by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
START YOUR ENGINES
I nearly forgot that I had to write a review for Rocket League because I was playing too much Rocket League. It’s rare that I forget that I’m playing a game for work rather than just pleasure, and although I’ve finished playing this one for work, there are plenty more pleasurable hours of rocket based action to come for me. Playing football with cars. It’s a simple enough idea. It’s been done in real life, but it’s taken until now for it to be successful in a video game. It’s so obvious I’m surprised it’s taken this long. Not only is it a lot of fun to play, watching can be just as enjoyable. As such, I’m fully expecting professional Rocket League teams to be formed in the near future. Anyway, let’s talk about exactly why it’s so good.
BOOSTING THROUGH THE AIR
Each game starts with a stand off. Both teams are sat in their cars at opposite ends of the pitch, staring each other down and waiting for the timer to reach zero. When it does, all hell breaks loose as everyone charges for the giant ball in the center of the field. From there, it’s mayhem, until one of the teams manages to bash the ball into the opposing team’s goal. At least, it looks like mayhem from the outside. For those playing, it’s a constant cerebral workout, as you line up angles and predict where the ball is going to be several seconds ahead of time.
It’s not all along the ground either, you have to think in three dimensional space. The cars have rocket boosters which make them go faster, but they also have the ability to jump, and while they’re in the air, they can jump again. This second jump could be sideways to hit the ball if you’re in the air parallel to its direction, or even backwards if you want to try a fancy bicycle kick. When you realize you can use your rocket booster while you’re in mid air to essentially make your car fly for a short period, you have to factor even more brain power into it. This is rather an advanced move that I am yet to pull off with any regularity, but when it does work, there’s no better feeling of satisfaction.
Early on, even getting your car to hit the ball has its own sense of accomplishment associated with it, because it’s harder than it looks. When you score your first goal, you’ll be gleefully grinning from ear to ear, I can guarantee that. There’s a sense of progression that comes from pulling off more and more advanced maneuvers. Your first bicycle kick, your first save, your first epic save (where you clear the ball as it’s crossing the line but before it goes in). Right now you earn experience as you play, but these ranks are seemingly only used to indicate an arbitrary rank - Rookie, Semi Pro, Pro, and so on. I’m hoping more is added to this leveling system when the first ranked season starts later this month.
CHANGE HOW YOU PLAY
There are plenty of ways to play Rocket League, and each is surprisingly different. 3v3 is the standard game mode that the majority of people are playing. It strikes the right balance between mayhem and tactics. 4v4 mode is called “Chaos”, for obvious reasons. The ball rarely touches the floor and demolitions (where you boost into another car to destroy it for a short period of time) are prevalent. 2v2 switches things up again, as one player generally takes on the role of attacker while the other hangs back in case the ball is cleared. 1v1 often slows the action to a crawl, as each player waits for the other to make a mistake before pouncing and launching the ball down the other end. There is also a single player season mode, but most of the fun is to be had playing against human opponents.
The game is always played on the same pitch, but different stadiums, weather effects and times of day mix things up a bit. The boost pads which fill up your meter are always in the same place, with the special 100% pads dotted around the edges in each corner and in the middle. Of course, even though the arena has walls, you can technically go outside the bounds of the pitch by driving on said walls. While the playing area remains the same, your car can be customized to your heart’s content. You are always either on the orange or blue team, but you can change the color within those ranges. You have a broad selection of types of car to choose from, but they all function exactly the same. Those types of car can then be customized with decals such as stripes, flames, and the like. Then you can also choose a “topper” for your car, an antenna, and what your rocket trail looks like. I’m currently rocking a hard hat, a smiley face antenna and a rainbow rocket trail, because I like to look friendly going up against the devil horns and red flamethrowers that many cars seem to display.
ONE OF THE BEST
Everything looks fantastic too, right down to every blade of the artificial grass, and the sunlight shining through the transparent walls of the arena. The music is the exact brand of cheesy techno you’d expect from a made up future sport, and the crowd cheers and groans when shots are scored and saved. The only thing I’d like to see in future is perhaps a pitch with a different layout, and maybe a couple of new modes where the rules are switched up a bit. Both paid DLC packs and free updates are planned to bring about new cars and cosmetic changes, and if developer support continues, Rocket League could turn into something truly special. Even as it is though, it quickly became one of my favourite games of the year, in a year where we’ve already had a huge number of great titles.
High octane physics based fun, Huge sense of satisfaction from pulling off moves
Some slight variety in maps and modes are perhaps needed