Splitgate: Arena Warfare Review — Portals Won’t Save This One
Splitgate: Arena Warfare has the foundation of a great shooter but its generic ideas and lack of originality get in the way of something that should feel a lot better than it is.
I stumbled upon Splitgate: Arena Warfare after I had been reading all about how the game is essentially Halo with portals. Well, I love Halo, and while I’m not the biggest fan of Valve’s Portal, I do find it to be one of the most unique games of its time. After 15 or so hours with Splitgate, I have found myself getting fatigued due to the plethora of copied ideas, making for a game that really has no staying power in today’s market. Which is sad to say because I genuinely did have fun during my early stretches of playtime.
Upon jumping in, it is clear that Splitgate: Arena Warfare takes nearly all of its inspiration from Halo. But the thing is, it’s not as good as Halo. There’s far less to do, there’s not a single unique mode, and the map rotation gets dry pretty quickly. The one differentiator is the portal mechanic, which is fun to master and use, offering up some really satisfying strategic potential. However, the portals never truly feel like a forefront idea.
I almost expected the fluidity of Titanfall’s wall-running, but got something a bit wonkier. Of course, I did find portals to be more interesting once I started playing around with them more, but with the ways in which maps are designed, I didn’t get the fast fluid movement I was hoping for. Portals act better when peaking around corners, or watching objectives from strategic angles. As far as movement goes, you could probably do just fine without using them too much. While the mechanic ultimately works, I don’t think it elevates the game’s identity amongst a very crowded first-person shooter market.
Outside of that, you have a fine game, and nothing more. Guns consist of clear Halo clones, with not an original one in sight. The plasma rifle, the sniper, the shotgun, and even the pistol are all reminiscent of guns from Halo. They feel nearly identical, and even dish out what feels like similar damage from the series they’re inspired by. This caused me to apply the same strategies I used in Halo to Splitgate: Arena Warfare. I understand where the inspiration comes from, but there can be a point where it feels like a bit too much. It’s a shame because, overall, I find the gunplay to be really solid, but its uninspired nature has me craving the Halo PC ports more than wanting to go back and play Splitgate.
Each and every game mode has the same issue. Swat, Oddball, and most other general modes you expect in a shooter are here. There’s not one that sets Splitgate apart. I suppose you can consider the lone Kill Confirmed style mode that has you teabag your opponents as opposed to collecting dog tags as unique, but it’s an unfunny joke that plays off of something that originated in, you guessed it, Halo. Even the announcer is trying his best to mimic Jeff Steitzer’s iconic multiplayer lines but ultimately ends up sounding like the boiled down discount store version of him.
You’ll play Splitgate as your own personalized soldier. There are a lot of customization options and while I obviously can’t really analyze them all this review. But what I can say is that no particular piece of armor has stuck out to me. Opening the game’s free crates became a sort of afterthought as the actual process of opening them was always more exciting than anything I got inside. I appreciate the wide variety of customization options, from guns, armor, jetpacks, and more, but when nothing really looks that good, I really just don’t care to get obsessed with acquiring it. There was nothing special that really differentiated the rarer gear from the normal gear, as the equipment that’s higher in rarity usually just has some sort of flashy animation on it.
I know I’ve ragged on a lot of things but I can’t stress enough that I did actually have fun playing Splitgate: Arena Warfare. I became more attached to the ranked system as getting into a solid lobby made for some really intense matches. As I saw my badge go up, I just wanted to go higher and higher. Specifically, free-for-all was quite a lot of fun for me personally as I learned to lockdown points on the map using the portal system. Also worth mentioning, the developers have included a filter that gets rid of some of the more vulgar trash talk players might come in contact with in other games. It’s a tiny addition but one that’s appreciated when I’ve been beaten down in an online match and don’t feel like seeing that at the endgame screen.
The team-based modes did have some problems. Teammates abandoning matches seems like a common issue in Splitgate: Arena Warfare, and while there is a warning against it, I never really saw any punishment come to fruition. When I was the last man standing on a team that was getting totally wiped, I tried leaving the game to see if I’d get penalized and have no idea if I actually was or not. I didn’t test this on a full team obviously since… I’m not an asshole. The whole abandoning issue did get to me after a while so I eventually only opted for free-for-all ranked games and left the team matches for the social playlist.
Unfortunately, the servers aren’t super populated so finding a ranked match can sometimes take extended periods of time. I mostly stuck with East Coast players and literally couldn’t play ranked matches at all during certain times of the day. This can be problematic for folks who are only able to game late at night or in specific regions where there might not be many players. While this isn’t the fault of the developers, the game has only just started to grow and many players may leave due to the frustration that comes with not being able to find matches.
If there’s one thing I can leave you with about Splitgate: Arena Warfare, it certainly has the solid foundation needed for a great shooter. With the game being free-to-play, I hope that the development team focuses on making meaningful changes that help differentiate the title, helping it grow into something very special over time. It’ll be tough with a player base that already seems like it’s dying. though. It seems that the developers put too much focus on creating something so close to Halo and in the process forgot to let their creativity come out a bit more, which is a shame.