Splitgate: Arena Warfare - Hands-on preview from GDC 2019

Shacknews gets a second round with Splitgate: Arena Warfare, the shooter that mixes Halo with Portal, at this year's Game Developers Conference.

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Developer 1047 Games has been hard at work on its arena shooter, Splitgate: Arena Warfare, for the past year. While the central premise is, "Halo meets Portal," the developer is aiming for something more than that. This is a studio that's grown up on classic entries in the genre, like Quake. On top of the game's gimmicks, the goal is to bring back the spirit of those old-school shooters.

Shacknews first tried out Splitgate: Arena Warfare back at TwitchCon 2018. This was our first taste of the central concept. Now the game's alpha has moved along significantly, which makes this year's Game Developers Conference an ideal time to give this game a second look.

Splitgate: Arena Warfare - Pantheon
Splitgate: Arena Warfare's new Pantheon map

The TwitchCon demo for Splitgate mainly centered around the game's futuristic aesthetic. That's still on display, but the game has changed quite a bit since then. Animations look much crisper, quality-of-life improvements like ammo counters on certain weapons are present, and a fair of amount of new content has been added. That includes new map Pantheon, which debuted earlier this month. Pantheon offers an additional degree of creativity from a visual standpoint. The center of the map is still designed to look like a galactic arena, but the surrounding elevated terrain is more reminiscent of ancient Greek architecture. The map's edges are a dirt field with godly faces carved along some of the cliffsides.

Most of Pantheon's fighting takes place along the center of the map, but those who spawn in along the edges can take advantage of a big center drop, where they can place a portal and fall through, taking advantage of Splitgate's portal physics. It's still a blast to place portals along the map and ambush opponents, but now there's a hard counter for the portal gun. Players can toss EMP grenades to destroy enemy portals, forcing them to rethink their path. This gadget will prove immensely useful for defensive teams during certain game modes, like King of the Hill and new game mode Domination.

Speaking of new game modes, Shacknews focused on an old hit that will appeal to Halo veterans. Oddball sees players looking to take possession of a ball (in this case, a disco ball representing the 1047 logo) with the winner being the one who holds it the longest. This is where Splitgate's portal premise really shines, since whoever possesses the ball needs to try and avoid conflict. But this also being a cross with Halo, skilled players can pick off the ball carrier with a sniper rifle or sneak up behind them and pop them with a shotgun.

Splitgate: Arena Warfare - Oddball
Splitgate: Arena Warfare's Oddball mode

While Splitgate is a blend of new school games Portal and Halo, 1047 wants to offer some ample throwbacks to past generations of arena shooters. Players will be able to create custom matches, where they can fix ammo counts, player speed, gravity percentages, and even add features like the old chestnut Big Head Mode.

Custom game options even allow players to remove map boundaries, allowing players to exit the map and go anywhere they want. This includes underneath the map, where players can see textures they aren't meant to see. While developers don't normally open these types of doors, 1047 wants its players to tinker with their maps however they see fit. That can mean fighting along flat textures in the far distance or all the way underneath the entire map in a grey void. If anyone gets stuck, the option is there to suicide and respawn.

Splitgate: Arena Warfare is coming along far quicker than even 1047 anticipated. With the addition of custom game options, the studio was suddenly forced to step up its optimization game to compensate for games with increased character speed and lower gravity. The developers have proven up to the task and Splitgate's online optimization is now among the game's biggest strengths.

That means that Splitgate is almost ready to move past the alpha stage. In the weeks ahead, 1047 will announce when the shooter will enter beta, as well offer a target window for release. Splitgate: Arena Warfare is coming soon to PC, with a Steam release officially announced on Tuesday. Sign-ups are still available on the 1047 Games website.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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