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Our E3 Interaction With SPLATOON 2’s Salmon Run Mode Was Colorful Chaos

Our E3 Interaction With SPLATOON 2’s Salmon Run Mode Was Colorful Chaos

When you think of multiplayer gaming, are your first thoughts of machine guns, kill streaks, and headshots? Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with that, but Nintendo’s Splatoon series offers a much different—and more colorful—take on competitive multiplayer gaming. Instead of using bullets, the half-squid, half-kid participants use paint to cover a map in their team’s colors. While that classic gameplay does return in Splatoon 2, Nintendo was showing off a new mode at its E3 booth: Salmon Run.

In Salmon Run, the point isn’t to cover as much surface as possible in day-glo shades of paint. Instead, you’re fighting waves of enemies while trying to gather their eggs in your basket. Bosses will spawn at random, and each one requires a different strategy to take down. It’s like horde mode, but with more fish. What’s great about Splatoon is the encouragement of solid teamwork, and in Salmon Run, it’s more important than ever. Unlike the four-on-four matches of the main event, this mode pits a team of four against some wily salmon and bizarre bosses. Downed squid kids need to be revived, egg carriers must be protected, and a single roller isn’t enough to destroy the big bad salmon. Even when playing with some Nintendo reps we’d only just met, the sense of teamwork was strong after a few rounds together; we were cheering our victories and groaning after each defeat.

If you’re thinking that Salmon Run doesn’t sound very Splatoon on paper, not to worry. We had some concerns that working cooperatively with a team of four to splat baddies wouldn’t be as fun as painting to town red (and green, and pink, and yellow…) but these were quickly squashed. You’re still using paint-based weapons to fight, and covering the area with bright splatters of color is necessary for moving around and refilling those weapons. Meanwhile, enemy waves of fish will spew their own shade of sickly green to slow you down, which becomes especially challenging when you’re trying to move an egg to your basket.

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One thing we should mention: most of our play time on Salmon Run was at the lowest possible difficulty. Before starting, a Nintendo rep told us he was setting up the match on 5% difficulty—out of a possible 100%. Obviously, we scoffed, but the difficulty level was justified. At 5%, we were victorious, but it still took a good amount of effort. At 40%, we tried to stand our ground, but ultimately couldn’t make it past one round. At 100%, the egg-collection quota felt impossible to meet and we couldn’t even make a dent in the first wave of enemies. Don’t let the cheerful tone and bright colors fool you: Salmon Run is not messing around.

We had to get our hands on Salmon Run to really understand what made it great, but now that we have, it’s just one more reason we’re looking forward to Splatoon 2. We do wish we’d gotten to play some of the classic four-on-four mode, but that will have to wait another month.

Nintendo Switch owners are in for a treat come July 21. Will you be among them? Tell us in comments below.

Images: Nintendo

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