As a competitive Splatoon player, I was a little worried about how I'd adapt to the changes introduced in the sequel. So when I had the opportunity to try out Splatoon 2 at the Switch Preview Tour's Los Angeles event (and the first couple rounds of the Global Testfire), I dove right in to see how well I'd adjust to the new game.
During the preview events, I got the chance to demo the game with both the Pro Controller and the Switch in handheld mode, as well as the four weapons options available—Splat Charger, Splat Roller, Splattershot, and the brand-new Dualies.
In my first playthrough at the LA event, I used the Pro Controller and the classic Splattershot, a mid-range gun. Anyone that's familiar with the Splattershot from the original game will find that it hasn't changed much. The weapon and accompanying Burst Bombs felt just like their predecessor—a comfortable and quick shot with short distance and decent spread. What's changed this time around is the special for this weapon: the brand-new Tenta Missiles, which let you shell enemies from afar. I was surprised at how far away they could detect players, even though they didn't always guarantee a hit.
After getting my feet wet, I switched over to the Splat Roller—my main weapon type from the original game (I main a Krak-On Roller, which has the same build as the standard roller, but with a different special and sub weapon). The roller's trademark move—running and rolling—hasn't changed much from the original game.
The biggest change for rollers is the spread and direction of the attack when jumping. In the first game, using a jump attack with a roller would yield a wide spread with moderate distance and damage. This was a large part of the weapon's appeal to me—I could attack at moderate distance and not have to be super precise. While a centered attack was far stronger than one that was off-center, I could rest easy knowing that I had a wider ink spread. In Splatoon 2, though, jump attacks for rollers have rotated their attack radius 90 degrees, giving them a narrower spread and a longer reach.
Since I main rollers, this change left me feeling a little intimidated at first! How precise do I have to be in order to play effectively? What if my lousy aim misses the enemy and leaves me vulnerable to a flank? But after a little practice, I was able to quickly adapt to the new jump attack. Even though the stream of ink is narrow, it has a wider attack spread than it seemed at first. It feels like the powerful burst of ink when jumping is similar to a direct hit with the previous roller's spread, so someone who was well-versed with the Splat Roller previously should have a fairly easy time adapting to the new game.
At the LA event, the roller came equipped with the brand-new Curling Bomb sub (now assigned to the Splat Dualies in the Testfire). Curling Bombs feel like a cross between the previous game's Seeker Bomb and a Green Shell a la Mario Kart. The zig-zag ink streams they create are nice for covering turf and cornering enemies. The roller's special, the Splat Down, also stood out, becoming my favorite of the four tested. It provides a nice getaway in close-quarters combat—not only does it allow the player to take out nearby opponents, but it also makes a small pool of ink for the user to hide and recover in.
The third weapon I tried out was the highly-anticipated Dualies, which make their debut in Splatoon 2. These dual guns are quick, short-range weapons, ideal for the player who enjoys close head-to-head combat or sneak attacks. Each gun has its own reticle, which gives players a wider spread but at the cost of lower damage per gun.
Dualies come with a unique twist: the new dodge maneuver, which was previously unseen in the series. Rather than jumping while shooting, a Dualies-wielder will perform a sideways roll which can be used to dodge attacks or flank a player at close range. After completing the roll, the Dualies' two reticles merge, letting the player coordinate both guns for a stronger and more precise attack. This may be challenging for players who frequently jump when attacking, but it's a really useful tactic once you get the hang of it.
The Dualies also come equipped with the Splash Jet special. Splash Jet lets you use a jet pack that allows to fly in the air and fire ink bombs (and rain havoc) on the map below. While using the Splash Jet, you're still vulnerable in two ways: you can be picked off pretty easily by chargers, and once the special has expired, you'll land right back where you took off from, with a marker for friends and foes to see. That second one can be mitigated by careful planning, though, and I found that locating a corner of the map away from enemy ink was usually a great place to activate this ability.
The Splash Jet was the special I was most excited to try out, and it was just as fun as I had hoped! That said, I was a bit surprised at how it functioned. I had expected it'd be an easy way to attack enemies, but instead it was much easier to use as a weapon to cover a lot of turf. I could also see Splash Jet being helpful when you need to create a path for teammates to push an objective in different modes.
Returning players may also remember Suction Bombs (assigned to the Dualies at the LA event, but attached to rollers in the Testfire), and they're back in Splatoon 2. Just like in the original Splatoon, these bombs can stick to any surface at any angle.
In addition, I tried out the Splat Charger. In this demo, only the unscoped variety is available, meaning the camera won't zoom in when charging up a shot. For the most part, the charger handled exactly like its predecessor, offering a long range shot with strong impact—snipers from the original game will feel right at home. The accompanying Splat Bombs also work just like they did previously.
The brand new aspect of the Splat Charger this time was the Sting Ray special, a giant fire hose of ink. Sting Ray is pretty hard to wield, as there's a delay between adjusting your camera angle and actually turning the weapon. Players will need to be able to think on their toes and catch enemies off-guard in order to be effective with this special, since the slow maneuverability makes it fairly easy to outrun. Still, Sting Ray may be useful when taking out players who have been slowed down by tracking through enemy ink, who are using Splash Jets, or who are being disrupted, if Disruptor Bombs make their return.
Since I've played the original Splatoon for, uh, more hours than I'd like to admit and am very used to playing with the Wii U GamePad, I was surprised by how much more comfortable and natural the Pro Controller felt in contrast with the Switch's handheld mode. I had expected handheld mode to be an easier transition given Switch's design similarities with the GamePad, but the Pro Controller was actually much easier to pick up and play with. The controls and buttons felt closer to the original. The only issues I ran into control-wise revolved around unexpectedly pulling up the map menu rather than jumping (a consequence of losing the dedicated second screen), but I was able to quickly adjust even after the short event demo. I think it'll be fairly easy for my fellow veterans to get used to the new setup.
Overall, I left the demo feeling much more at ease than I had expected about adapting to the new game. Splatoon 2 feels like a fresh take on the original, offering players new weapons and techniques to master while staying true to the original concepts. Now that I've had the opportunity to try out local multiplayer (and a few rounds in the first couple Testfires), I'm looking forward to diving deeper into how the game feels with online play and crafting new high-level strategies. See you all at Day Two of the Testfire!