The one thing that seems to have come out of Nintendo’s Splatoon Global Testfire demo and server stress test is a number of conflicting opinions on whether or not the Wii U game needs voice chat. It’s a valid concern. Many will probably pick the title up for the online multiplayer which, as proven this weekend, can be quite a draw. But the question remains as to whether Splatoon requires direct communication between players to be a success. As someone who has played it twice now, I believe it doesn’t.
Yes, voice chat would be appreciated in a game like Splatoon . It could prove an asset. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to direct orders to your teammates? But it doesn’t feel like it’s essential. The game can be enjoyed as is, with strategies still shining through.
As an example, allow me to relate a story of one of my matches. Pairings were random during the Splatoon Global Testfire. You never knew who you would be playing with or what team anyone would be on. Fate decided, and luck played a huge part in wins. Yet, by about the half hour mark, it seemed like people were working things out. I was part of a team made up of two Rollers and two Splattershot Jrs. attempting to paint Saltspray Rig green. Out of the gate, the other Roller and I both led the path and, when a split appeared, the other player went right and I went left. We didn’t have to decide on it. It happened.
The following events surprised me and provided proof voice chat isn’t essential to success in Splatoon . The Splattershot Jrs. saw what we were going for and also split up, with one acting as a bodyguard/assistant for each Roller. Wherever I went, my Splattershot Jr. friend was with me. At one point, he was tossing bombs from a higher vantage point, while I rolled around an area making sure every inch was covered. The result was domination of Saltspray Rig. We beat the Bad Guys, covering 70% of the map.
It’s a situation that repeated itself more and more as the Splatoon Global Testfire went on. People couldn’t talk, but were still accomplishing goals. Checking the map on the GamePad allows someone to see current coverage. Super jumps let you get to an area from the respawn point quickly. People seemed to realize the importance of constantly covering and working together if they were near another player. The need to cover ground to win, rather than take out opposing players, meant we didn’t have to shout out directions to get things done.
That isn’t to say voice chat couldn’t improve any Splatoon situation. I’m sure it could. But we have programs like Skype that can assist with that situation, and odds are anyone picking up Splatoon will be doing so to enjoy it with friends. Attempting to work out strategies with strangers may not go so well.
The inclusion of voice chat might actually have been a hinderance. Such a function would likely allow everyone on the field to hear one another. People will know what everyone is doing, which would ruin some of the magic of Splatoon . Part of the fun is diving into the ink as a squid and being all stealthy. Hearing where everyone is and what they’re hoping to accomplish could detract from that.
Splatoon seems like a promising game. It’s debatable whether the exclusion or inclusion of voice chat would have eventually detracted or added to the experience. What I experienced during the Global Testfire demo makes me believe it isn’t as important a feature as some may think, and that the full game will offer plenty of strategic gameplay and yield competent teammates after release.