In Splatoon ink is everything–your ammunition, a mode of transportation, and the liquid needed to win the match. The game has a simple objective: paint the arena with more ink than your opponent before the timer runs out. After watching Nintendo's live look via their Treehouse team who showcased several matches, so many strategies have emerged from its innovative design that it could easily be put in a class of its own, or at least provide a fresh infusion into a very saturated genre of shooters.
With a team of four and a respawn point, the first decision to make is how to approach painting the town red (or whatever color your team has been assigned). The safest start is to spray the area closest to your starting base, building up an easy score. However, this could leave you pinned against the wall versus an aggressive opponent. Perhaps you could be that aggressive person, heading straight into enemy territory and working backwards. You better be a good shot though, as you can quickly be gunned down from the home team. And with a force field surrounding the opposing base, you can forget about griefing the enemy's respawn point. Perhaps you can find a nice perch in the highly contested middle zone to snipe down enemies, or hide in a pool of your own ink for some stealthy takedowns. Whatever your initial strategy is don't get too comfortable with it, because the frantic pace of the matches could have you going from offense to defense in mere seconds.
You can instantaneously switch from humanoid form to squid form, with each providing benefits and hindrances. You can only shoot in humanoid form, but make for a much easier target. In squid form you can quickly swim through your own ink, even up walls and under fences, as well hide from your aggressors, but you are without a firearm to defend yourself. Should you miscalculate a jump and find yourself in enemy ink, you're really exposed as you are forced to trudge through their thick goop. Also, don't expect to sit on high dishing out unlimited suppression fire, as your ink ammunition is finite. It refills on its own, but much more rapidly when swimming through it as a squid. When you get splattered (fragged) and respawn, you can launch yourself directly to any team member. However, if they're being overwhelmed, you may quickly find yourself back at the respawn point again.
The GamePad is a simple yet effective tactical tool in Splatoon. The top down view of the entire map displays your teammates locations as well as where the ink has been splattered across the board, all in real time. Here you can see if there are any pockets of the arena not being contested, whether your allies need help, or whether your home territory is being invaded. It's also here, through a tap of your ally's icon, that you can fast travel to their location.
So, if I were the team's skip in the industrial arena being demoed on the E3 show floor, here's how I would run the match. Two Inklings immediately head to the center, spraying a path along the floor as they go to provide a quick route back should they get splattered. Once there, one grabs a high platform and provides cover fire while the other sprays down the area. A third player takes one of the side alleys, stealthily trying to get behind the opposing team, then flanking them in the center. The final member stays back at first, giving the home base a healthy coating of ink and keeping an eye out for enemy players trying to slip past. If the center is successfully controlled, keep the player providing cover fire in place while the other center Inkling pushes forward. The rear guard can then move along the opposing side alley from our sneaking member, coating the area as they go. Once the three have the enemy's access points locked, all can push them back into their territory and hold position until the clock runs out.
With just a few matches watched, the surface of strategy in Splatoon has only been scratched. There will be a ton of general tactics to discover, as well as plenty of board specific ones. The keys to success will be monitoring the area via the GamePad, ink management and strong communication with your teammates. For any of my Cheat Code Central colleagues, and anyone else fortunate enough to be at E3 this year, keep my tips fresh in your head, and see if you can wipe the floor with your competition.