Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run Is the Co-op Mode It Needs [E3 2017 Preview]

When it comes to co-op multiplayer there are a few great options: Gears of War Horde and Call of Duty Zombies being arguably the best options. Meanwhile, the original Splatoon lacked a dedicated online co-op experience, instead, limiting you to the campaign and traditional multiplayer. Though, that is not the case with Splatoon 2 coming next month on the Nintendo Switch.

The Splatoon 2 and Arms-centric Nintendo Direct exactly two months ago in April revealed to us the game’s newest mode called Salmon Run. This four-player cooperative mode has you face off against a strange new Salmon enemy in multiple waves of intense combat. This week at E3, I got to sit down with the new mode in a quick ten minute play session. Beginning with my three other companions on the same map featured in the initial reveal trailer, we were tasked with the objective of retrieving a number of “Golden Eggs”.

The most immediate surprise was that Salmon Run isn’t necessarily like other Horde-based game modes. Instead of the typical “kill this many” or “survive this long”, a wave isn’t successful until you deliver the Golden Eggs to the egg basket. The eggs are dropped from various Salmon enemies. While a rather simple concept, it is refreshing in that it makes you have to constantly move around the map instead of hunkering down in hopes of just surviving like in other games.

Our first wave gave us a quota of three eggs to deliver in 100 seconds. The added time limit creates a sense of urgency as you try to beat the clock. This is coupled with the disadvantage of only being able to carry one egg at a time. Because of all this, communication is necessary if you wish to accomplish the objective in sufficient time. It was easy to let my team know that there was another egg by me that I couldn’t grab since I already was carrying one on my back, but that was only because they were right next to me on the show floor. The Switch’s current dilemma with voice chat is certain to make strategizing much harder to accomplish when you’re playing with strangers online.

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Even when you have your eggs delivered, the wave doesn’t end until the timer is completely depleted. In our case, we had almost half the clock still running when we delivered the final egg of wave one, so that meant surviving for the next 40 or so seconds. There are three waves total, each becoming increasingly difficult in terms of enemies and objectives while still having the same time limit of 100 seconds. Wave two and three each tasked us with retrieving four and five eggs, respectively. You can actually deliver more eggs than necessary, but we unfortunately didn’t get to see what bonuses that gives you in our preview.

During waves, you’ll encounter normal Salmon Chums that shoot green ink all over the map as well as more powerful and challenging bosses. The boss that I got to fight in our preview was a bizarre floating double-trash can monster that would occasionally open its trash lid heads. To defeat the boss, we had to launch grenades and the like into its head while the lid was open to defeat that specific head. Both had to be destroyed to completely eliminate the boss.

The weakest part of Salmon Run was the map that we got to play on. Though somewhat dense with multiple heights, it is surrounded by water you can’t go into and small in overall area size. This is, of course, just one map and I’m hoping there will be many more to choose from once the full game releases next month that utilize different strategy. Despite its issues, the limited map didn’t take away too much from the addictive core gameplay hook. The final wave in particular was a blast to play and a true test of our inky skill. We just barely delivered the fifth and final egg with about 12 seconds to spare.

As a major Horde fan, Salmon Run certainly satisfies my desire for wave-based cooperative gameplay and shows strong promise for the third core pillar in Splatoon 2 alongside the singleplayer campaign and online multiplayer. Time will tell just how many maps we will get to play it on or how communication will work online, but for now, it is an equally challenging and fun experience that has me excited to play more.