In ‘No Pay 2 Play’, we review free video games (whether they’re riddled with microtransactions and season passes or not) and then answer the golden question: is it worth adding to your game library?
Developed and published by 1047 Games. Released in May 2019. Available on Steam. Achievements not included.
Is it really free?
The game makes its profit by way of microtransactions for skins and such, with lootboxes available for a premium “Disco balls” currency as well as a “Founders Edition” that can be bought for some extra skins and lootboxes – though since these don’t affect the gameplay there are no real gripes there.
What’s it all about?
If you ever wondered what it would be like if Portal and Halo had a one-night stand in a Travelodge then you are probably alone in that thought, let’s face it. But nevertheless, those wacky folks at 1047 Games decided to go ahead and make it anyway, and it’s called Splitgate: Arena Warfare. Formerly known as Wormhole Wars, Splitgate: Arena Warfare came out just recently and it very much delivers on its promise of being a Halo/Portal mashup, but not much else.
By its own admission, Splitgate is based upon the old familiar first-person arena shooter controls we all know and love. That means that it’s easy enough to pick up and play, but it also means that on the face of it, it doesn’t really push the envelope gameplay-wise. You have your standard nondescript assault rifle, burst-fire battle rifle, pistol, railgun, shotgun and the like in terms of weaponry that respawn in certain positions for you to pick up. Nothing really much to say. If you’ve played most first-person shooters this side of 2007 you’ll probably know what I’m on about. It also feels nice enough; the movement is smooth and the animations are slick. The only thing that really consistently bugged me was that the weapons didn’t really have much punch to them, both in terms of how they sounded (the ordinary assault rifle you begin with sounds like a paintball gun) and in terms of feedback when you hit an enemy with them.
This constitutes the base line of what a shooter needs to do in order to function properly. Once that’s done with, to start to push out from the crowd it needs to at least try and develop its own character. Titanfall 2 for instance has its enormous maps, Titans and its array of extra powerups and the upcoming Morphies Law has its size mechanic wherein when you shoot an enemy, you steal size and mass from them. However, from the very start this game has been pushed as a mashup between Halo and Portal, which in itself does not bode too well for its originality, and gives me the distinct sensation that the crossing-over of the two mechanics may well just be a bit of a novelty before anything else.
The portal mechanic has at the very least been adapted to a degree for a multiplayer formula. Like in Portal you can place two portals that connect to each other much like in Portal, but you can only stick ‘em on certain surfaces and you can only actually see through your own. You can travel through your enemies’ and friends’ portals as you please, but you won’t know where you’ll end up – understandable for enemies, but I’m not sure why this also applies to friendly portals as well. You can also destroy enemy portals with your grenades and shoot blindly through them at whoever may be behind, and to aid in this, enemy portals also pulsate if an enemy is behind it, though this is less useful when you’re bouncing and dashing around a great big arena and looking out for various other things too.
At its core, it’s still the same old portal mechanic from Portal we’ve all seen before – but whereas in Portal this mechanic was used to its full potential for fun puzzle-platforming and combined with various other mechanics like goo that speed or bounce-inducing goo, energy balls to activate gates or laser beams with a similar effect, in Splitgate it’s just sort of… there. In its defence it can be quite fun to launch portals about and use them to your advantage, but half the time when I was playing I hardly even used the mechanic. Heck, I spent more time destroying other people’s portals than placing my own. There aren’t really enough excuses to actually use it, besides sometimes getting the drop on your opponent – could it have hurt to create some arenas with moving platforms, for instance?
That’s not to say the game isn’t fun, it’s enjoyable enough to keep you busy for an hour or two and it’s better programmed than an alarming number of AAA games these days, but it’s nothing special. Something perhaps to log into every so often if you decide you feel like it.
All in all, Splitgate is pretty much exactly what it professes to be – a mashup of one game and another, no more and no less – a fun distraction and a cool novelty, but ultimately not for someone looking for an original or unique experience. If you think you’ll be able to derive a lot of enjoyment from the Halo/Portal gimmick though, then by all means give it a look. Maybe its enjoyability will hook you more than it did me.