Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Price: Free-to-play, with microtransactions
Release date: September 15, 2022
Genre: First-person shooter
Splitgate captures the essence of old-school first-person shooter games, and I love it for that. The FPS genre has changed a lot since the '90s and '00s. While some modern titles have heaps of loot, grand campaigns and more realistic physics, some of us pine for the days of the more simplistic arena shooter.
You can play the classics, sure, but why not try something new? What if there were a game that pays homage to the greats, such as Quake and Unreal Tournament, but adds its own twist? That’s where Splitgate comes in: a game best described as "Halo meets Portal." Splitgate features the simple gunplay of older Bungie-led Halo titles, combined with the creative puzzle-solving of Portal.
Although it has some free-to-play inconveniences, Splitgate does a great job of scratching that itch for a classic arena shooter. I’ve played the beta extensively, but as you’ll see in this Splitgate review, the game has finally come into its own with a full release. With no initial entry cost, it’s worth at least trying out.
Splitgate review: Gameplay and mechanics
Splitgate is a free-to-play first-person arena shooter with microtransactions and season passes. All purchases are cosmetic only, and there are plenty of cosmetics to earn in-game, such as weapon skins.
You play as an unknown soldier in various arenas and game types to achieve victory. The game presents you with a solid variety of guns to use, from the basic carbine and assault rifle to the powerful sniper and railgun. Each destructive tool requires a different skill set, with Splitgate offering a high skill ceiling. Even after several hours of play, you’ll still find new strategies for each weapon.
For movement, you have a limited jetpack that lets you cross gaps wider than what your basic jump could handle. It also offers a new tactical advantage, since it can throw off other players’ aim. The fuel runs out pretty quick and it takes a few moments to recharge, so don’t rely on it too much.
If you’ve ever played the classic Halo trilogy multiplayer, you’ll feel right at home with Splitgate. Like Halo, this game has similar gunplay and a respectable suite of modes, such as team deathmatch, elimination, king of the hill and more. Each map features different weapon spawns, so I highly recommend learning their locations if you want to go on a rampage. The game contains no loadouts or perks, either — none of the little things that can make the playing field feel unfair as they do in many modern shooters.
More than just a Halo clone, Splitgate asks you to think with reality- and physics-bending portals. You can connect any two portal walls (not all surfaces support portals), which let you cross the map instantly or gain a new vantage point. From there, you can manage some crazy sniper shots, or get the drop on your enemies before they even know you’re there — unless they hear the sound of your portal opening. It’s a wildly fun time, and incredibly satisfying when you pull off a cool move.
Overall, Splitgate is a blast to play, especially if you master your movement on foot, with your jetpack, and through portals. While there are other games out there that have better gunplay, Splitgate stands out as what happens when indie developers stand on the shoulders of giants and try something new. I absolutely love the Halo/Portal concept. The game really sticks its landing, ensuring that every match feels entirely unique.
Splitgate review: Visuals and sound
Splitgate’s graphics look pretty basic, but don’t discount it just based on that alone. It’s not on par visually with other big-budget shooters, but you won’t play this game for its looks. The aesthetic in Spligate has a 2010s sci-fi feel to it, which I think is more than fine given the game’s initially limited budget and very small development team. I actually find the look rather charming. More importantly, Splitgate remains stable. I didn’t encounter texture issues, pop-in errors or other visual glitches.
Splitgate also has good sound design. Each gun sounds unique, whether you or someone else is using them. (This helps you identify what guns other players have, which is important for avoiding power weapons like the railgun and baseball bat.) The jetpack sound effect is a bit basic, but the portals have their own auditory identifier that helps you, or your enemies, keep track of any that open nearby. I could do without the game's music for the most part, though. The main menu soundtrack in particular grows stale quickly.
Splitgate review: Verdict
Developer 1047 Games has said that Splitgate is now in its final release, and that the company does not plan to add any more features. The team will continue to maintain the servers and update the in-game store, but all of the other things they wanted to add will have to wait for a Splitgate sequel. 1047 Games had no idea that this game would explode in popularity, and so their original vision had to take a backseat to keeping the game functional and balanced.
Even so, I love playing Splitgate. It has enough of an old-school vibe to make me feel like I’m playing the arena shooters of my youth, but with enough fresh ideas to keep me interested after the nostalgia wears off.
Despite the game not being everything 1047 Games wanted it to be, I’d say Splitgate is in a great spot. It's also perfect for playing with friends, as it supports cross-play between various systems. Splitgate is ripe for awesome Twitch clips, particularly when you pull off a collateral snipe with the railgun, or fly through a portal at incredible speed to get a multi-kill. And since the game is free to play, there’s no reason not to try out Splitgate.