For three glorious hours, Splatoon was playable with very few issues.
When Nintendo announced their plans for the demo/beta of Splatoon with Splatoon Global Testfire, the majority of the Nintendo World Report staff expected the worst, especially since the demo was limited to three hours over the course of less than 24 hours. After all, we've all experienced dodgy online experiences, filled with lag, missed connections, and drops. While Nintendo has had sturdy online games in the past year with Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8, we basically expected mass chaos and overloaded servers since this was their first major online shooter in years. Thankfully, we were all wrong. Splatoon Global Testfire worked extremely well throughout all of our numerous matches. Outside of a few minor connection issues, it was essentially flawless.
That's probably disheartening to hear for all of the potential players who were busy on May 8 and 9 during the specific Testfire times, but even though you might have missed this test, it bodes very well for the longevity and quality of Nintendo's first foray into modern online shooters. Splatoon is loads of fun, even with a demo that limited you to just two stages and four weapons with set-in-stone loadouts.
The two stages, Walleye Warehouse and Saltspray Rig, highlighted different aspects of the game. The Warehouse is a narrower stage with natural choke points, while the Rig was focused more on vertical battles across a layered battlefield. The four weapons each had their own nuance. The Splat Roller was laughably overpowered for new players, but in the rare matches where players knew how to deal with the slow devastation of the Roller, it appeared that the Splat Roller might be the equivalent of Smash Bros.' Little Mac online problem early on. The Splat Charger, which is their take on a sniper, is tough to get a grasp on, but once you do, you can fire long swaths of paint across the battlefield while fending off foes from afar. It's challenging, but the payoff can be grand. The Splattershots were normal rapid-fire weapons, with the Jr. being better for quick firing and up-close combat. All of the special weapons and grenades were also interesting. A well-timed Killer Wail could wind up splatting the majority of a rival team, and the Splattershot Jr.'s shield can make your team temporarily invincible as it can be shared with your teammates like a piece of food in a Kirby co-op game.
Bouncing between stages and weapons never got old during the three hours of play. As a matter of fact, each hour flew by, as it was spent learning and discovering more strategies and tactics for the online fray. The lack of voice chat or friend matches definitely detracted from the overall experience, but it didn't make it poor, just a little restricted. In some instances, it really would have been wonderful to inform a teammate of a plan of attack. A few matches were hideously unbalanced mainly because a team wasn't on the same page.
If there was any issue that came to light in the Testfire, it was that if a player drops, the match is pretty much lost. Outside of the rare Herculean effort, every match that was four vs. three (or fewer) was a slaughter. Players are going to drop from online games; it'd be great if there was some way to counteract that when it happens.
Hopefully we'll be able to play more Splatoon Global Testfire matches before launch. In spite of the time limitations, it was a rocking good time that certainly makes the wait for May 29 all the more arduous.