The arena FPS previously called Wormhole Wars has a new name, a new look, and the same great concept that made it so exciting before. Now called Splitgate: Arena Warfare, developer 1047 Games has a simple but rather brilliant vision: take a Halo 2 and 3-style PvP shooter and give every player a portal gun. It’s an idea that was so fun, so skillful, and so natural-feeling when I played, I immediately wondered why nobody had tried it before.
Splitgate requires you to basically rewire your brain from how you’re used to thinking in a traditional FPS. Instead of attacking enemies head-on, the bread and butter move of Splitgate is actually to shoot a portal behind your target and then ambush them. It makes every duel completely unlike other shooters, even with its clear Halo inspiration.
The video below features a developer showing off some crazy moves:
Where you can place your portals is limited to specific surfaces but though there’s no max distance, opening each battlefield up in surprising ways. Running away from a fight can mean crossing the entire map in a second or shaking your enemy through a series of fast portal jumps.
1047 Games tells me they’re still finding new strategies, hundreds of hours of playtesting later
There are also tons of tricks you can use in combat, appearing where your enemies think you aren’t. Portals let you hold strange new angles, like shooting one on a ceiling and then firing down through it, or even putting two portals on the same wall to dance back and forth between them.
While you can see through your own portals, enemy portals remain opaque. You can still use and shoot through them, you just won’t be sure who or what is on the other side. The number of possible moves here is hard to imagine, and 1047 tells me they’re still finding cool new strategies hundreds of hours of playtesting later. For example, one tester would place one portal on a wall but not the other, then pick off players who were confusedly trying to jump through it with no success.
Just like in Portal, you keep your momentum when falling through them. That, coupled with a jetpack mechanic, lets you fly through the air for a fairly long time — assuming you can feather the space bar well to conserve your limited fuel. Splitgate puts certain weapon pickups in hard to reach areas that require this technique, but there’s also just nothing quite like rocketing out of a portal to falcon punch an unsuspecting someone on the other side.
There are no loadouts or classes, everyone enters a match on even footing.
But it’s not just about the portals, as the gunplay feels great so far too. It’s sure to make Halo fans happy, and while aiming down sights is useful for long fights, hip firing is encouraged. Health regenerates once you’ve avoided damage long enough and there are no loadouts or classes to be found either. Everyone will always enter a match on even footing.
Splitgate is currently in closed alpha, and it definitely has a ways to go before its planned release next year. The fundamentals are incredibly solid, but things like the forced rotation when you come out of a portal at an angle can be jarring — a problem 1047 says they are actively working on.
Only one map is currently sporting Splitgate’s eventual final art style too, a red and blue futuristic sports arena look full of holographic billboards and even a dynamic scoreboard. It’s a much cooler look than the generic (if pretty enough) maps that previously acted as placeholders, and extends to the weapons as well — though the final game will have a range of cosmetic options to choose from.
But even in this early state, Splitgate has clearly struck on something brilliant. I can’t even begin to imagine how good people will get at this game, but I can’t wait to find out.
Tom Marks is IGN’s PC Editor and pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.