Splatoon 3 reviews are popping up now that the embargo has lifted. A cursory glance at the biggest gaming publications suggests that while Nintendo’s ink-painting shooter has some of the polish the last entry needed, it still fails to innovate on a larger scale. Specifically, according to critics, Splatoon 3 is more of the same stuff as before, which is cool for some and a bummer for others.
Currently sitting at a score of 84 on both Metacritic and OpenCritic, Splatoon 3 reviewers suggest it’s the most refined and robust shooter Nintendo has made thus far. It beefs up the series’ typical gameplay modes while fine-tuning the already-frantic multiplayer experience. However, in perfecting the PvP gameplay, critics point out that Nintendo hasn’t delivered enough new ideas to truly differentiate this new entry from Splatoon or Splatoon 2, leaving this threequel lacking in vibrancy. Ironic considering how colorful Splatoon 3 really is.
In case you’re wondering, Kotaku’s coverage of Splatoon 3 will come later. Why? As is customary for Nintendo’s games, we didn’t get a Splatoon 3 code ahead of release. But rest assured, as the person probably most stoked about the game, the blogs are coming.
With that outta the way, let’s see what critics are saying about Splatoon 3.
“Splatoon 3 is a coat of many colors, offering up a full campaign, multiplayer (casual and ranked), a new card game called Tableturf Battle, and Salmon Run (the PvE horde mode). This is on top of all the game’s social features, like wandering around the new hub city and checking out other players’ loadouts and Miiverse-esque drawings and sayings.”
“Turf Wars is still the bread and butter of Splatoon 3, the casual mode you’re locked to until you hit level 10 and get access to ranked mode—which comes in the familiar flavours of Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz—and the mode I still gravitate towards for the brilliance of its balance, composition, and execution. And that execution has been finessed in some positive ways, with two new manoeuvres added to your moveset. There’s an ink roll, pulled off with a flick of a stick when you’re in squid form to give you a brief window of invincibility as you pirouette out of the ink, and a squid surge that lets you speed up surfaces and pop up for a brief moment of vertical superiority—superb additions that are still slight enough you’d be forgiven for not noticing they’re there.”
“Much like previous games, the frantic pace of these three-minute matches makes them ideal for bite-sized gaming sessions while also appealing to those who fall into a “just one more match” mindset. The final minute, where the music ramps up and everyone tries to cover as much ground as possible (literally), remains an adrenaline rush in the race to splash more ink than the opposing team. That rush amplifies in the revamped Splatfests, which now include three distinct teams. Most of the experience remains unchanged, but the new Tricolor Turf Wars, where the four-player first-place team must defend the center position against two squads of two, shake things up. These intense matches require new strategies for everyone involved since the groups converge from opposite sides of the map.”
“To that end, Splatoon 3 feels more like it has thought through its place as a serious competitive game, giving top-tier players more tools to hone their craft. The Recon mode is easier to find if you want to learn the ins and outs of a map before jumping into play competitively. The new lobby system, where you wait between matches, lets you tinker with weapons and see their damage outputs on dummies, which may be helpful for less experienced players to find the one that feels right.”
“But despite all this, we can’t help but feel that after five long years fans deserve something more. The Table Turf Battle is a nice inclusion, but whereas Splatoon 2 got the excellent Salmon Run to make it truly stand out, Splatoon 3 struggles to boast anything as substantial. That doesn’t take away from every one of the countless improvements featured, but it’s still lacking that one big addition that is reasonable to expect after so many years since Splatoon 2's launch.”
“Coming back to Splatoon feels like stepping back into a big messy home. On one hand, the developers have sanded down some of the rougher edges that have adorned the series since the beginning. New weapons, courses, and more developed online functionality have all gone a long way in improving the overall experience. On the other hand, the game still feels like it’s treading water. And at this point, it might be too little, too late. The series has had two chances to evolve and continue to be a standout series for a generation of Nintendo fans. But it’s only taken baby steps, when it needed to take leaps. Splatoon 3’s script and characters suggest that it’s been keeping up with the times since it burst onto the scene seven years ago. But its stagnant design pillars suggest otherwise. The result is a game that reaches for the excitement of the original, but can’t quite grasp it.”
“As you can probably tell, it’s easy to slip into a checklist of tweaks when talking about Splatoon 3—there just isn’t a neat throughline to help pitch the game. As a result, it’s hard to see what might make converts of those who bounced off earlier entries. Its back-of-the-box features read more like (generous) patch notes than a bold invitation to a world of ink-flinging revolution. But if it provides solid fun within those baby steps, does it truly matter? In a game where point one of a percent can result in its biggest thrills, a major splash of paint isn’t always required.”