Splitgate Arena Warfare In-Depth Review: Steam's Next Big Shooter?

Combining Halo’s arena style combat with Portal’s simple teleportation mechanic has blown a breath of fresh air into the arena combat genre. But is it enough to make Splitgate Steam’s newest poster child?

ESG Quick Review:

Over the last thirty days (as of August 2021), Splitgate’s player count has exponentially increased from an average player count of 3,000 to a whopping 35,000. That is well over a ten times increase to player count in the course of thirty days. Surprisingly, the game has actually been out since May of 2019 but only recently gained popularity. Why is that?

Recently, Splitgate has come out with crossplay compatibility which is the root cause for the surge in average players. That surge has consequently popularized the game and allowed for more people, both console and pc users, to discover Splitgate Arena Warfare and all that it has to offer. Crossplay is a major bonus for any game as it allows the developers to target both major communities without having one feel left out. Sure, it may open up some problems with people complaining about aim assist, but it is much better than said players simply being unable to play the game at all!

With such a major increase in player count and with Splitgate being plastered all over every social media site, it only seems right to write a review about the game. Without further ado, here is an in-depth review on Splitgate Arena Warfare based on the following categories:

  • Mechanics/Feel
  • Aesthetics/Visuals
  • Replayability
  • Development Team


Splitgate Areana Warfare on Steam
Portal meets Halo. That is the aim the developers took and many argue, including myself, that they have achieved that goal seamlessly! Image courtesy of respawnlink.com

The easiest, and most common, way that Splitgate can be described is Portal meets Halo. This is a surprisingly apt descriptor for the game and even an accurate description as to what the developers were aiming to create (more on that later). First, I’ll describe how the game functions mechanically and then get to how everything feels during a typical match.

Splitgate Arena Warfare implements a portal system players can use at any point in the match, as much as they want. Its design is simple and easy to understand, there is one button to place down the portal entry and another to place the portal destination. After that, simply hop through the portal and you are instantly transported to the end portal. There are also separate buttons to recall either the start or end portal. It is also important to note that you can both see and shoot through your own portal, but enemy portals are unable to be seen through. This may sound unbalanced at first, but there are numerous ways they balance it. This includes a different brightness for enemy portals when they are nearby, shot tracers while shooting through it, and your crosshair glowing red when highlighted over an enemy on the other side of their portal (you can shoot through their portals!). The only way to remove enemy portals is to utilize your grenades and blow them up. In fact, that is all the grenade is used for as it does no damage to players, a notable divergence from the Halo series. Another thing to note is that portals cannot be placed anywhere, only on the blue walls seen in many of the pictures on this article. This allows the development team to balance the portals and ensure they do not have any game breaking impact on any map.

In terms of the Halo feel of Splitgate, the similarities are everywhere. The first aspect you will probably notice is the character movement. The player moves almost exactly like the Halo series, with a sprinting feature and a jetpack to match. Unlike some Halo games, there are no classes to pick. Every player is equipped with a rifle (depending on the game mode), two grenades, and a jetpack for movement. The gunplay feels much like Halo as well. Not only are the guns extremely similar with an emphasis on rewarding the player for headshots, but the time to kill is similar as well. If you hit your shots, the standard rifle will kill in a couple shots, even less for headshots. The sniper is a one-shot to the head and two-shot to the body, just like Halo. In standard team deathmatch, there are time based weapons that can be found around the map as many arena warfare games feature. There is even a BFB (big f***in’ bat) that is reminiscent of the gravity hammer!

The combination of the two games resulted in a game, I would argue, that flows more seamlessly than either of the standalone games. In Halo multiplayer combat, I had always felt that it was too reliant on aim and strategic movement rather than outwitting your opponents. In Splitgate, the portal system allows you to gain a tactical advantage over other players by simply outsmarting them rather than having to take an aim battle that more experienced players will win 90% of the time. Although difficult to understand at first, the portal system is extremely satisfying to get better at. There is no better feeling than getting an elimination and portalling out in the nick of time, all because the portals are starting to become muscle memory. All in all, Splitgate has a refreshing feel that does not feel ‘gimmicky,’ but rather an intentional design concept that worked out for the better!


screenshot from split gate arena warfare
Splitgate’s visual appeal is quite strong for a free to play game. With relatively polished graphics, the aesthetic side of Splitgate lives up to its even more polished mechanics! Image courtesy of futuregaming.io

In terms of visuals, Splitgate Arena Warfare has its own unique style that is somewhat similar to Halo yet different in many ways. The main similarity comes in terms of character design. The player model is shaped almost exactly like a spartan from Halo, an almost necessary design decision to ensure the gunplay felt similar enough in terms of hitboxes. That being said, the guns in Splitgate are functionally similar, yet aesthetically quite different. Splitgate put their own visual flare on each of the guns, probably in an effort to avoid any copyright infringement. There are also skins available through the battle pass and the in-game shop that make the guns look vastly different than their Halo counterparts.

Map design, a key element for any arena warfare game, is also quite unique to Splitgate. Due to the inclusion of blue walls that allow players to portal (like the one pictured above), all of the maps had to be designed around this concept. Developers had to ensure that the portal abilities for each map were balanced enough to avoid spawn camping or just flat-out broken portal spots. Something I have noticed after playing through most of the maps, is that this concept resulted in map design that has players spawn inside of a building or room with no obvious portal spots available immediately. This discourages players from setting up portals that are in view of the enemy team spawning. It also results in a typical respawn sequence consisting of spawning, setting up an entry portal in the spawn room, and then finally running out into the map to fight. The spawn portal can then either be used to place a long portal right after leaving the room, or simply leaving it there to portal back into spawn if the player finds themselves in a bad position.

Another unique aspect to Splitgate’s visuals is the inclusion of damage numbers. Since every player has exactly 100 hp, the dev’s decided to add pop up numbers for however much damage you did, similar to the pop ups from World of Warcraft or even Apex Legends. I love this design inclusion as it allows players to quickly add up the damage they have done to decide how they want to play the fight out. If you know you have done 80 damage to the enemy player, this means a single melee would be fatal. It allows quick thinkers to play fights out in a more advantageous manner depending on how much damage they have done. It does, however, result in a bad feeling when you do 80+ damage to someone and they manage to portal out while you whiff the finishing blow...


splitgate arena warfare game modes
Without replayability, any game's player base (no matter how large) will slowly die out. Splitgate has done a great job to counter this by adding tons of game modes and a ranked ladder! Image courtesy of gamertweak.com

Replayability is a core aspect for any game that wants to remain relevant and keep its player base. Splitgate Arena Warfare has this down pat with a HUGE variety of game modes available, many inspired from the Halo series. As you can see from above, there is oddball, swat, shotty snipers, and many more that Halo fans remember fondly. There is even the ‘infection’ game mode in which there are two people who spawn as ‘zombies’ and must infect the enemy players with a melee weapon. This was one of my favorite Halo game modes as it allows the player to rack up a ton of kills with ease. To be fair, the enemy can’t shoot back so I don’t know how impressive that killstreak actually is…

The other aspect of replayability that Splitgate has realized is a core function for any shooter today is a ranked play mode. The inclusion of ranked allows players to have a purpose for getting better in the game. Without it, players would likely only play the game for a couple of days to test out the unique mechanics of the game with no real incentive to try and master said mechanics. With ranked, players have to communicate with their team and hit their shots if they want to climb the ladder and hit whatever rank they have as a goal.

Development Team

game still from split gate arena warfare
1047 Games started out, quite literally, in a college dorm room. Since then, it has increased its employee count tenfold while seemingly keeping their good intentions towards the game intact! Image courtesy of venturebeat.com

Splitgate’s development team has a story just as unique as the game they have created. With so many massive titles being made by multi-million dollar companies, Splitgate deviates from the crowd. Starting out in a dorm room, 1047 Games (literally named after their dorm room numbers) started out as a final project for two computer science students at Stanford. Since then, the company has brought on over twenty different developers/staff to manage their growing game.

A positive sign towards the intentions of the developers was revealed during a Twitch stream by one of the developers. A chatter asked if they ever had any plans of selling as there were rumors circulating that Epic Games had plans of buying out the company. The developer stated that they have no intentions to sell, especially not in the next five years. This is great news considering how many tragic stories there have been of dev teams creating amazing games, only to cash-in by selling the company to a larger entity. Most of the time, this results in the bigger company turning the game into a profit machine rather than caring about the game itself. 1047 Games seems to genuinely care about Splitgate Arena Warfare which gives the game a positive outlook going forward.

Splitgate Arena Warfare
Combining two classic franchises into a competitive FPS seems to be the winning formula for the next big game. All that’s left to do is now wait and see if the game continues to blow up! Image courtesy of mobidictum.biz

So, should you buy it?

Yes! Well, it’s free so you do not even really have to buy it. At the very least, Splitgate is worth a download to try out the fun mechanics of the game and see if it is a good fit for you. That’s the great part about free to play games, it allows all kinds of new players to try out the game with no financial repercussions if they don’t like it. So give the game a fair chance! Who knows, it may just be your next favorite game!

Image courtesy of dexerto.com

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