Rocket League Review
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars gets an amazing sequel
"That's our free PS Plus game for July?!" I exclaimed. "I can't even see myself downloading it, it looks completely unappealing!" Those were my two initial reactions to Rocket League, a game that's been constantly praised by fellow peers in the media who have gotten to play the game at various events. I couldn't believe it. I refused to believe it.
Then I downloaded it.
Out of nowhere comes a sequel to a game that I only remember thanks to its completely ludicrous title. The original game, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars never really made a splash, and, in fact, didn't score so well with critics. So then why was Rocket League so well received at preview events? What did this game have that captured everyone's hearts and attention?
Well the premise itself is wacky enough to warrant a double take. After all, this is soccer that's played with a giant ball and cars with rocket fuel trying to score on one another. The game presents various configurations that are all equally as engaging. Want to play 1v1 versus a friend? Go for it. Want to add a few bots to your match to make it interesting? Sure! Have three other friends itching to score some goals? Go 4v4 against other opponents online! Think you have what it takes to go ranked? You have those options available as well.
The game itself is accessible to grasp, and yet incredibly challenging to master. While that may be an extremely overused selling point, it holds extremely true for Rocket League. When we all started playing, we were all zooming around the field by simply holding the gas, occasionally boosting and then jumping to make some well timed saves. However, the deeper mechanics lie with the game's double jump mechanics. Simply pressing the jump button again will allow you to get slightly more air, which can be situationaly advantageous when trying to defend. Press the jump button again simultaneously with a direction, and you'll either make a strafing jump to the side, a flip forward or a flip backward. All three of these maneuvers can be used for high level play.
For example, you can position yourself next to the ball instead of behind it, and then use a directional jump to hit the ball to the side. The front flip jump can be used to give yourself an additional boost without expending your rocket fuel, and to either slam the ball into the goal or defend it from your own goal. The backwards flip is easily the toughest to pull off, though you can get some sweet bicycle hits that way. For example, you can ride underneath the ball as its falling, then quickly perform a backflip jump to hit the ball backwards.
But Rocket League is generally chaos, and even when you think you got all the systems down, you can't help but feel that a lot of your amazing hits are often done by accident, and that's where the true beauty of the game lies, especially when playing 3v3 or 4v4. There is so much unpredictability during each match that when you actually do something awesome, you can't help but exclaim your victory out loud. My wife can attest to my loud victories which unfortunately woke up our daughter once or twice. And the effect of this has already been seen online as users are all sharing their amazing shots on goal or their gravity defying saves.
There really are no rules to the game as far as positions go but I did find through my many matches that having a meta of at least one person minding the goal usually yields better results. I've already conditioned myself to guard the goal religiously in game, since I generally can't score for crap. However, hanging back at the goal gives me a pretty amazing view of the entire field which gives me great opportunities to boost out into the field when I see an opening.
In multiplayer driven games like these, my biggest issue is being stuck in a match for too long that's not going anywhere, but that isn't really the case here, since all matches are only 5 minutes. Sure, games can go into overtime in the case of a tie, though those don't usually last for much longer. There certainly isn't a fear of being stuck in a match for 20 minutes or so. While that may happen, it's definitely extremely rare. The game works as both a serious time sink for those that want to go in hard match after match, but also as a short distraction. We constantly boot the game up during the day to have a quick game or two and then go back to work.
For those that might find the online world of Rocket League intimidating, there's the Season mode which lets you create your own team, complete with color scheme and start your own multi-week season against computer controller opponents. There's also a surprisingly helpful Training mode which has three difficulties separated into three categories; Goalie, Striker and Aerial, as well as a helpful Tutorial that teaches the basics.
But as intimidating as the online world of Rocket League might seem, I can't help but feel that most players are on equal footing here. Sure, there are those who put in an impressive amount of time and have learned to handle their cars better, but it's still soccer with cars that relies on physics. No matter what, there are always going to be variables that you won't be able to account for. This isn't a fighting game where you learn a character backwards and forwards. Generally all of your Rocket League games will be different from one another, and that's whats so great about the game.
There is a pretty nice sense of progression in the game that earns you points towards your level, which will gradually level you up based on how much you've played. What's great is that despite winning or losing, you're rewarded with some sort of unlockable trinket, car or paint job, which makes even losing not feel as bad.
If I had one gripe, it's that there is currently no penalty for players to leave games. While it's not a huge issue when playing in standard matches, it's much worse in Ranked. Having a teammate or even an opponent leave just because you scored a lucky goal early in the round is absolutely idiotic. There needs to be some sort of punishment in place since Ranked matches don't substitute bots in for players who leave.
Rocket League was an incredible surprise. However, I can say that it's thanks to its PS Plus promotion that I even gave it a chance. Having played it, I would agree that it's well worth the $20, especially now that it became an official eSport. It's certainly on track to be the best sports game this year. If you haven't yet downloaded it, do yourself a favor, queue it up now and take it for a spin. Trust me, you won't regret it.