Splatoon 3 feels like a fresh coat of paint for the series, with a new story mode as well as additional weapons, stages and enemies. With the main multiplayer modes largely unchanged compared to Splatoon 2, series veterans may feel aggrieved that there aren’t any substantial upgrades or new game modes. But Splatoon 3 still offers spades of fun and will no doubt be one of the leading multiplayer titles on the Nintendo Switch.
- Short but sweet story mode
- Great variety of weapons
- Salmon Run is now playable 24/7
- Lots of customisation options
- Lack of new multiplayer modes
- Very few major changes from Splatoon 2
- Platforms:Nintendo Switch
- Release date:9 September 2022
- Genre:Multiplayer third-person shooter
In a time where multiplayer shooters are going ‘free to play’ with seasonal updates, Nintendo’s insistence on separate paid-for releases for Splatoon feels a tad old fashioned.
Splatoon 3 does at least feature a new single-player campaign, with delightful bitesize levels that teach you the basics of ink-based combat and platforming.
But the new additions to multiplayer don’t feel quite as impactful for returning players. There are a couple of new weapons and maps, as well as some quality-of-life tweaks such as making the co-op mode Salmon Run playable 24/7, but it’s certainly questionable whether there’s enough content to justify an entirely new game rather than an update to Splatoon 2.
- Bitesize levels make up the story mode
- Act as tutorials for new weapons and mechanics
- Features fun platforming and puzzle segments
Splatoon 3 features the same core mechanics as its predecessors, with your paintball gun not only capable of dealing damage to enemies, but also creating puddles of ink that your character can swim through. It’s an incredibly clever twist on the third-person shooter genre, and still feels delightfully fresh despite the original game launching back in 2015.
Splatoon may be renowned for its multiplayer, but the latest entry also packs in a single-player campaign. And instead of epic-length levels like you’ll find with most shooters, Nintendo has instead opted for a large variety of bitesize challenges that only last a couple of minutes each.
The first few waves of levels act as mini tutorials for specific weapons and mechanics. One early level taught me how to swim in the ink in order to climb up walls and sneak up on enemies. Another tutorial showed me how to use the new bow-like Tri-Stringer, providing me with a great understanding of how to use the new weapon, as well as the confidence to use it the next multiplayer session against more challenging opponents.
Importantly, Nintendo has made sure these levels don’t feel too much like a conventional, tedious tutorial. Rather than focusing solely on one mechanic, it’s also added in some fun platforming and puzzle challenges.
As you progress through the campaign, you’ll encounter more difficult challenges. One had me attempting to shoot targets as I grinded down a twisting rail – miss a target, and it’s game over. This is so difficult that inexperienced Splatoon players may struggle to reach the finish line. Fortunately, Nintendo has made the vast majority of levels optional in order to make it both accessible and appealing to any gamer regardless of their skillset.
To progress through the game, you’re required to collect power eggs. Completing any level will reward you with a bounty of the eggs, with the quantity determined by the difficulty of the challenge. That means there’s a great incentive to try and tackle the more difficult levels, while less experienced players can still progress if they stick to the easier missions.
Boss encounters (and some late game missions) are the only compulsory levels you need to complete. The boss encounters were really creative, requiring you to use Splatoon’s unique inky mechanics rather than simply pulversing the enemy with bullets, as you would in Call of Duty or Doom.
The story revolves around Gramps, who has seemingly been kidnapped by a mysterious menace. You’re tasked with clearing some fuzzy gunk off the island, in order to find and rescue your ally. There isn’t much depth to the story besides this, with the supporting characters more interested in peppering dialogue with amusing puns than contributing anything meaningful to the cause.
That’s no criticism though, as Splatoon 3 sets an enjoyable lighthearted tone that’s refreshing compared to other gritter and serious shooters. Just like with any other Nintendo game, it has a quirky, family-friendly charm that’s more about the adventure than the destination.
Turf War Multiplayer
- Fantastic variety of weapons
- Shooting gallery encourages experimentation
- Four additional PvP modes will be on rotation
The main focus of Splatoon 3 is on its Turf War multiplayer, which is almost identical to preceding entries. Two teams of four compete to cover the map in as much ink as possible. It’s a delightfully simple concept, yet has an impressive amount of tactical depth.
Should you focus on spraying the battlefield with ink? Or should you try and slow your opponents down by splatting them in the face? And which areas of the map should you concentrate on? All of these dilemmas ensure that teamwork and effective strategies are usually more effective than just being expertly skilled at shooting down targets.
But what’s new to Turf War for Splatoon 3? Not a lot to be totally honest. One minor tweak includes the use of spawner drones, which launches you up in the air so you can choose where to land. This affords you a little more variety in starting positions, rather than just spawning on a platform where you’ll be vulnerable to lurking enemies.
Nintendo has also added in new techniques such as the Squid Surge and Squid Roll, to improve the experience of swimming in the ink. It feels great to speed across the battlefield, and then pop out of the floor to surprise an opponent.
I also appreciate the new Shooting Range, which encourages me to practise my aim and try out different weapons in-between matches. It’s also extremely handy when you’re waiting for your teammates to finish their toilet break.
All of the basic weapons from Splatoon 2 have returned, while the bow-like Stringers and sword-like Splatanas have also been introduced too. I’m impressed with the variety of weapons on offer, from sniper rifles that can shoot opponents from afar to buckets of ink that drench foes in close-quarter combat. I’m also a big fan of the rollers, which prove effective at painting the arena, while mowing down anyone in your path.
There are so many different weapons on offer, each requiring different skills and tactics, that I never once felt the multiplayer was becoming stale. Levelling up will give you access to more advanced weapons, providing a great incentive to perform will in every match. Additional weapons will be made available in post-game updates, just in case you think the generous selection needs to be expanded even further.
There are 12 different maps available, 5 of which are debuting on Splatoon 3. Nintendo has added a lot more verticality for these new maps, although I do wish they were a little more dynamic like the returning maps such as Wahoo World and Mahi-Mahi Resort. Still, I think there’s a great selection here, while Nintendo has promised even more stages via post-game updates.
Other returning game modes include Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker and Clam Blitz. Annoyingly, you have to reach level 10 in order to access these modes, requiring hours and hours of play on Turf War. The upside of this decision is that you’re less likely to have an inexperienced teammate who doesn’t understand the rules of the game, although this could have been achieved with a ranked mode instead.
This trio of multiplayer modes is on rotation, swapping over every hour. Again, I was disappointed that I couldn’t pick whichever mode I fancied playing, although I assume Nintendo has done this to ensure there are plenty of players on every server.
Nintendo hasn’t introduced any new multiplayer game modes compared to Splatoon 2, which I’m personally disappointed by. I was hoping for more content that would justify the leap between Splatoon 2 and Splatoon 3, and a new multiplayer mode would have been perfect. Although Nintendo does have a habit of introducing new modes via post-game updates, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Splatoon 3 does at least have a new playable card game, which is one of the best I’ve played since The Witcher’s Gwent. You’re provided with a starter pack, but can unlock more advanced cards later on, while also levelling up to compete with more difficult opponents. Nobody is going to buy Splatoon 3 just for this new card game, but it’s a surprisingly fun addition which could get you just as hooked as Turf War.
Salmon Run Next Wave
- New Salmon Run features even more enemy types
- Just as challenging as before
- Will be playable at any time
Splatoon 3 also features a new co-op multiplayer mode called Salmon Run Next Wave, acting as a sequel to the co-op venture in Splatoon 2.
Nintendo hasn’t altered the rules or main mechanics for this mode, once again challenging your team to defeat difficult boss enemies in order to collect and retrieve golden eggs. However, there will be an even larger roster of enemies, each with their own special moves that require different tactics to overcome.
I found this co-op mode to be brutally punishing, with teamwork required to ensure you harvest enough eggs before time runs out.
Most bosses can’t be defeated by simply spraying them with ink, so you need to exploit their weakness instead. For example, to take down Flyfish you’ll need to hurl ink bombs inside his open coolers, while Scrapper has armour covering his face but is vulberable at the rear.
You’re also given a random weapon for each round, forcing you to have an all-rounded skill set rather than excelling with one primary paintball gun. Younger children or Splatoon newbies may be intimidated by the challenge, but it’s a great experience for seasoned players who want to work together with friends.
The biggest improvement to Salmon Run is that you’re able to play at any time, rather than being restricted to a set schedule. Finding a day where all of your friends can play together is hard enough already, so it’s great to see Nintendo finally offering more flexibility on this front.
Performance and Visuals
- Looks great on Switch, with lots of bright colours
- Soundtrack is awesome
- No performance issues during review
Splatoon 3 looks fantastic on Switch, especially on my OLED model. It’s one of the most colourful games I’ve ever played, especially when your surroundings are covered with globs of pink and yellow ink.
I’m also impressed with the attention to detail. The puddles of ink react to your footprints and reflect sunlight thanks to its glossy surface. I even noticed the shadows of seagulls flying overhead when playing on maps set in the harbor.
The soundtrack is fantastic too. There are so many catchy tunes that play in the background, while also switching up the intensity when you engage in combat. Even the sound of paint slapping against a wall sounds great, adding to the immersion.
There’s an incredible amount of options for customising your character, whether you’re picking the hairstyle at the start, or purchasing new clothes and accessories later on – you can even customise your adorable little companion creature Smallfry. Certain clothing will give you a stats boost too.
Performance was faultless and just as polished as any Nintendo game I’ve played before. I didn’t notice any technical glitches, and my Switch was never forced to shut down. It’s great to see a game running this smoothly at launch, and is incredibly rare outside of Nintendo.
I did get frustrated by players leaving the 4-minute multiplayer matches early though, as it forces play to end early for everyone else. Nintendo does at least punish guilty players with a points penalty, but I still find the issue to be far too frequent so it’s clearly not deterring players. An obvious fix would be to allow play to continue even once a single player has quit the match, although that would make matches unfairly lopsided.
I’m sure the motion controls won’t be to everyone’s liking too, requiring you to physically move the controllers (or Switch in handheld mode) in order to aim your gun. Fortunately, you can easily switch to a traditional control setup by simply diving into the settings.
Should you buy it?
If you want a new Splatoon single-player campaign:
The biggest difference between Splatoon 3 and its predecessor is the introduction of a new story campaign. It doesn’t take long to complete, but it’s good fun for both newbies and veterans of the series.
You want new multiplayer modes compared to Splatoon 2:
Right now, there aren’t a lot of big changes from Splatoon 2 in terms of multiplayer. Those who own Splatoon 2 may be disappointed by the lack of new content.
Splatoon 3 feels like a welcome fresh coat of paint on its predecessor, with a new story mode, weapons, stages and slight tweaks to multiplayer helping to improve the overall experience.
The majority of the new multiplayer additions could arguably have been introduced in an update to Splatoon 2 rather than a completely new game. It could have done with at least another new multiplayer game mode to make the upgrade to Splatoon 3 feel more worthwhile.
That said, Turf War still offers incredibly good fun, and is a great change of pace from shooters obsessed with kill/death ratios. And with three additional multiplayer modes, a co-op venture and a new card game, Splatoon 3 still has plenty on offer to keep you entertained for the long haul.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Played on Nintendo Switch
Played through the entire single-player campaign
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Splatoon 3 hit stores on 9 September 2022.
Yes, Octolings will be playable from the start in Splatoon 3.