Splitgate: Arena Warfare Hands-On: Now You’re Playing With Portals

Considering how well the competitive gaming market has done over the years, it’s not a big surprise that a lot of companies want in on the action. However, just because you think you have a winning formula doesn’t always guarantee you do. Case in point: LawBreakers; a game that had a ton of potential but very little follow-through, and the developer Boss Key even closed down following the game’s release.

Splitgate

Even so, it’s always great to see a new and ambitious team give a new formula a try, and there’s something about 1047 Games’ Splitgate: Arena Warfare that truly stands out. Maybe it’s due to the fact that you can use portals just as conveniently as you can weapons.

That’s right, portals. Ever since Valve introduced these innovative little doorways with their self-named Portal series, they’ve been high on the wish list of players, and why not? They basically provide an exit to another portion of the map: a quick teleportation that can provide an excellent advantage. That is, however, if you don’t go flying off the edge of the map by accident.

The general rules of Splitgate remain intact from most other shooters: take down as many adversaries as possible and help your team win the match. The fact that players can open portals at will and use this newfound physics to their advantage provides a fresh spin on the proceedings. Can’t quite get an angle on someone that’s taking pot shots at you? Open up a portal, do a quantum-style leap from another part of the map, and hit them from the other side. It can’t be that hard, right?

At first, Splitgate takes a lot of effort to fully grasp. This isn’t one of those games where you “git gud” by accident. Instead, learn to embrace the physics from jumping through portals and mastering what your weapon has to offer. The way portals open requires you to do a deep bit of thinking as you try to get the jump on your opponents. Considering that they can leap around the map just as much as you can, it becomes tough to really get a bead on them.

The multi-dimensional build of each battle stage goes a long way in Splitgate. Once you get a grasp on what you can do with the portals and platforms, then you can really get things cooking.

Splitgate

The physics within Splitgate work as expected. For instance, if you want to build momentum going into a portal, you can do so by running on the ground. However, the real treat here is opening up a portal after falling off a ledge and opening it up on a new area where you float up onto a platform. This can take a bit to master, precision is everything, but once you do, you’ll find it’s a tactic that works wonderfully here.

Along with getting the jump on opponents offensively, Splitgate can also open them up to give you some defensive purpose. When you get ambushed and need an escape route they can provide a fresh perspective on how to take down your adversaries. A shooter like this depends on quick movement to avoid getting fragged, so you’ll need a few rounds to get into the mechanics and see all the options that are on the table for you. But once you do, you’ll find that you’re in for a treat.

As for the weapons that you can use within Splitgate, they’re the general variety when it comes to what you’d typically find in a shooter. But in no way is that a bad thing. For instance, SMGs and pistols can deliver bullets at a very good range, and there are battle rifles that mix things up rather nicely as well. If you prefer a sniper class, you’ll get that with the power of a railgun that can end someone’s run pretty neatly. Of course, those of you with an explosive touch will certainly make do with the game’s rocket launchers, and that’s just what we’ve discovered from the demo that was available at PAX East last week.

In other words, it takes the arena based experience and puts it into perspective with a neat new tactic. That’s not something that’ll guarantee instant success; we’ve seen innovation in shooters before, only for interest to fall by the wayside in favor of the “next big thing.” But 1047 puts its heart right on its sleeve with the game, and there’s some stuff here that comes together pretty nicely, especially on the creative side of things.

That said, I do hope the recoil gets tweaked a little bit. It doesn’t really feel like your weapons have much heft without it, but keep in mind that the game is still in beta (you can learn more about it on Steam here), and by the time the finished release comes around, we could see all sorts of tweaks to make its play sustainable.

As far as the game’s visuals go, Splitgate runs very smoothly. It utilizes Unreal Engine technology for each of its maps, which means the frame rate is pretty sturdy. But on top of that, the Tron-esque visuals really pop to life, almost to the point that you’ll want to stay in this world a little while longer. The animations can be stiff in some places, but as a whole the game runs very smoothly, based on the multiplayer demos I took part in over the weekend.

Splitgate

Now, one thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that Splitgate wasn’t really built as a massive multiplayer shooter experience. Up to 10 friends can take part in online multiplayer at a time. While that’s not as hefty a count as, say, Battlefield V’s 64-player set-up, it is quite good for an indie-based development.

Not to mention the fact that it can be quite overwhelming when you have a gaggle of players flying all over the place thanks to portal tactics. The lesser player count actually serves as an advantage when it comes to planning tactics, and it allows the game to run at a proper speed without having to worry about all the little animations that are coming together. So far, the game runs pretty smoothly, and we don’t see why 1047 would want to mess with that by adding more players. In this case, the lesser, the merrier.

However, let’s say you’re a solo player and you want to get the hang of the action before you jump through the portal with both feet. Fortunately, Splitgate will have something to offer here. The game will enable you to go up against AI bots if you prefer, letting you master the controls and some of the weapons before attempting to thrust you into the online action. This is a welcome option, mainly because some shooters just don’t provide it. With Battle Royale games, for instance, you have to “live and learn.” That is, if you can live. Here you can tinker around, master your placements and become a lean, mean portal-taking machine.

When you do make your way online, there are various options available. There’s a fun Oddball mode that takes a cue from Rocket League, to add some competitive flair outside the norm. But if you prefer, you can also hop into the usual gamut of match-ups in Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Domination. For those thirsty for an extra special challenge, there’s also a team SWAT based mode in which you’ll fight without armor. Think you’re good? Let’s see just how good you are when you can only take so many hits before going down. Time to put those portal skills to work!

Alas, there’s a catch. For the time being, it looks like Splitgate: Arena Warfare is only heading to Steam/PC at the moment. This could change in the future, depending on the success of the game. I hope it does because something like this would be welcome on the console front, especially for the low-end $20 to $30 price tag that the developers are going for once all is said and done with development later this year. Fingers crossed.

Splitgate

For the time being, however, I like the direction that Splitgate is taking in terms of its gameplay and design. True, the long-term value of the game has yet to be weighed, depending on how the modes hold up and how much content 1047 has in mind for future updates. Currently, it has enough going for it to give it a shot, and there could be additional betas in the future that will allow you to take a test drive with it. Keep tabs on the Steam page above, and we’ll keep you informed once more information becomes available.

In the meantime, who knew that there would be someone that could handle Portals as well as Valve?!

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