Every so often, a new video game comes out and tries to take on the biggest franchise on the block. We saw it with Fable and The Elder Scrolls along with Torchlight and Diablo.
Splitgate, a self-proclaimed “Halo meets Portal” game, is the latest newcomer to challenge Halo. I’ll come right out and say it; this game reeks of plagiarism, but it also has says something interesting about Halo: it could be a lot better with some creativity added to the mix.
Although Splitgate lacks a campaign and remains in open beta, Splitgate appears to have what it takes to rise up and challenge Halo for some of its playerbase. At least until Halo Infinite drops.
After playing a solid 15 hours of multiplayer, I think Splitgate does a few things better than the long-standing (and possibly complacent) Halo games.
1. Splitgate’s Combat is Fun and Creative
Splitgate is not an original game. They even admit it in their advertising. I am practically waiting for a lawsuit to smite this company. It’s almost a copy-paste job in many respects.
That being said, I think they took the base Halo multiplayer experience and added some amazing elements to it. For example, the player’s ability to use portals to swiftly move across a map and scope out their enemies provides a crazy-fun, unique element to the game.
Nothing is better than opening a portal over someone’s head and shooting them through it. Or, you could use your portals in a game of Oddball to give you a fighting chance to get away from the enemy.
You’ll also enjoy the ability to sprint in any match and have near-constant use of your jetpack, both of which make the combat fast-paced and downright hectic at times.
Sure, you could argue that modern Halo gives you more loadout options, but the balance in this game is very good with just the running and jetpack.
Finally, the combat is much more based on using your guile and aiming abilities— there are no grenades to drop at the last second to kill your enemy. That might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a welcome reprieve for me.
2. Crazy Game Types Provide Fresh Gameplay
Sometimes, the best thing that a game can have is a little self-awareness of its audience. People have been “teabagging” dead opponents for as long as you can crouch in a video game.
Splitgate took that idea and made the game type “Teabag Confirmed”, which requires that you kill an enemy, stand over them, and teabag them to collect the “teabag” they drop on the map.
Sure, it’s kitschy to people who have been gaming for a while, but seriously: how frickin’ funny is that?
It’s not all jokes, though. Splitgate also has other creative game types like “One in the Chamber” where you start with a single bullet, enemies have a quarter of their normal health, and you only gain bullets by killing enemies.
These cool game types complement the typical Halo-esque games we’re used to like Swat, ShottySnipers, King of the Hill, and Oddball.
If you want to experience Halo with some new game modes while you wait for the new launch, it’s worth it for the game types alone.
3. Weapon Choices Are Pared Down and Balanced
Splitgate has a fair selection of weapons that are very similar to the human weapons in Halo with the exception of the Big F****** Bat (Gravity Hammer with less splash), Plasma Rifle (the same as Covenant, basically), and Railgun (think Spartan laser).
With about 15 weapons in the game, it’s clear that Splitgate has far fewer than Halo, but that’s not a bad thing. The balance on the weapons seems to be a lot fairer, so that no matter what game mode you’re playing, it’s not like you’re stuck with a weapon that is just useless.
Looking at you, Halo 2 SMG and pistol.
The Halo series introduced a lot of new weapons that provided variety and could work in combination with each other to do some serious damage.
But who the hell wants to be stuck with a plasma pistol, a bolt shot, or most of the Forerunner weapons on maps that have you packed together with the enemy?
I realize that Splitgate is only able to provide such few weapon choices because the game does not have a campaign mode like Halo, but so many of those weapons are just extraneous in multiplayer.
By removing the wealth of weapon options, Splitgate lets the player focus on doing what they love: killing people by starting with at least a single respectable weapon.
4. Map Votes for All Game Types
I played Halo for a few hours tonight and I swear I got the same four or five maps for Halo 2,3, and Reach. I mention this because it’s the common criticism that players aimed at Halo when it introduced the concept of map vetoes.
Splitgate has fewer maps but I feel like I’ve seen most of the maps throughout every play session. Splitgate’s voting system lets you and the other players vote between two maps or choose ‘Random’, allowing players to make a decision about which map to play based on the game type that has appeared.
Some levels are certainly better for snipers; I might vote against that to try and force us on a smaller map where I can use a shotgun and portals to kill more people. It’s a great form of gamesmanship that adds another interesting facet to the game.
The last time I checked (about five minutes before writing this article) there is no map voting system in place for every game in the Halo Master Chief Collection. I know why people are for it and against it, and I gotta say I’m with the former line of thinking.
5. Maps Are Fairer; Spawn Kills Fewer
You would think that the ability to make portals in so many areas of the map would make Splitgate a spawn-killing hellscape, but you’d be wrong.
The maps seem like they were purposefully constructed in such a way that you aren’t going to constantly spawn in the line of sight of other enemies. Have I gotten spawn-killed? Absolutely. I got brained in Swat mode by a player named “Your Father” and I think I need therapy from it.
Have I gotten repeatedly spawn-killed for several lives like in Halo on Midship, Lockout, or that one Reach remake of the Halo CE level? Nope, not once.
But I’ve played 20 hours and never spawned face-to-face with a rifle because “Ballmasher420” has been playing the game for the last decade and knows when and where I’m gonna spawn.
Is it a lack of experience thing, or is it meaningful design on the part of the Splitgate designers? I don’t know, but it feels good.
In Halo, it’s a constant thing, especially in Swat and ShottySnipers matches. I don’t know how the game series has existed for 20 years and not come up with a way to not spawn people in the same 4 areas every time.
Moreover, the maps make people depend on their portals to set up sniper nests. Even if you managed to set up a comfy nest, a portal could open behind you and air you out like a basket of laundry on a sweet summer evening.
You can’t hide in the wheel on Zanzibar and just lay waste to people. Likewise, you don’t have to root out the sniper nest in Lockout with grenades to stand a chance.
The maps just seem better and fairer overall, and that’s something to applaud.
Last Thoughts and Miscellaneous Cool Stuff About Splitgate
I’m not going to pretend that Splitgate doesn’t have its own problems. The game needs a lot of polish. I’m also not going to claim that this game is better than Halo. It’s not. How could it be when it only has half the content of a Halo title?
Still, I found a lot to like about the games. In addition to what I wrote above, I think the following things are pretty sweet:
- Better pacing for casuals; games only last 8 minutes
- Crossplay is already available
- It’s free as of early August 2021
- The skins for guns and armor are great and add variety (I am probably never spending a penny, though; sorry, Splitgate)
- Again, no grenades except for EMPs
In truth, I’m much more of an RPG guy than I am a shooter, but I have recently taken some time away from World of Warcraft. That game left me wanting to put a few rounds in digital heads like in the old days.
I don’t know a whole lot about shooters, but I’ve played a lot of Halo in my day and I have to say that Splitgate does somethings better than Halo. Check it out and let me know what you think. I promise I’ll read what you write in the comments.