It’s 2019, independent studio 1047 Games have launched their early access game Splitgate and is met with middling reviews and less than stellar player counts. For the last two years this game has been in early access and is finally releasing as a full game soon, in that time it went from 300 concurrent players to almost 70,000 at the time of writing. So, let’s dive in and see what all the fuss is about and why this small indie game blew up.
Source: 1047 games
“Halo, but with portals!”
The main draw to Splitgate, and what makes it unique, is what many have called a combination of Bungie’s Halo and Valve’s Portal. Splitgate seamlessly marries the fast-paced arena-shooter with the functionality of wacky portal movement and head boggling transitions. 1047 Games certainly aren’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, if you’ve ever played a game of Halo, you’ll see many similarities not just intrinsically but throughout the entire game.
There are two general game types in Splitgate, casual and competitive, each with their own list of game modes. Competitive has your standard list of hardcore game types: King of the Hill, Domination, and Team Deathmatch. For casual there is a lot of fun game modes you might see in Halo: All the aforementioned modes, SWAT, Oddball, VIP, Shotty-Snipers, Capture the Flag, and Fiesta. Inside the casual game types is an extra list of party game types that may sound familiar: Gun Game, Instagib, One in the Chamber, Laser Tag, and Infection. With so many options to choose there are many game modes to play, but for the purposes of this analysis we’ll be sticking with casual team deathmatch.
Source: 1047 games
Before we get into the game, we must understand how we play in Splitgate and fortunately it’s very simple. The game starts you with two weapons, for most game modes it is the semi-auto Carbine and automatic Assault Rifle which function just like their counterparts in Halo. Each player comes with a jetpack to reach higher ground, a wrist-mounted portal gun that creates two end-points, and grenades that destroy portals. Using and mastering each aspect of your kit is crucial to winning a game, and brings surprising depth.
Now, as you start the game every player spawn with the same equipment (unless specified in the ruleset) with the Carbine and Assault Rifle, but across every map are holograms of other weapons like the shotgun, sniper rifle, or SMG that can be picked up and used. These weapons have limited ammo so use it wisely as they act as power weapons that can turn the tide of any match.. Along with these weapons are blue surfaces that act as places to put your portal that allow you to walk or shoot through them. All portals can be walked through but if they don’t belong to you, they obscure the other end so you don’t know where they will lead. Think twice before going through an enemy’s portal.
PvP is very fluid, like its comparison, Splitgate manages to transfer from encounter to encounter very well. One moment you can be popping heads with the sniper and the next you can jump down 20 feet to a portal that transport you to a close quarters section. It is remarkable how well 1047 Games have managed to make their gameplay the biggest selling point for this game (ironic because it is free to play), but it’s remarkable gameplay doesn’t quite extend to other aspects of the game.
Source: 1047 Games
Strictly speaking, Splitgate doesn’t look bad. It looks pretty average resolution wise, there’s no real problem on that end. Where its biggest issue lies is how 1047 Games presents the game, the art style. To be frank, it’s a confusing mess. From a first glance, Splitgate gives off a very colorful e-sports vibe, YouTuber ‘Late Night Gaming’ puts it like this
“It’s not very humble. It’s very loud, and very annoying if you’re not into e-sports and that ‘montage’ look. It doesn’t make for the most attractive game.”
As you play Splitgate you get to understand what he means, neon litters many of the maps, a smorgasbord of colors confronts you wherever you turn. Then there are the skins you can pay for or earn through the games loot boxes. For the most part, all the players on the field look like a spartan modeled after paintball gear (another of Late Night Gamings observations), but then you come across a cat with an eyepatch in a business suit, or tree people, or even a coal miner with an outrageously good-looking beard and mustache.
It all conflicts with each other and doesn’t manage to give off a straight vibe. Games like Halo or Warframe manage to make all their characters, environments, and equipment in-line with each other so not to stand out. Splitgate tries to at first but it quickly drops it whenever you unlock any of the micro transaction skins or those in the battle pass. It’s all over the place, and for the time being it might be a while before any concrete style erupts from the game.
In the end, Splitgate has so much potential. Its gameplay is tight, and while other aspects of the game lack the same polish, I think it will be able to continue and thrive. With news that it is expanding with $100 million funding and plans to add a “forge” mode similar to Halo, fans of the game can expect a bright future from 1047 Games as an independent studio, myself included.