Rocket League. The only thing faster than the action on the pitch was how quickly it stole the hearts of gamers worldwide. The successor to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars refreshes what was previously a title with niche appeal, catapulting it into the living rooms of every audience. It’s simple to pick up, near impossible to master, and it’s trying its hardest to bring couch co-op back into the mainstream singlehanded. Join us as we take a look at this breakout phenomenon, and tell you why you should be joining us on the pitch. Buckle up.
Rocket League puts two or more players at the wheel of personalised, rocket-booster toting vehicles, and gives them a simple objective. Smash a giant metal ball into the other team’s goal. It’s rocket-powered car soccer. The premise is so fantastic, and so simple, that it’s amazing we haven’t seen more popular games like this in the past. Some will feel that the game’s focus is too narrow, since all you’ll be doing is playing match after match, but the amount of complexity on offer within that streamlined package is staggering. The key to the game’s varied gameplay is found in its aerial maneuvers. Driving is only half the battle. Cars can jump, double jump, front flip, corkscrew, and even fly by pointing their rocket boosters towards the floor. Some of these moves, flying in particular, are extremely difficult to learn reliably, but offer big payoffs to any players sharp enough to master them. The sight of battle-cars soaring haphazardly through the air is a sure sign you’re up against ambitious players.
Getting to those stages of the match however, requires you to survive the kick off. You’ll quickly learn to boost and flip at the ball after each goal to prevent an easy point for your opponents, but when multiple cars reach the ball at once, things can be frustratingly random. It’s not unheard of for the ball to simply ricochet out of that first contact straight into a goal. When you’re in a one-on-one match, with no defender watching the goal, these chancey shots are incredibly annoying. However, the better you get at the game, the less you’ll worry about these sorts of issues. Once you’ve unlocked a good few parts and paint jobs for your ride, you should be more preoccupied with perfecting your teamwork, than worrying about the sometimes unpredictable bounces the game’s robust physics engine throws up. Anyway, games are short, at five minutes plus replays and overtime, so if you lose one match to flukey goals, you’ll have plenty of chances to let your skill shine through in the long haul.
There’s a good number of different car bodies to choose from, but they all perform exactly the same way, and seem to have similar hitboxes, so there’s no need to worry about which vehicle’s considered “best.” If you want to drive a 4X4 that looks like a boiled sweet, you feel free to do so. Give it a hat. Give it a flag. The air of cheesy customisation meshes well with the already larger than life action the game provides. Score a goal, and the ball detonates, sending a crowd of top-hat wearing, sombrero-sporting cars scattering across the pitch. Developer Psyonix know how to make a game feel good. Connect a solid hit on the ball, hear the crowd cheer, and feel your knuckles whiten on the controller as your shot just misses the mark.
Rocket League can be frustrating, but that’s okay. When you lose, you know it was your fault nine times out of ten, and the only thing you can do is hit the arena again, and keep on practising those jump shots. Treading a clever line between robust, e-sports friendly gameplay and quirky presentation, Rocket League is a game we’ll be playing for a good long while.