I recently had the opportunity to attend PAX South 2019 with our GUG team. We saw and played a number games, all the way from high budget “Triple-A” titles to small indies that many are seeing for the first time. Out of the number of appointments we made and others that we played I was most interested to see what Splitgate: Arena Warfare was going to be like. On that Saturday afternoon of the event, we sat down with Ian Proulx who is the lead developer and co-founder of 1047 Games. We got to go hands-on with the latest build as he explained what makes this arena shooter different from the rest.
The marketing for Splitgate: Arena Warfare describes it as “Portal meets Halo,” and that is an apt description based on my experience with it. Each match takes place in a Tron-like arena where armored combatants engage in firefights featuring various match types and rule sets. The portal mechanics are presented by each player having the ability to make them through the use of a wrist gadget instead of a gun. In this competitive setting, the portals are great for getting the drop on your enemies, map movement, and retreating. The limitation is that you can only place them in designated zones on the map which took time for me to get the hang of since I wanted to place them everywhere. However, that limitation is probably for a good reason as I assume complete freedom would be game-breaking.
The goal is not to give everyone a portal gun and wreak havoc; a few systems have been put in place to retain balance while adding to the competitive spirit of the game. Each player has their own portals that only they can go through, meaning that you can’t follow an opponent through the hole they make—a special grenade can be thrown that destroys it and forces your opponent to make a new one instead of going back through. I can imagine that watching competitive matches will be quite a treat when players begin to master this mechanic alongside gunplay.
The similarities to Halo are realized through our armored player avatars, weapons, and match types. When Ian shared the information that weapons were directly inspired, I knew exactly how to use the Battle Rifle and was happy to be reunited with the notorious scoped pistol. The familiar match types included are SWAT and King of the Hill and the standard Team Deathmatch and Free For All. One particular match type called “Teabag Confirmed” has never actually appeared in a Halo game, but it was clearly inspired by the culture of the multiplayer community in the franchise and needs no explanation.
Though my time was short with Splitgate, it wasn’t long before I adapted to the controls and how it felt to move through the arena. It will be easy to make those aforementioned comparisons for the younger and casual audience, but it also has some DNA that comes from Quake and Unreal. I feel some of that DNA in the gameplay and the movement speed, but the developers wanted to show some love to the grandfathers of arena shooters by including an Insta-gib mode. In this mode, players will be using a rail gun that is essentially the equivalent to the Spartan Laser of the Halo series.
Splitgate: Arena Warfare seems to offer an experience we don’t get much of these days. Battle Royale and military shooters currently populate the charts while we have not seen a hugely successful arena shooter for quite some time. Some of us just want to relive those memories we made while sitting in front of our computers with Unreal Tournament or Quake 3, just like many others did in front of their Xbox’s with Halo: CE and Halo 2. I started to relive some of that when the muscle memory kicked in, so I hope that Splitgate sees some huge success when it releases this year.
Prior to the day that this piece will be published, an alpha test was recently held on the 26-27th of January that gave many players a chance to try out this early build of the game. The 1.0 alpha features reworked maps along with a new one, improved animations, improved sound, character customization, the rail gun, and Team SWAT. If this is your first time hearing about Splitgate: Arena Warfare then you can sign up for future playtests and stay up to date via their website. I look forward to future updates and to seeing how others feel about running through portals with battle rifles in-hand.
Check out the latest playtest trailer: