Splitgate: Arena Warfare is 'Halo plus Portal,' and the most disorienting competitive FPS I've ever played

Update: In July 2018, the developers changed the game's name from 'Wormhole Wars' to 'Splitgate: Arena Warfare.' That change has been reflected in this article.

Games are always meeting other games—Dark Souls has met Zelda so many times they're probably each other's emergency contacts—and while the 'X meets Y' cliche is an easy way to quickly describe a new game, it's not always an apt shortcut. Splitgate: Arena Warfare, however, is definitely 'Halo meets Portal' as the developer says. It's the most 'Halo meets Portal' game that could exist without an unlikely alliance between Valve and Microsoft.

I played a free-for-all round earlier this morning at PAX East, and the shooting is Halo-like as promised. The default gun is an assault rifle that I mostly fired from the hip, my crosshairs blipping red with each hit. Other weapons were scattered around the outdoor arena, presumably, but I didn't run into any as I fumbled around, retreating often to let my beleaguered shields recharge.

Now, Portal: The Q and E keys fire oval-shaped portals onto specially-marked surfaces on the map. They work exactly like they do in Portal, down to the potentially too similar shimmery orange patterns that indicate portals which don't have an exit. Once you've fired a portal with the Q key and one with the E key, you can walk through them both ways, or leap through them, redirecting your momentum as you do. Drop a portal on a floor tile, for instance, and another up high on the side of a tower, and you can fall feet first into the first and shoot out the second, translating your downward motion into lateral motion. Just like Portal.

Someone in front of you can run into a wall and appear behind you at any time, while you might escape by dropping a portal beneath your feet and popping out across the map. Their range is seemingly unlimited, so if you spawn far away from the latest firefight, all you need to suddenly join the party is a sliver of visible portal-friendly surface to target.

Allocating brain space for the locations of each of my portals—and other players' portals, which you can't use but can see—is obviously demanding. To ease players in, bot matches are planned, though there's no singleplayer campaign on the docket currently. Splitgate is being designed as a competitive shooter with esports in mind.

The name's a bit silly for a game eyeing a spot next to CS:GO (then again, what the hell is a 'Counter-Strike: Global Offensive'?), but the devs are sure the skill ceiling is astronomically high. I couldn't judge that from one deathmatch session, but the skill it's going to take to use portals tactically is evident before you even play—check out 19 minutes of gameplay above to see what I mean.

Splitgate  is targeting a February 2019 release, and is presently receiving an overhaul after a big funding increase. It'll enter a tough world for arena shooters, where decidedly modern games like Fortnite, PUBG, and Overwatch have taken over. Like LawBreakers—which has not fared splendidly—Splitgate mixes early-2000s style shooting with movement anomalies. Portal's movement, specifically. Its elements, or at least those I saw, are unoriginal, but the combination of Halo and Portal might be novel enough to break though.