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You should use motion controls in ‘Splatoon 3.’ Seriously.

(Washington Post illustration; Nintendo)

“Splatoon 3′s” main mode, Turf War, can be tough for newcomers. The game is exhilaratingly fast — more so than most typical multiplayer shooters, with rounds that last just 3 minutes, and players able to easily and quickly traverse from one end of a map to the other.

The best ways to improve your game may not be the most intuitive, though. What works in other shooters simply won’t work here. The game’s very nature is different, most clearly evident in its win condition. It’s not about which team gets the most kills; it’s about which team has more paint on the map, i.e., who’s better at controlling the battlefield.

With this in mind, here are five tips to accelerate your acclimation process and improve at the game.

Use motion controls (and play in handheld at first)

No, this is not a joke.

Quickly peruse the Splatoon subreddit and you’ll notice a recurring, popular topic and question: “Should I use motion controls or stick controls?” There’s a very good reason for that. Motion controls, usually the butt of jokes for serious console gamers and seen more as a gimmick than a legitimate feature, are the closest approximation to a mouse and keyboard — the preferred setup for accurate aim in shooters — in “Splatoon 3.” There are no auto-aim features in the game, so you’ll need laser precision to keep up with your opponent’s blistering speed and multiple dodge options. The point-and-click nature of the Switch Joy-Cons and the Pro Controller’s gyro controls allow for much more precise aiming, while stick controls require constant left-right-up-down micromanagement. After a while — especially in higher level play — aiming with the right stick simply won’t be fast enough.

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Multiple pros advocate using motion controls over stick controls. YouTuber ThatSrb2DUDE’s video offers a great visual explanation. He also has a good demo video that gets into the nitty-gritty for how to properly use the motion controls that I would highly recommend. Use the targets around the lobby to practice your aim, and fiddle around with motion control sensitivity in the options menu to find out what works best for you.

It also wouldn’t hurt to get comfortable with the “Reset camera button” (it’s Y by default). I almost always hit the reset camera button when turning my character 45 degrees or more to keep the action squarely in front of me and my motion control movements consistent.

If you find you’re really struggling with the motion controls, try playing with the Switch in handheld mode and the Joy-Cons attached at first. It’s typically way less disorienting to get used to the gyro this way, and it’s helpful spatially to look down at your hands and match your hand movement to a visual that’s right between them.

Aim for the feet

One thing that’s not really explained in this game is that damage hitboxes are the same across your opponent’s body. This means you don’t get any damage bonuses for, say, hitting an opponent’s head, like in most shooters.

Because of this, it’s actually way better to aim in the opposite direction: their feet. Why? Aiming for feet mitigates the amount of punishment you’ll take should you miss the shot. Worst case scenario, you miss, and now your opponent is surrounded by your paint, making entering squid form — a popular dodge method — impossible. It may just provide the edge you need to hit them with your next shot.

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Another advantage to aiming at feet? If you’re fast enough, you can actually hit your opponents in squid form. Where are the hitboxes for squid form, you may ask? That’s right — where your feet are in normal form. This means that if you’re already aiming at the feet, you don’t have to adjust to accommodate for when players enter squid form.

Test every weapon before buying — and stick with your purchase

The meat of “Splatoon 3” is testing all the different weapons (there are around 50, by my count) and seeing which playstyle resonates with you. Do you prefer the close range, shotgun-like power of the Paint Brush, or do you prefer the sniping potential of the Splat Charger? Fortunately, this game is more forgiving than previous entries when it comes to testing your weapons. There are shooting galleries in the lobby area you can easily access before entering a match, as well as in the weapon shop.

In “Splatoon 3,” you level up via experience points gained after each battle, and as you progress, you unlock multiple weapons in the shop. But the currency you use to buy weapons, Sheldon Licenses, come in very limited supply. At first, you’ll only get them via level ups.

Eventually though, through experience points gained by using the same weapon over and over again, you’ll receive another Sheldon license, granting further access to more weapons. So instead of wasting licenses after just looking at a gun’s stats, test the weapon in the shooting range in the shop (which you can do by pressing Y after highlighting it). Make sure you really enjoy and understand the playstyle of the weapon you’re testing, because each one in this game has broad mechanical range.

Use the Shell-Out Machine every day, early and often

The Shell-Out Machine is essentially a gumball machine you can find just to the right of the lobby entrance. You can use it anytime you’d like, but the first purchase every day is only 5,000 battle cash as opposed to 30,000 battle cash for every other purchase.

There are two main benefits to doing this early in the day. While some of the capsules you’ll receive only offer cosmetic items, some will be food or drink tickets. You can exchange these at the Crab-N-Go located right next to the Shell-Out Machine. Food and drinks offer a variety of different buffs, like doubling the amount of battle XP or battle cash you receive at the end of each match.

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Drink ticket buffs are particularly good: They help with gear customization. Every piece of gear in “Splatoon 3” comes with passive abilities, like increasing your run speed or the damage your special gun’s ability does. By using the same piece of gear over and over again, you level it up, which unlocks another passive ability. Here’s the thing though: the ability given to it is randomized. What makes drink tickets great is that certain flavors give your gear a very high chance to get a specific ability. Want to increase how quickly your special gun’s ability charges up? Great, just use that “Ma’s Special Blend Drink” ticket you got from the Shell-Out machine. The next time your gear levels, you’ll very likely get that “Special Charge Up” on it.

Examine other players and use Murch to get specific custom gear

What you’ll discover early on in “Splatoon 3″ is that the greatest amount of grind comes from leveling gear and obtaining the specific abilities you want. The ability gear is imbued with is randomized with each level up, which can lead to copious amounts of frustration.

Fortunately, the game accounts for this. If you examine any player throughout the Square Plaza and see that their player card has gear with the abilities you want on it, you can then talk to Murch, who’s just to the right of the Lobby entrance. He lets you order any gear you see off other player cards once a day, in exchange for a certain amount of battle cash. While the Shell-Out Machine is definitely the less expensive option, Murch gives you a guaranteed option, provided you can find it on a player in your plaza.

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