Spla­toon 2 Switch

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher Nin­tendo (EPD) For­mat Switch Re­lease Out now

From ‘stay fresh’ to re­fresh in two years, then.

Spla­toon 2 is an un­usu­ally ex­pe­di­tious Nin­tendo se­quel, but then it didn’t have much choice: the first game’s phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess in Ja­pan, de­spite be­ing ham­strung by the poor sales of the plat­form, meant a swift fol­low-up wasn’t so much a like­li­hood as a ca­st­iron cer­tainty. It’s no sur­prise, there­fore, to dis­cover that in real terms, not an aw­ful lot has changed; the whiff of fa­mil­iar­ity will be even stronger among those who tuned in for the cli­mac­tic Splat­fest a year ago. But that, you sense, is rather the point. There’s noth­ing here to up­set es­tab­lished splat­ters, yet it re­tains the in­clu­sive­ness that first at­tracted so many play­ers to a genre to which they’d never pre­vi­ously warmed. In other words, it’s the kind of in­cre­men­tal se­quel that could give in­cre­men­tal se­quels a good name.

And, in all fair­ness, it does obey Miyamoto’s rule – you know, the one that’s seen F-Zero lie dor­mant since the GameCube era – that any se­quel needs a unique hook. Sal­mon Run is a new wave-based co­op­er­a­tive bat­tle mode, where a shady back-al­ley busi­ness re­cruits teams of up to four free­lancers to ac­cept a high-risk post­ing col­lect­ing golden eggs from spawn­ing Sal­monids. It’s a horde vari­ant, af­ter a fash­ion, set on a small is­land sur­rounded by murky seas and fore­bod­ing, deep or­ange skies – a world away from the per­ma­nently sunny Inkopo­lis. The snag­gle-toothed, pan-wield­ing grunts come thick and fast, but are eas­ily dealt with. A range of bosses, from a fish rid­ing a giant me­chan­i­cal eel to a be­he­moth who squeezes out fat ink bombs from his head, present a far greater threat. Avoid­ing them isn’t good enough, since they yield the eggs you need to com­plete your job. Hit your quota for three in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult waves and you’re shipped back home; ex­ceed it, and you’ll progress through pay grades rather quicker, un­lock­ing ex­clu­sive gear to use in the other modes and meal tick­ets you can spend in the hub.

Hang about: three waves? Yes, that might seem slight, but any­one who’s played Spla­toon will know an aw­ful lot can hap­pen in five min­utes. If any­thing, it’s even more chaotic than the Ranked modes: the top end of the Part-Timer pay bracket (135 per cent) might see you bat­tling five bosses at once; if you last more than 30 sec­onds at 200 per cent, you’re do­ing ex­tremely well. At low tide, you’ll be dragged to­wards the shores, where you’ve less time to re­act to threats, and are at greater risk of hav­ing your prize snatched back and dragged be­neath the sur­face. When the wa­ters rise and the fog rolls in, you’ll be hud­dled to­gether on a cramped plat­form, try­ing des­per­ately to re­mem­ber to leap the mesh bridge you fell through in the last round to es­cape that hail of mis­siles. And that’s be­fore night falls. If the thrills of a good Horde mode are some­times di­luted by length, this com­pact, con­cen­trated ver­sion proves the value of brevity. It’s ex­haust­ing, stress­ful and quite bril­liant.

You can host or join a lo­cal game at any time, but as with all other mul­ti­player game types out­side the stan­dard Turf War mode, Sal­mon Run is only avail­able to play at set times – though its sched­ule is very dif­fer­ent from the com­pet­i­tive op­tions. Ranked matches still only give you ac­cess to two stages and a sin­gle mode, though the se­lec­tion is now switched out ev­ery two hours in­stead of four. The new League Bat­tle mode – avail­able for set teams who’ve col­lec­tively reached the heady heights of B-rank – of­fers two more, so the best play­ers have six stages avail­able at any given time. There are no such re­stric­tions on Pri­vate bat­tles, and in the­ory, Switch’s suc­cess should open those up to a much wider au­di­ence; like­wise, a new smart­phone app will al­low you to play and voice chat with friends.

The struc­ture is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, then, but the un­der­ly­ing foun­da­tions of these bois­ter­ous skir­mishes are left mostly un­touched. There are, how­ever, a range of small in­ter­face re­fine­ments – tweaks now al­low you to see the main weapon ev­ery player is car­ry­ing at a glance, and when they’re ready to un­leash their spe­cial; when you’re splat­ted, you’ll get a glimpse at their gear perks, so you can see why you didn’t spot their ap­proach, or how their bog-stan­dard Splat­ter­shot has such stop­ping power. And, some­day, we may even get used to the fact that X no longer makes you jump. At least we got a good look at our team­mates’ po­si­tions dur­ing that at­tempted leap from the top of Mo­ray Tow­ers.

There’s plenty more where those came from. Splat Zones now let you keep tabs on the ob­jec­tive with­out hav­ing to bring up the map, so you have a bet­ter idea of when to rush in and when to hang back and wait for sup­port. Tower Con­trol now forces you to wait at check­points for the slow­est eight sec­onds of your life – at least un­til you ar­rive at the third and fi­nal one clos­est to the en­emy base. The tit­u­lar weapon in the gridiron­like Rain­maker takes greater skill to wield ef­fec­tively here; it doesn’t take as long to charge, but nor is its ex­plo­sive burst as pow­er­ful as be­fore. There are ad­just­ments to the scor­ing sys­tem, too, with sub­stan­tial XP bonuses for suc­ces­sive tri­umphs, in recog­ni­tion of your cur­rent form, or ‘fresh­ness’. And post-match stats no longer re­veal just how of­ten you’ve been splat­ted, re­plac­ing that tally with the num­ber of spe­cials you used. It’s a tiny but po­ten­tially vi­tal dif­fer­ence, cer­tain to prove more en­cour­ag­ing to those who may have felt suf­fi­ciently shamed by their K/D ra­tio to quit.

Lag is an oc­ca­sional, rather than a fre­quent an­noy­ance, and it’s been dis­guised more clev­erly – or dif­fer­ently, at any rate. You’ll no­tice it when an op­po­nent shrugs off sev­eral hits as if they were wear­ing steel ar­mour. Granted, some­times they pretty much are; one spe­cial gives your whole team tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion from a sin­gle, nor­mally-fa­tal hit. But it’s galling

It’s the kind of in­cre­men­tal se­quel that could give in­cre­men­tal se­quels a good name

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