When you think about the good ‘ol days of arena shooters, you think of games like Unreal Tournament, Tribes, Quake 3 Arena, Halo: Combat Evolved and so many more games. We think about long nights with friends, LAN parties, tons of questionable snacks: they were simpler times filmed with many great memories and nostalgic moments. But like most nostalgic moments, looking back now as fun as those times were, we have games now that have built on that foundation and pushed the FPS genre.

Splitgate: Arena Warfare, a free-to-play arena shooter, is somewhere in the middle of this transitional period: it combines interesting mechanics to create something new while having one foot firmly placed in the past. Unfortunately, while some elements of the game are commendable and can be fun, Splitgate: Arena Warfare in its current state may not be a game you will be nostalgic about in the future.

 

Functional Looks

The UI functions well but is very standard.

From the moment, you fire up Splitgate you are greeted by a menu that checks the boxes of every current multiplayer-focused experience: a locker, to customize your character with various armor parts that can be purchased from the store. A store, where you can purchase the games in-game currency to buy loot boxes. A career page, that has some of your stats. When you click play, a series of choices including ranked, quickplay (which doesn’t seem to work for me) and the server browser. It’s a functional menu which is neither good or bad, it just is.

The SAW packs give players different skins.

When you load into the game, the first thing you notice is how ‘esports’ ready the map is. This focus on arenas with a red-white-blue pallet takes away from establishing a unique visual for the game. At first glance, it really does look like Halo 5’s competitive arenas. I’m hoping for future maps, they try to adopt a look that’s unique to them.

Sometimes being too ‘esports read’ is a bad thing.

According to the game’s website, Splitgate features 8 unique arenas each with a distinct look such as a large arena in the clouds, a desert location, a city and in my case, Saw Stadium which was the only map I kept getting. I’m not sure if it was bad luck that I chose the map each time in the server browser or not.

The map (at least the only one I played on it seems) itself is well designed: various platforms of varying heights to add verticality to the game, tight corners to setup portal traps (more on that later) and a sprinkling of unique weapons scattered throughout to ensure people are never staying in one place. The map is well made, I just wish it was a bit bigger considering the type of abilities in your arsenal.

Combat Evolved, With Portals

Even in its marketing, Splitgate is touted as a “Halo meets Portal”, a game where you have Halo’s frantic movement and shooting combined with Portal‘s physics-defying portal guns. While the developers at 1047 games achieved this, it comes with many growing pains that I hope the developers continue to work on.

While the shooting can be fun, it does not have the same punch and weight to it. Firing a battle rifle in Halo has a satisfying feeling when the burst fire slams into your opponent. This kind of user feedback allows the player to understand the weapons habits, pros-and-cons and how to counter them.

So far, in Splitgate, the weapons don’t really feel like anything. At first glance they are rendered weapons that simply fire and hit enemies, that’s about it. The weapons all feel different, but lack a personality that weapons in other shooters have, especially Halo.

The rocket launcher is the only enjoyable weapon, probably because, you know, it’s a rocket launcher.

Then we have the other side of the coin, the portals. In this case, the portals work well allowing a user to set up a two-way connecting portal from anywhere in the map. I didn’t experience any bugs or issues firing and walking through a portal. The sad thing is, the player’s physics is the reason that the portals don’t feel satisfying.

In Portal 2, the rate at which the player would plummet to the ground when at the last second, they would fire a portal to catapult them in any direction is what made the game so thrilling. In Spllitgate however, when jumping off a platform, the descent was far too slow giving me barely any momentum to launch myself out my exit portal. Most of the time when trying to pull off any Portal inspired maneuver, I would get sniped mid-air due to how slow everything was moving.

In some matches, I didn’t even notice people using portals. There was a shockingly low number of attempts to pull off death-defying tricks by anyone on the battlefield. Also, fun fact, the portal gun has no range limitation from what I have seen. I can essentially shoot the portal across the map at the enemy spawn with ease which gives regular spawn camping a run for its money.

Shooting through portals around corners can be fun.

Whether it is a design decision to keep player momentum and physics a bit more conservative, it gives the game’s gameplay a sense of an identity crisis. It neither has the roaring adrenaline of Halo or the ridiculous physics of Portal; it is neither here or there, instead, it’s lost in limbo somewhere in the middle.

Playing for the long-haul?  

Splitgate is not a game I see myself solo-queuing hours on end to play ranked; instead, it’s something my friends and I may or may not play. This game is definitely more enjoyable with friends; if you can manage to be on the same team. During each test of the game, while playing with a colleague, the two of us could not manage to be on the same team, each and every time. We still had fun shooting at each other, but after a few matches, the appeal started to wither away.

Let’s go blue team!

This aspect is not fortified by the games ranking system since the rewards, in the form of loot boxes that give you gear, do not feel compelling enough to keep playing. I wish there was a layer of progression which modified your abilities like your portals, your jump boosters, etc: not enough to break the balance but enough to make your player feel unique enough. Depending on how they reward players for playing, as of right now, I’m not sure if I will be playing this game past this review.

Loot boxes feel pointless without good loot.

Overall

Splitgate: Arena Warfare has an interesting premise of combining two aspects of two very different games, to create something compelling. It is possible that in time as they develop the game they will realize its true potential, but right now, the game is in quite a rough state. The game also has a rather volatile player base which creates an environment that does not feel inviting.

In fact, one of the game modes I played involved shooting and picking up a player’s dog tags similar to Call of Duty, but the only way to do so was by purposefully tea-bagging someone. Come to think of it, the dog tags actually do look more like teabags in its very unfunny form. At first, the 9-year-old in me did find it funny, but after some time it just feels more toxic than anything. I have to mention this because a games lifespan is determined by its community and how the developers help them shape it.

Splitgate: Arena Warfare has the potential to grow into something truly fun, but before that time comes, they need to go on a journey of self-discovery to determine what kind of game they truly want to be, rather than settling for being merely a homage to two very different games.

Don’t put portals near each-other unless you want to get killed.

 

 

Splitgate: Arena Warfare Review
The Good
  • Interesting blend of Halo and Portal
  • Arenas are well made (but small)
  • Free-to-play
The Bad
  • Awful weapon feedback
  • Portals feel useless without good physics
  • Presentation feels very flat
5.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0.0

About The Author

Avatar

Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.