Splatoon 3 preview - I’m a kid again, I'm a squid again

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Splatoon 3 screenshot

Splatoon was the best game on the Wii U. Splatoon 2 is still easily one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch, especially in terms of multiplayer games. However, it may be about to be dethroned by, you guessed it, the third instalment in the series: Splatoon 3.

Somehow it has been five years since Splatoon 2 splashed onto the Switch, leaving ample time for players to get ready to soak up a sequel, and I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the chosen Inklings to get a hands-on preview. This consisted of three levels from the new single-player story mode, a couple of rounds of Turf War, and two shifts in Grizzco’s updated wave-based co-op mode Salmon Run.

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I’ve racked up a good few hundred hours across the Splatoon franchise, so I feel qualified to say that Splatoon 3 looks good. Very good. Get your brushes and your booyahs, kids, we’re going to the Splatlands.

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Return of the Mammalians (and the Inklings)

First up during the Splatoon 3 preview session involved dipping our squiddy toes into three levels in Alterna: the new ice-covered world that the single-player campaign takes place in. There was also some odd-looking furry goop blocking off later levels. Perhaps related to the Mammalians?

Callie, Marie, and Captain Cuttlefish await your presence just outside of the entry point, acting as a guide for the levels and giving tips on how to proceed.

Splatoon 3 single player

While the levels I played didn’t give away any of the story, they did show off the returning mechanics from previous games like bounce pads, inkfurlers, and ride rails, and go over how to navigate threats like Octarians and Squee-Gs.

The only real difference was that the Octarian enemies had fur and that our Agent’s clothing was… tattered. Instead of a finely crafted ink tank, we have a plastic bottle tied to our back. This fits with the theme from Splatoon 2’s final Splatfest, in which Chaos defeated Order.

The third level especially felt like it was made to showcase the new Stringer weapons, as the Tri-Stringer was the recommended option. This came equipped with Lil Buddy, your accompanying Smallfry fish, who it turns out acts as a projectile weapon if you choose to lob them at oncoming enemies.

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Crab Tank weapon in Splatoon 3

Turf War

Next was a couple of rounds of the classic Turf War. A chance to let loose, test some new weapons, or wipe the floor using an old favourite. All the confirmed basic weapons were available, along with the new Splatana Wiper and Tri-Stringer. The fancy new specials were attached to these so, naturally, half the team chose something equipped with the Crab Tank.

I was allowed two rounds in the new stage Scorch Gorge to showcase my talents among other unsuspecting preview-goers, and the new options did not disappoint.

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Some are formidable, like the explosive Reefslider and vehicular Crab Tank, which should take PvP gameplay to the next level in terms of ruthlessness and tactics. This is especially true when coupled with the Squid Roll and Squid Surge on-field abilities, which allow us to burst dramatically out of the ink towards our foes.

It felt exactly like Splatoon 2, but with new weapons and stages added in. The new music provided by C-Side is delightful and keeps your ears busy while you sling paint, and there are even some new shades of ink for us to battle with. If you liked the previous games, this will surely be a winner for you, too.

Salmon Run workers in Splatoon 3

Another day in the office

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My favourite part of the previous Splatoon was Salmon Run. The hazardous environment with a stressful soundtrack and constant waves of bosses is really just very fun. And now, it’s back and even better.

Salmon Run Next Wave, as it's fittingly called, features new bosses, mechanics, and locations that Mr. Grizz eagerly throws you and your team into.

After being dropped into Sockeye Station (a new stage reminiscent of the Spawning Grounds) I started my shift in pursuit of golden eggs. Armed with a new Stringer weapon, I was quickly at the mercy of three of the new kinds of bosses.

The Fish Stick pillar, despite being so large, is surprisingly camouflaged, and that mechanical Flipper-Flopper fish feels bigger than it looked in the trailer. I took my tentacles in my arms and ran for the cover of our home-coloured ink.

Our second shift was played in handheld mode, and the OLED Switch models really bring the colours to life in Splatoon. The improved speakers also do wonders for immersion if you don’t have headphones handy.

Splatsville in Splatoon 3

Goodbye Inkopolis, hello Splatlands

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By far the best addition to Splatoon 3 is the weapon testing area that you can access as you’re waiting for a game to start. Here, you can see other players as ghosts, which may mean some delays as we fool around - but you gotta have some fun with it, right?

This goes for Turf War and Salmon Run and gives a great opportunity to really get to grips with the new wave of weaponry before being launched into a multiplayer setting.

The Inkling and Octoling customisation has had a hefty facelift, too. The wardrobe of bottoms options has expanded drastically, giving us ripped leggings and harem pants among other styles. There are a good few new hairstyles, eyebrow shapes, and eye colours, too.

Changing your name card and the title is super easy, too. I had a brief look at what was available, and from the get-go, there’s a nice catalogue of patterns and options for you to choose from. I chose the orange flames: the design just spoke to my soul.

And, with that, my Splatoon 3 preview was over. Look out for a full review as soon as the game oozes into its release. Splatoon 3 built upon the previous game and gave us more fun things to use, fresher clothing, and new places to play in. What more could we ask for, really?