How Would Splitgate Work in Esports?
There are many FPS games, from Call of Duty to Halo to Apex Legends to Battlefield. When a new game comes along, it’s met with a lot of skepticism about whether or not it can stand on its own against big shooters. However, Splitgate isn’t just an FPS. This new title, which is currently in its open beta, combines the concept of Halo with the mind-bending mechanics of the sci-fi puzzler from Valve.
What started as two Stanford comp-sci students using portals and FPS to make a project demo for school has now turned into developer 1047 Games. Named after their dorm room, the now 25-person strong team has been working tirelessly on their flagship title, proving to be making the rounds online as a fun twist on the FPS genre.
The game states that this is “a new kind of shooter” and is free-to-play, cross-platform, and filled to the brim with content. So, how is the game? Another FPS may sound tiring, but how does the gameplay? And can the game stand on its own two feet without having players playtime filled with waiting in queues?
How Good Is Splitgate?
Being another FPS is a daunting task, but from the 10 matches I’ve played, I can assure anyone who wants to try the game out that it’s more fun than what it looks like. But to assess the potential of Splitgate in esports, we have to look into how the game plays and what modes are available.
Visuals and Gameplay
The visuals for Splitgate are serviceable, don’t expect to launch the game and turn on the RTX function. The game isn’t cartoony and more sci-fi instead. The game includes some fantasy and more goofy skins for characters, one of the ones I encountered was a skeleton with robotic limbs, but the game remains in its sci-fi aesthetic, with its weapons and environments. It maxes its framerate at 120 FPS, which is strange, seeing that other titles in the FPS genre will allow for a max of 144 FPS. However, I didn’t find the framerate of the game to be any issue while playing.
The Splitgate gameplay is reminiscent of Halo at its core. While there are 10-plus modes to play, I could only play some of the TDM modes during my playtime. The game includes Capture the Flag, Oddball, and other modes reminiscent of the old Halo titles, specifically Halo 2 and Halo 3.
When booting the game up, I was immediately thrown into a tutorial and sent to the main menu after completing it. I was able to skip the wait time by clicking a button to start a new game.
In a normal game of Team Deathmatch, two teams of four enter the map, and while it’s small, there’s no shortage of things to do on the map. Much like Halo, weapons are found around the map through spawners. The players start with two weapons, the assault rifle and the carbine. One is fully automatic and the other is semi-automatic. While the carbine has a nice kick, I can’t help but mention that the assault rifle feels a little on the weaker side. It will take down enemies fairly quickly and the time to kill is in a nice sweet spot. This is one gripe I’ve always had with Halo, as I found myself frequently dying after unloading almost a whole magazine into someone.
However, I will say that my FPS skills have improved after playing Halo, so that gripe should be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless, finding one of the many weapons on the ground can net the player with a new weapon only they have in the match, as the weapons begin a cooldown before allowing another player to pick them up.
The extra weapons themselves have a limited ammo pool, with the ultra-powerful rail gun only able to fire two shots before it’s out of ammo. Players won’t pick up ammo for their special weapons, so keeping one of the base weapons is crucial to surviving long enough to continue a kill streak.
Speaking of kill streaks, there is a Halo-styled announcer in the game. The announcer will give a play-by-play for the game, announcing any medals a player may receive while playing, as well as humorous names for the killstreaks, from the classic five-man killing spree to a 10-man “killection agency.” And with every Halo-styled arena shooter comes the super-powered melee weapon. Halo has the energy sword. Splitgate has the BFB, a sci-fi baseball bat that frills open at the end to deliver instant kills.
However, the one thing Splitgate has for its game that makes it stand out is its portal mechanics. After playing a handful of matches in the game, I can say it does what it says on the box. The portals aren’t able to be placed anywhere, so the player will have to look out for portal surfaces on the ceiling and floor. The mechanics work just as intended, keeping momentum while going through the portals, much like the puzzler the mechanics first appeared in. However, there’s more than one way to use portals. While one person can see through theirs, they’re unable to see through anyone else’s. Players can also close their portals whenever they need to. On PC, the portals are shot through the Q and E keys and are closed with the Z and X keys, meaning that portals can be opened and closed at will.
The portals aren’t just a means of transportation. It’s also used to get a better look at the enemy and be able to be shot through. However, this can go both ways. While the enemy can’t see through your portal, they can know if you’re in front of it.
There are ways to counter portals if someone is shooting at you through their portal. Throwing the grenade at them will fix that issue, as it doesn’t deal explosive damage to the player. Rather, 2 EMP grenades are given to every player, and they’re used to close portals by throwing them at them.
While anyone can use a portal, the fact that enemies and teammates can’t see through your portal makes for a way to get the drop on enemies who aren’t paying attention to the portals, as well as being able to trick players by placing a one-way trip to out of bounds.
There are also other game modes outside of the few mentioned previously. One mode I was particularly fond of is Swat TDM and Team Shotty Sniper. Swat TDM is Team Deathmatch, with only the battle rifle, which fires in bursts, and the carbine. This mode is the same as TDM, but there are no weapons on the map aside from the starting ones. Headshots are instant kills. This puts the players’ accuracy to the test, with the game focusing on making the players aim for the head while they’re flying around and shooting through portals. The other mode, Team Shotty Sniper, is similar. Team Shotty Sniper is the same as a regular TDM. However, there are no special weapons, and the starting weapons are the shotgun and the sniper. This makes for a super interesting, long-range, close-range combat scenario, and sniping in this game is fun and effective.
There’s a lot of content in this game as well, with Splitgate’s beta launching with 20 maps. While the maps are small, they invoke many Halo 2, Halo 3, and Quake vibes. The size helps deliver fast-paced matches for games with only two teams of four.
The game is more complete than a beta, however, with the game launching with more maps than the most recent version of Call of Duty and including more modes and a fully ranked playlist once the player reaches level 20. The ranking in the game feels more akin to Overwatch, with the player being assigned a rank after completing 10 matches in the game.
More modes unlock at Level 10. However, I found that leveling up in the game is very slow. I was only Level 4 after around 10 matches, most of which were wins. The game attempts to mitigate this, but having challenges that can be completed rewards large amounts of experience.
While the game was fun and made me play more matches, it felt a little too stiff. Turning in the game feels very stop and go, making it harder to aim while running around. This should be tuned a bit better when the game exits the beta phase, as making the game feel more fluid would be a huge benefit for the game. The game also suffers from one other thing that I know could be fixed: the portals.
If close enough to the portal, the portal would pull them in, letting them move more fluently throughout the world. This kills the game’s flow and makes for some easy kills if the player trying to escape hits a wall and stops moving. This isn’t something the game does, and I’ve been killed on multiple occasions as I put my portal just a little too high, and I was unable to jump through it.
Another thing about the title is that it’s free-to-play, which means it will have some form of monetization. The game currently has its in-game currency; however, the beta battle pass is free for all players, making the game a little more forgiving before moving into its 1.0 version.
The game does include loot boxes, which are won through completing matches and doing challenges or leveling up. The loot boxes only net the player one item, whether it’s a character skin, weapon skin, spray or emote. Weapon skins can be unlocked through challenges and customized or bought through the store with the game’s premium currency.
It includes classic T-shirts, hoodies, and jerseys, with the ability to put player gamertags on the back. 1047 Games also have a merchandise store open for the game.
Could Splitgate Become an Esport?
With a specific multiplayer shooter like Splitgate, there’s a definite possibility that the game could find some esports fame. The game is comprised of a small team, quick matches, and teamwork, as well as its portal mechanics. While it may sound like something that wouldn’t be interesting on paper, the one thing that brought my attention to the game was clips I found about it on the internet.
Seeing people play the game and the exciting things that we’re capable of with the title, the mere fact that watching Splitgate be played got me into the idea of the game is something that I can say would be its defining trait in esports.
Comparing this to another game that I enjoy, Knockout City, seeing the gameplay of that game was different. Knockout City is a game that I also believe has the potential to become an esports title. The gameplay didn’t get me hooked on the game; rather, playing it myself did. Splitgate flips the script by not only being fun to play but also being fun to watch. For esports, being fun to watch is integral to keeping an audience for games. If an amateur player posting one of their more tame plays on the channel caught my interest, thinking about the possibilities of a proper competitive esports match would be significantly more entertaining.
If the game gets more tuning, fixes the main issue for stiff movement, and gives the player more leeway while entering a portal through the air, it could be an entertaining esport. It would require more skill and forethought than regular FPS titles.
Regardless, if you’re interested in Splitgate, I recommend checking it out, it’s going to be free, and it’s seriously fun. Not only does it do what it says on the box, but it outdoes itself in some aspects. While the game still needs a little more polishing, it’s filled to the brim with content from the get-go. Players will always have something to do with its immense amount of maps and modes.