Writing a review for a competitive multiplayer game is always hard because they're so different from singleplayer games and so dependent on player population that rating them at all
feels like you need to apply an entirely different scale. That said, I'm gonna try to crack the case of Splitgate. For what it's worth, I have amassed about 300 hours of playtime since May last year and it has definitely become one of my go-to games when I wanna do some online gaming.
The concept of the game is simple enough: It's an arena shooter akin to the Quake
's and the Unreal Tournament 3
's of the world. When friends ask me what the game is, I always resort to the elevator pitch of "It's Halo Infinite
but with portals", because, while the game is more similar to the former titles in theory, the genre of arena shooters is so dead that you have to resort to Halo to give most
people an idea of what they're dealing with.
The idea itself is executed surprisingly well. To the point where you wonder why nobody else had the idea of making portals a core game mechanic in a competitive online game. You can save your own ass. You always have a "get out of jail free" card if you need one. You can outplay your opponents in ways you never thought of before. And yes, you can also shoot yourself. Since clicking on heads is only part of the equation - albeit still a substantial one - it also adds an element of easy to learn, hard to master
to the game, which is always welcome and needed if you're trying to get people hooked on your game.
After you've completed the tutorial which goes over the basics of gunplay and portals you are dropped into the main menu where the first cracks start to show. It's very
busy. Your own character on screen, a top bar that shows flashing NEW!
banner on challenges, battle pass, your locker, and the item shop (it's a free to play game, what did you expect?). Social media links, another box for the challenges, another box for the battle pass and a big Play
button in the corner as separate elements. I showed the game to a friend once and she said that it looks like a mobile game with how tacky everything looks and how aggressively it's trying to sell things to you. I honestly couldn't disagree. Oh well, as long as the game is fun.
So, you click "Play" and you are presented with more choices. Casual, Ranked, Practice, Customs and Featured Playlists which are available on weekends. I'm gonna ignore the latter three because that would go beyond the scope of even this monster of a review. As a beginner, you're obviously gonna click Casual and you're gonna be presented with a bunch of modes you can queue for, which range from traditional Team Deathmatch to wacky stuff like Laser Tag where you have a Plasma Rifle and everyone is dead in two shots, to more sophisticated modes like Takedown and the like. Giving a review of everything in here would also break the scope, so I'm gonna assume you get the picture. There's a wide variety.
Now, the community will gladly tell you that in your first few matches you will mostly get matched with bots to make you feel like a god at the game. What they won't tell you is that, if you are of sufficiently high level, the same thing is the case. The devs have gone into detail on this, but essentially the matchmaker prioritizes quick
matches over good
matches. Add onto that the fact that there's no backfilling in this game and if the vote in the pre-game lobby goes awry for someone and they leave, there's a possibility that you are the only human in the game. Rarely, if ever, do I play a Casual match without at least one or two bots. Again, the devs are aware and working on it, but progress is slow. This has been an issue which people have been loud about ever since the big hype last summer died down, but it remains as is as of writing of this review.
If you are so inclined, there is also the option to play Ranked. There are no bots in Ranked, but this just makes the issue with player population more apparent - you will often sit in queue for a few minutes only to be dropped in a game with people 3-4 ranks higher and lower than you just because there is no one else that's queuing. Add onto that that most of the Ranked population is queuing Takedown and not the regular 4v4 mode and it can become a pretty one-sided experience. Takedown as a mode is hella fun, but it exascerbates skill difference because it's essentially just high octane TDM. If you try to queue for 4v4, you'll sit in queue for 30+ minutes at off-peak times. Trust me, I've tried.
There's a few more QoL issues and bugs with the game that are somewhat bothersome, like the lack of a ping indicator, no saveable skin presets, mandatory waiting rooms, lack of Match Found notification (the game just drops you into a lobby), among other things. And the advertisement for in-game cosmetics can be rather aggressive at times, even though it is
all just cosmetics - you will have no disadvantage in playing this game without spending a dime, and there are some skins you can even get for free, as well as being able to obtain in-game currency through login streaks. As far as monetization goes, the game is definitely better than it looks on first glance.
This all must probably sound like it's a bad game. This couldn't be further from the truth. It's h*ckin great. The core gameplay loop is insanely fun, the stuff you can do with portals is mind-boggling and you can enjoy the game without ever getting sweaty. It just has that kinda vibe where you can hop on for an hour to dome some people and get off again knowing that you had some mild fun wasting time, or you can get sweaty and tilt endlessly. It really offers something for every type of player within the bounds of you being a fan of shooters. And you being fine with the obnoxious announcer which, at this point, I'd count as a feature. But don't go into the game expecting a AAA experience; this is an Indie game through and through, and it is still actively being worked on. The devs announced last year that the Beta state which it is currently in - despite having originally launched in 2019 - has been expanded indefinitely. Good on them for recognizing the game needs work. I just wish it would be done more frequently than in the form of some gameplay tweaks every 3-4 months.