Splitgate First Impressisons

Splitgate has got everyone talking about it at the moment. Imagine an arena shooter like Halo, crossed the with mechanics of Portal and you pretty much have Splitgate. You have heard of this one before as it’s been in alpha since 2019, but the team has made significant improvements and everyone’s pretty hyped over arena shooters once again.

Splitgate is inspired by Halo for sure. Inspired maybe not quite accurate, it straight up rips elements from Halo and has put them in Splitgate. Call this a homage perhaps, but it’s very much in your face from the style of the characters running around the arenas (they look very similar to Master Chief) plus the announcer reels off many of the same phrases and call outs, plus the name of the game modes like Team Swat and Shotty-Snipers. I am not complaining however, I love the aesthetic, the gunplay, and above all, the way the portal mechanics can mix things up.

At first glance, this is a classic arena shooter, but the portals are the x-factor here which allows you to mix up the matches. There’s a decent and quick onboarding process at the start which teaches you the basics of the portal mechanics, but it’s fairly simple. See a textured wall that allows a portal, throw out where you want the portal to open up, then throw another portal onto the wall. Only you can run through the portals, plus you can also shoot through portals too. You can close the portals at will and also throw EMPs into enemy portals to close them. You are incentivized to create and go through portals by bonus rewards, like distance traveled through portals.

It hard to describe simply how much this changes the gameplay. It has the potential to create some amazing moments. For example, you might be pinned down in your spawn point with the enemy raining down fire from above. In theory, you could throw open a portal behind them and take them all out with headshots through the portal if you have your angles right. You could also create escape routes to effectively run away from enemies, and there’s also the ambush move where you see someone from a distance and throw a portal open next to them, step out, and a quick melee to the back of the head and they’re done. There’s endless potential here, and you wonder why it’s not been done in the past.

The map design is OK at the moment, some maps are certainly better than others. This isn’t Bungie, 343, or Respawn level of map design, but it’s pretty good. I imagine the team is only going to get better as time goes on. There’s a handful of maps available at the moment, but there’s bound to be more maps added in the future. In terms of game modes, we have many modes inspired by Halo including Team Deathmatch, Team SWAT, Shotty Snipers, Team Oddball, VIP. Some of these are simply ripped from the Bungie era of Halo, and it’s hard to understand how they got away with it. Maybe you can’t copyright a game mode, but this is very close to the mark.

Given this is a free-to-play game, there’s plenty of free-to-play mechanics in here like a Battlepass, daily rewards, and incentives to log in every day, a cosmetics store, plus your loot-box mechanic. There’s plenty of ways to personalize your main character, which range from high-tech Android styles to the downright silly lizard. It doesn’t appear to be taking itself too seriously with the cosmetics allowing players to pretty much create any types of character they want. I’ve played the game for roughly 10 hours or so and I find the cosmetics hard to come by in the free-to-play element of the game. I think I have one or two full skins since I started playing, which is a little stingy. This game has the whole suite of free-to-play mechanics, but it’s not too in your face, and from what I can see there aren’t pay to win elements, only cosmetics which is a good way to go.

In terms of gameplay, you have all the regular guns you’d imagine from a first-person shooter including an assault rifle, battle rifle, carbine, shotgun, pistol, laser, and sniper rifle. The gunplay feels pretty good. I’ve been playing on Xbox Series X with a controller and it feels pretty good. Much like the map design, it’s not quite there with Destiny 2 or Halo Infinite. The movement feels a little floaty and it’s not quite as crisp as Apex Legends or Titanfall 2, which has set the bar very high for first-person shooter combat.

The player count seems to have gone through the roof with this game recently with the team having to invest in the servers quickly, and now you regularly see queues of up to 5 mins to get into the game. We’re still in beta, so this can be overlooked for now, but the fact there’s this demand and everyone is playing and talking about this game is good news for the development team.

The portal mechanic is a real innovation in the first-person shooter space. I am slightly worried about Splitgate though, as this is their unique selling point. Much like when Apex came out with the ping system, all of a sudden you see a ping system popping up in Fortnite, Warzone, etc. It wouldn’t take too much for Halo Infinite to add something like this, and then all of a sudden you’ve clipped the wings of Splitgate. I think everyone is forgiving of the gameplay of Splitgate because it has unique portal mechanics. However, take that uniqueness away and what have you got… It’s going to be interesting to see how long it’ll take for others to adopt this mechanic given its rise in popularity.

The official launch date was set to be 27th July, however, the team has pushed back that date to focus more on server stability. This is a good thing because there’s a passionate fanbase of the game, and if they go into a full 1.0 launch and the servers fall down then the audience is going to be rabid.

Splitgate is great fun, plus it’s free, meaning you can jump in on consoles and PC for free right now. Do be prepared to wait to get into a game if you are logging on at a popular time, however, if you like arena shooters then this is a must-try game. The portal mechanics are so good and switch things up, they have the potential to add a much-needed twist into the arena shooter genre. It’s been a long time since we had real innovation in this space and Splitgate does have the potential to revitalize things. With Halo Infinite coming out in Holiday Season plus Apex Legends trying their hand at smaller modes, and Destiny 2 wanting to invest in their PVP more, it’s a tough market to enter and an even tougher one to survive. Splitgate has a chance, jump in and give it a try for yourself.

Developer: 1047 Games
Publisher: 1047 Games
Platforms: Playstation 4/5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 27th July 2021