The Electronic Entertainment Expo was a huge draw last week, not only for high-profile sequels, but also original projects making their debut for the first time. Among these games was Nintendo's Splatoon, the company's latest entry in the shooting genre. However, rather than letting the bullets fly from conventional weaponry, this title focuses more on making a mess with paint – but don't be surprised if it becomes just as competitive as Call of Duty.
In Splatoon, you portray a character who's half-squid, half-human, and you'll be able to use the powers of both as you proceed on your adventure, paint-filled cannon in hand.
Here's how the game works. You'll join up on one of two teams, separated into four members, with the general goal of overtaking a map. To do this, you'll need to shoot ink using your human side, covering as much of the floor as you possibly can. Think of it as a Domination-style map, but with paint covering the ground for you, rather than your fellow soldiers. The team that ends up with the most paint splattered on each level wins.
There are some tactics you'll want to learn, especially when it comes to overtaking enemies. You can shoot them with your paint cannon, which in turn earns you points and allows you to overtake the section they were patrolling.
However, your paint won't last forever. There's only a certain amount you'll be able to stow in your cannon before it eventually runs dry. From here, you'll utilize your squid half and dive into pools of the paint that you created on the level. This not only gives you the opportunity to refuel, but also get into new sections divided by a gate, and on occasion, find cover when an enemy comes out of nowhere shooting in your direction.
There's another catch you'll want to keep in mind. As you move around a level in human form, the only terrain you'll be able to step on is your team's colored ink. You won't be able to walk into enemy territory, thus why you'll want to shoot it – so you have more room to roam. Likewise, if you're swimming around in your similarly-colored pools and the enemy paints it a different color, you'll be forced to pop back up from cover to fight them. You'll also be out a convenient refill spot, so you'll need to make sure you have a place you can quickly reload – or you’re done for.
So, the name of the game is dominating your enemies while marking as much territory as you can, so you have a way to get around while consistently refilling your paint tank. Taking advantage of both will help you dominate a match quickly and conveniently.
We scored very brief hands-on time with the game, but it was enough to see how team strategy comes into play. You'll need to coordinate with your team to cover as much ground as possible (grouping together closely won't do you any favors, since there's so much of the map to cover), while keeping tabs on enemies to avoid possible ambushes.
Since the game is custom built for Wii U, you'll be able to keep track of the entire map on the second screen, seeing which areas need to be covered with paint. At the same time, the traditional dual-analog controls will have you staying on your toes, locking on to enemies while avoiding any rival paint splotches that can chip away at your health. It never hurts to jump around and find a safe spot and avoid incoming fire as well.
In addition to shooting and dodging, a special move becomes available midway through the match that lets you fire a super blast of paint that can hit enemies and your surrounding portion of the map in one flail swoop. While you won't be able to use it that often, this technique lets you turn the tide in your favor during a match. It's quite convenient, especially if you're playing against shooting pros.
The game works very well in local multiplayer, and Nintendo is sure to include some form of online play via the Nintendo Network, since the other first-person shooters for the system utilize it.
Splatoon was easily one of the bigger favorites on the show floor this past week, and for good reason. Nintendo managed to conceptualize the feel of a team-based shooter with a unique paint theme that makes it accessible for all ages. We can't wait to see how the finished product lines up when it debuts in 2015. One thing's for sure – it'll be messy.