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Splatoon 3 Preview: Gear up, squid kids!

We've got some splattin' to do.

Splatoon 3 heads to the Switch early next month, and ahead of time Nintendo Australia was kind enough to provide us with hands-on access to its entire package.

Ahead of the game’s full release — and an even closer Splatfest demo experience — we thought we’d take you through each of Splatoon 3‘s three big modes.

Splatoon 3 single-player content

We’ll come right out and say it: while Splatoon 2 felt like more of the original Wii U’s Splatoon, Splatoon 3 is the same in comparison to Splatoon 2. While the latter two titles are (about to be) available on the Nintendo Switch, this latest sequel has a couple things does not. The first thing is a commitment to two years’ worth of content — and love or hate that fact, it is likely enough reason for Splatoon enthusiasts to upgrade.

It’s hard to deny a feeling of deja vu stepping into Splatoon 3‘s single-player campaign. From starting in a plaza and needing to first venture into the campaign — taking note of some horrendous framerate issues that thankfully didn’t seem to extend into gameplay proper in doing so — to tea kettle portals that lead to actual levels themselves, single-player is largely more of the same. It’s a good thing, then, that it’s fun. There’s a real Nintendo-like onboarding system that will cater to players new and old, and then a wonderful sense of exploration and challenge as you progress.

Of note in our hands-on time was access to a new Tri-Stringer triple-shot bow and arrow-style weapon (shown above) that deals short-range, quick damage (or ink coverage, depending on the mode you’re playing), or can be charged for longer-range attacks or coverage with a side effect of a timed, exploding charge at the shot’s end. On the ground, your squid kid will fire the tri-shot horizontally, but leaping into the air and firing will change the shot into a vertical-aligned attack. It’s a very fun weapon to play around with, especially in single-player; sadly, I found myself overwhelmed, outgunned and simply too slow with it equipped in Turf Wars, especially against players with a good ol’ full auto Splattershot.

Splatoon 3 Turf Wars versus multiplayer

While single-player feels like a repeat of the (tightly polished same), Turf War does even moreso. A 4v4 affair, it’s one team versus the other in a quest to cover the battleground in the most ink. The new weaponry introduced into Splatoon 3 of course is extended into what is the title’s main mode.

Turf War is tremendous fun, so more of a good thing isn’t necessarily a detriment. Moreover, Nintendo is implementing easier ways to squad up and join Turf Wars of online Salmon Run matches, and I was pleased to see the party-like functionality at work. It was quick and efficient… though I need to remember that it’s also dependent on the slightly less-friendly Nintendo Switch Online and corresponding voice chat efforts.

While the aforementioned Tri-Stringer wasn’t a great fit for me in Turf Wars, I slipped back into the groove with a giant paint roller as if I’d been playing Splatoon 2 daily since launch. I certainly have not of late.

Finally, a new three-team match — where one team of four defends from the centre of the map against two additional teams of two that flank from either side — will mix things up during Splatfests (like the one accessible in the pre-release demo!).

Splatoon 3 Salmon Run co-op multiplayer

Another huge change to Splatoon 3 is that Salmon Run, its co-op multiplayer experience, will be available at all times and not on a rotating schedule. That’s a good thing, too, as you’ll need to find three dedicated friends and really communicate if you hope to survive.

If you’re unfamiliar with the mode, it’s you and three friends against three waves of enemy baddies. While you’ll need to fell cannon fodder to survive each timed wave, you’ll also be tasked to eliminate boss enemies, and they’ll drop special eggs that need to be deposited into a central basket. Each wave has a different, escalating requirement of the number of eggs that will need to be collected.

If you’re like me and fairly stubborn when it comes to your aresnal, Salmon Run will force you to get out of your comfort zone: each wave will present you with a randomised loadout.

While Salmon Run is fun, it can be ridiculously tough (though you do have control as to levels of difficulty when playing locally). Our team of four wasn’t doing too badly, but with one egg short of what was needed, we first struggled to find a final boss baddie — nevermind eliminating him — before our time on that level was up. And that was only at 5% difficulty too, locally. I shudder to think how escalating difficulty will go when it’s you and some internet randoms against the world.

You don’t have to take my word on Splatoon 3a special Splatfest demo will soon be available to all Switch players.

Splatoon 3 heads to Nintendo Switch on 9 September.

Update: We mistakenly advised that 3-team matches were available in Turf Wars when they’re only accessible in Splatfests. We also indicated players could control difficulty in online Salmon Run matches when the functionality is only available locally. Our article has been amended accordingly.

Splatoon 3

9 September 2022

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for close to fifteen years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.