Caution: Wet Paint

The third iteration of Nintendo’s simple but satisfying splat-based shooter is upon us, and Splatoon 3 takes the formula fans of the series have come to love and cranks it up a notch. From the very beginning of the series, Splatoon’s formula just worked and thankfully not much in that arena has changed. Quick action-packed matches, tons of fun gear to mess around with, and of course that signature Splatoon visual style is all on offer here and combines to make this new version the best Splatoon yet.

Right off the bat, longtime fans of the series will notice a major improvement in the news update show. Now, after a short period of time, players can click in the right stick to switch to “Podcast Mode” which allows you to listen to the update instead of clicking through the full presentation. I’m always a huge fan of getting into the action faster, so this is a big plus in my book.

MSRP: $59.99
Platforms: Switch
Price I’d Pay: $59.99

Once players are in they’ll be dropped into the new City Hub, which allows them to run around to various shops or game modes while checking out fellow players and their artistic talent (or lack thereof). If running around the city to get to where I wanted to go wasn’t my style, I could also press the menu button (x) to pick which store/game area I wanted to warp to.

Once players are ready to start splatting, they’ll find all the standard Splatoon game modes on offer here. Of course, the heart and soul of the series is Turf War, the all-out battle to cover more of the arena with paint than the other team. This mode is largely unchanged. While that’s generally great news (since there are few multiplayer shooters that have as successfully nailed the combination of fast-paced action and suspense that it is built on), I do wish they would move away from only having two maps on rotation at a time. With 12 total maps on offer at launch, a moving rotation of 3 or 4 would have kept things a little fresher match to match.

Also returning is the always enjoyable SplatFest, where players plant their flag in the ground on one of a series of ridiculous choices and battle for supremacy with other like-minded people (squids? Squid-people?). The first SplatFest this year is running now, and it involves choosing which you would bring along to a deserted island: gear, grub, or fun. While the mode is a blast as usual, I did find that my times between matches were longer than I expected. I was frequently topping out around 60-70 seconds between matches, which doesn’t sound like much but feels a lot longer when the rounds themselves are only 2 minutes long.

Of course, the online action is only as fun as the weapons players get to wage squishy squid war with and Splatoon 3 has a host of really unusual and interesting implements to choose from. All the classics are present here still, from melee type weapons like the Octobrush and the Paint Roller which allow players to put down massive amounts of color in a short range around thier feet to the longer range weapons like the Splat Dualies (introduced in the last game) and the classic Splattershot. New to this version are the bow-and-arrow like Tri-Stringer, which launches a trio of projectiles (with very good range) either horizontally or vertically depending on whether the player is jumping or standing, and the Splatana, a katana like melee weapon that will have people splatting squids left and right like some kind of tentacled Ryu Hayabusa. There are some new skills on display as well and a host of new special moves, which characters can charge by splatting the environment or fellow competitors. My favorite of the new specials is the Zipcaster, which can have the squid kid zipping around the arena like Spider-Man.

The biggest improvement over the last two games in the series is in the Campaign mode. While the first two games had fun but lackluster offerings for players who wanted to go solo, Splatoon 3 is the first in the series to have what feels like a fully-fledged single player mode. Each stage of the campaign has its own small hub area where players are expected to clear out fuzzy ink to uncover secrets and new levels to challenge themselves on. You’ve got a salmonid companion, Small Fry, tagging along with the player this time and he proves himself worthy of the company by eating the fuzzy ink players come across, assuming they have enough power eggs to feed him of course.

The individual levels themselves are mix of platforming challenges, puzzles, weapon-based obstacle courses, and boss fights (among other, more eclectic outings that aren’t easily categorized). These are nearly universally great and well worth playing all the way through. The story here is also a lot of fun and features some of the favorite returning characters and a large bit of Splatoon lore for hardcore fans. The Campaign mode is definitely my favorite part of this game and would make the game worthy of purchase on it’s own.

Expanding the amount of content available (including the incredibly smart decision to open the horde-mode like Salmon Run game mode up at all times) makes this game the best one yet and one of the most enjoyable multi-player shooters on the market. If you have been a fan of the series in the past, Splatoon 3 is a must purchase.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good
  • Excellent single player campaign
  • Fun new weapons
  • Podcast version of announcements
Bad
  • Still only two maps at a time
  • Times between battles can be long
8.5
Great
Written by
Wombat lives by the code that if you are playing a game from this year, you are doing it wrong. His backlog is the stuff of legend and he is currently enjoying Perfect Dark Zero, Skies of Arcadia and Pong.