Splitgate: Portals + slick gunplay = way too fun to be free
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
The pitch behind Splitgate is a simple one.
What if Halo had the portals from Portal?
It may come across as reductive, but if there's any one-line comparison that brings with it all possible positive connotation, it's this one. 1047 Games have recaptured the joy of the early 2000s, when fraggin' noobs was king and nothing else mattered. Collectively, the gaming community has long chased the highs of Halo 2 and 3, of the summers spent yelling at your screen with friends, of pure unadulterated fun.
Against all odds, they've reached those heights with Splitgate.
UPDATE: Just after publication of this article, 1047 Games delayed the full release even further. They aren't resting on their laurels though. They're promising further server improvements and new modes before release, including a highly requested Ranked Duos mode. And that 2 million in 14 days has turned into 10 million since July. That's a good start for a new shooter, if ya ask me. Splitgate is the debut release of 1047 Games. It has existed in some capacity since 2019, but its current form was finally set for its proper full release on July 27, 2021. After 2 million folks downloaded the game in 14 days, 1047 Games had to push things back a bit to keep their server room from catching fire.
And there's a reason why hordes are flocking to this game, guns a-blazing.
In an era where developers continue to push for bigger, badder, and more battle royale-er, 1047 Games took a step back and reminded us of our roots. They've distilled the pure arena-based shoot-or-be-shot experience and brought it back to life with Splitgate. You've got battle rifles, railguns, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles blasting at each other on arenas full of fun nooks and crannies — the only difference here is that your enemies can come from just about anywhere.
Splitgate combines the chaos of arena shooters of old, like Quake and Halo, with a twist-y and slightly more thoughtful mechanic: the addition of its portals. Equipped with a portal gun, you can slap entry and exit portals on a number of marked surfaces across the arena and carry your momentum as you travel through them.
While Portal-reminiscent, Splitgate brings its own unique mechanics into play. You can shoot guns through them, effectively turning every portal into a tactical window that can offer an extra vantage point over an entire arena or behind some sneaky corner. But the only portals you're able to see through are your own. Enemy and teammate portals are obscured, though shooting and traveling through them is still possible.
How does that all manifest in actual matches? Early on... it's pretty damn fun. Splitgate is in its Wild West-era. Arguably the best time to hop into any multiplayer shooter. Folks are still working things out, figuring out how maps and mechanics blend together, and it's a much more accessible time for players to hop in and find a good time.
When you factor in something as game-changing as portals, it can make for a truly unpredictable time. In the 20 hours I've played since the beta went live a couple weeks ago, I've found that folks are still finding their way with the portals system. Some choose to ignore them completely, playing the game as straightforward as possible. Some are making... questionable decisions with their portal use. And some are straight up ninjas with the way they portal behind your spawn in the opening moments of a match to blast you away.
It's fascinating how much the portals change up what is otherwise a familiar formula. Gunplay is tight and familiar, with weapons like the battle rifle and sniper rifle packing the punch you'd expect. Arenas are built beautifully, with varied verticality and a blend of tight corridors and wide-open spaces. And movement has this fluid rigidity that I like, doing away with mechanics more familiar in today's shooter lexicon — sliding and vaulting — but replacing them with a simple jetpack mechanic.
All of that is only amplified and made more engaging with the intro of portals. With a well-placed portal, snipers can take roost from any point on the map, arenas are transformed and traditional hiding spots are eliminated, with no sliding and vaulting needed.
You're constantly reconfiguring your mind and learning new ways to think, and after years of the same mindless shooting in games like that one Activision shooter we don't care about anymore and Battlefield, it's a nice change of pace.
Clearly this fresh take appealed to gamers around the globe. Just a few weeks after its open beta went live, servers ballooned and blew up with an influx of new players. So much so that the developers had to delay its initial release and take on new investor money to help the servers keep pace with the player count. As of writing this article, the game's official Discord server hit its 800,000 member limit, a milestone that the wildly popular Genshin Impact only hit about two weeks ago.
1047 Games couldn't have predicted numbers like these right out of the gate and that has come with some growing pains. With cross-play implemented, the servers buckled under the weight of millions of new players, and the developers implemented a queue system to ensure server stability while letting in as many players as possible. Queue times early on ranged anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. I have no way of verifying this, but I believe at its worst, it was even as long as two hours toward the beginning of August, just to get in to play the game.
Since then though, their servers have been fortified against the rabid portal-shooting clientele, and with demand higher than ever, they've managed to essentially eliminate queue times while only growing the overall server capacity. Things were on fire for a while, but they've definitely got a grasp of the situation now.
All in all, the future is bright for 1047 Games and Splitgate. Every year, there seems to be some big game of the summer that puts the community in a fervor — Fall Guys and Among Us took the crown in 2020 and Splitgate seems poised to take their seat here in 2021.
It's easy to see why too.
Splitgate is fun distilled. It's everything we've wanted from big shooter franchises over the last few years. And as they step away from these in-demand experiences, Splitgate comes in to fill the void that both Halo AND Portal have left in our hearts.
We wholly recommend checking this game out. It's one of the best multiplayer shooters we've played in years. And we'll close with one of the wildest thing about this undeniable new arena shooter.