Saturday 9 May 2015

Splatoon Global Testfire Impressions [Gaming]

Today has been all about one certain game, that I'm surprised no-one has dubbed the day Splatterday. The Splatoon Global Testfire announced in Thursday's Direct has finally come to an end. And it has greatly made me look forward to the game even more. In fact, I was so interested in the game, I set a little something up. With no capture card available, I had to pull out my camera and get it on the tripod, but I recorded footage of five matches. Part One and Part Two of the Splatoon demo show off the four primary weapon types, as well as a look at the sub and special weapons, two of the maps available to play on, as well as gameplay in general.
So, let me give an insight to my day. From about 10am Friday, when I first woke up, I was eagerly awaiting the chance to play this game. But was on the edge about whether or not to record footage. In fact, I was on the edge about whether or not to stay up at all. Four o'clock in the morning is not a laughing matter. But, I stayed up. One, because it is something limited, and it's also a new IP. Two, having now officially finished university for the year, I felt I deserved a celebratory game of something new. This demo fit the bill nicely. But I was still on edge about recording. In the end, it was getting near to two o'clock in the morning, I was having a few races online in Mario Kart 8, and thought - why not? Since I wanted to stay online, the set up and figuring things out took a long time. And the cheap touchscreen of the camera would not respond, which wasn't a problem compared with its abysmal battery life. Once I figured how to get the audio done right, and had the camera aimed reasonably well, I managed four pretty good recorded races, as well as one which was plainly the camera's fault.
It was nearing four, so I ended up the current race I was on, swapped out to the Global Testfire app, and waited on the menu screen. When four o'clock hit, I triggered the start. It took about two minutes to get in, but the connection allowed me in. I think it was staggering the amount of connections joining at the same time, as I've read elsewhere others got in instantly while others had to wait longer. Even so, after getting in, the screen to choose a boy or girl, followed by skin colour, followed by eye colour, gave way to a tutorial on how to play the game. I found the controls easy enough to get to grips with, though uncomfortable at first. The double aiming is something that takes a bit of getting used to. After the tutorial, it was weapon select time. Jumping straight in with the Splattershot, the matchmaking began and almost instantly hit me up with seven others. The game itself is easy enough to play. Just cover the ground in allied ink while avoiding enemy ink. The weapons are responsive and easy to use, as is controlling your character. After a few games with the Splattershot, I swap to the Charge Shot. I think I spent the least amount of time with this weapon. It's not that it isn't any good, but the way to use it wisely is different. With the other weapons you can pretty much charge straight in. The Charge Shot requires a more slow approach. As the name suggests, you have to charge up the shot, but the range is greater than any other weapon so, depending on your aim, a lot more ground can be covered while standing still.

I continued to swap about between the weapons before ending back with the Splattershot for the last few matches. If I had to give the weapons real world likenesses, the Splattershot would be a repeating rifle, the Splattershot Jr. a pistol, the Charge Shot a sniper rifle, and the Roller... more a vehicle than a weapon. In terms of what weapons I prefer, the Splattershots would be highest with the Charge Shot the lowest. This, of course, isn't taking into account the sub and special weapons. While I didn't use all the subs and specials, they do change the match up a bit. A bomb can be deployed to burst on impact, or another one is a timed bomb, which will go off after a few seconds. In terms of specials, the shield was helpful, and the ability to share it with others even more so. The killer wail is a weapon that will cover ink in a straight line from wherever it is aimed to the end of the map. See one of these deployed, and you'd better get out from its sights.
The two maps that were availble to play on were Saltspray Rig and Walleye Warehouse. Of the two, I'd say Saltspray is the better of the two. Don't get me wrong, Walleye is a great map, but there is only really one large focus point in the middle. With Saltspray, there are three major corridors of action. There is also more in the way of verticality with Saltspray as well. The bases are raised above the lower areas, meaning no-one can access them once they leave. Platforms rise and fall between south and north paths. There are a lot of ramps and slopes.

Back to my day - after the matches, I was impressed with the game itself. Transferring the videos from my camera to computer was the last thing I did before going to sleep. But I was still left with a question. It's alright playing for an hour and enjoying it, but how long can it really last? After roughly five hours' sleep, I was up again and ready to play for a second time. I hadn't even reviewed the footage I'd got, trusting it to be good. But the game, and that question, were more important than checking on the footage. The footage is just an extra - this impression is what counts. And so I go in for a second hour. This time, I had motion controls disabled. The right stick was now fully in control of aiming. It felt natural enough to play in this way. While not offering the presise motion of a mouse, the right stick on its own worked as well as the gyroscope had done. Except it now worked without the stress or shake of hands. It had the slight effect of meaning the jump and turn couldn't be executed as well, but a small price to pay. With the second hour over, the question was answered. There is enough in this mode, and various enough playstyles, to keep it fresh. I never felt like any two matches repeated themselves almost exactly. Jumping back into the play after respawning [or while elsewhere] with the super jump also meant teams could converge on each other to push the barrier of the other team if they so chose. But then this is where things start to fall.
After the second session came to a close, I finally had the time to review the footage. It was mostly like any other off screen recorded footage. Too bright in areas, and looking lower in quality than what the game actually looks like. But, as I explain in the videos themselves, the camera had somehow part recorded itself working as well as the game's audio, meaning the opening of matches where the camera had just started up were full of a buzzing of sorts. In the second part of my gameplay, it had reached a peak so bad I had to remove the audio. Pulling all the footage together, rendering, and uploading it took most of the time between second and third timeslots. When that third timeslot came, I was back on and playing. I took it upon myself to take a note of the map more often than I had been doing. The other team members would work through covering the ground in ink. Sometimes they'd group up, other times they'd go their separate ways. But on keeping an eye on the map, I could see where the other team were gaining an advantage. How they were pulling through our defence. And so while full voice chat isn't neccessary, a little more option for command wouldn't go amiss. There are, currently, only two commands in the game. 'Nice' and 'On Me'. While these are okay in their own right, it still misses out on more important commands. General direction to travel, for instance, or telling team members to go away.
There was one match where I had quickly travelled to the northern grid of Saltspray Rig. I'd covered a good deal of the area, defending it for well over a minute on my own. The other members of my team suddenly appear to help me cover the ground more quickly, leaving the rest of the map open for takeover by the other team. And not one of them apparently noticed. The other team quickly covered ground and surrounded the others of my team. I'd already left the area and was covering ground of my own, but got picked off pretty easy. As I was respawning, the other members of my team were picked off. Now, had there been a command to disperse, or 'go south', would that situation have occurred? I can see why such a command structure isn't in place, but if you're looking at the Gamepad to notice these things, then surely it should follow that you aren't in much trouble. By all means, give people the choice of which commands to map to buttons not in use [the D-Pad, and A and B], but there should definitely be more than two.

Away from that gripe, I can't really see anything affecting the game too badly. Turf War mode will have to do until Ranked Battles and Splat Zones are added, but considering with the full game you'll have the choice of main, sub, and special weapons, as well as more vareity in those, and clothing items that affect your stats, I should think there will be enough to tide most over. There are three maps yet to play on, but if those are as good as the two on this demo, the game should have a small but great selection of maps to wage turf war on.
As a recap, the game is easy to play, there is enough replayability to last, everything controls fluidly - even the gyroscopic controls - that you never feel cheated, and the levels and weapons are well crafted to fit the game. The only real negative is that a basic command structure isn't in place.
The end of May sure is going to be a good one.

Oh. Those Mario Kart 8 online matches I said I'd recorded. Look out for another video soon. They will be featured in a way I normally cover videogames.