving you set weapons and challenging you to make the most of all the various abilities Splatoon has to offer.

Some of these levels are wildly creative, and they’re connected by a hub world with vast amounts of things to unlock, unique traversal challenges, and more. Some of these collectibles really dig into the world of Splatoon in a way the series hasn’t always highlighted, and I appreciated some additional lore. While I did find it strange that the solo adventure abandons the desert style the rest of the game puts front and center, it’s still a lot of fun. It can even get pretty hard at times, with certain levels with specific weapon choices had me wanting to tear my hair out.

 

Conclusion

 

There’s very little wrong with Splatoon 3. Almost everything it does is done well, and the few minor complaints I have are likely to be fixed or involve a card game that most players will likely ignore. Its plethora of quality-of-life changes means this will almost certainly be the best game in the series going forward and the place for new players to jump in. Right now, though, if I have to pick between those quality of life changes or the larger amount of content in Splatoon 2, that’s not as easy a choice as it should be because the gameplay hasn’t evolved in any major way, and little of the new content truly stands out. Which means that while I can easily recommend Splatoon 3 to series devotees desperate for new content and new players needing a good starting point, anyone who falls in between may want to wait for the game to be fleshed out before diving in.


Final Verdict: 4/5

Available on: Switch (Reviewed); Publisher:  Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo EPD; Players: 8; Released: September 9th, 2022; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $59.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Splatoon 3.

Andrew Thornton
Andrew has been writing about video games for nearly twenty years, contributing to publications such as DarkStation, Games Are Fun, and the E-mpire Ltd. network. He enjoys most genres but is always pulled back to classic RPG's, with his favorite games ever including Suikoden II, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Phantasy Star IV. Don't worry though, he thinks new games are cool too, with more recent favorites like Hades, Rocket League, and Splatoon 2 stealing hundreds of hours of his life. When he isn't playing games he's often watching classic movies, catching a basketball game, or reading the first twenty pages of a book before getting busy and forgetting about it.

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