Review: Rocket League Is A Jet-Fuelled Rampage
Rocket League takes a couple of strange concepts, blends them together with buoyant physics, and throws them into an arena to battle it out for five minutes; but does it work?
- Worth The Time?Definitely!
- Things LovedHow simple the gameplay is, while still retaining a fair amount of depth. How well the game plays, even at pings above 200. The gloriously floaty physics. The absurdity of absolutely everything in the game.
- Things HatedThe soundtrack kind of sucks, even if it fits. Lots of disconnections, even though the game runs smoothly on bad connections.
- RecommendationBuy Rocket League, get a few friends to buy it with you, and learn to play it together. It'll be rewarding, fun, and the team play will give you an edge in-game.
- Name: Rocket League
- Genre: Unwitting sports simulator
- Players: 1-8 (online)
- Multiplayer: Yes!
- Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
- Developer: Psyonix
- Publisher: Psyonix
- Price: $20
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Rocket League is the successor to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (SARPBC), both of which are physics-based vehicular soccer games with all the chaos and mayhem of a demolition derby. Published independently, Rocket League manages to blend sports and a demolition derby atmosphere, while making sure the game is easily approachable, with plenty of depth to improve.
The game, while a physics-based driving game, feels much more like a sports simulator than you would imagine — this isn’t in the sense of FIFA, which sees you carefully structuring attacks through a team, but rather actual football, which sees you jostling for the ball, having to be cognisant of your teammates positions and hoping that if you hit the ball into the centre, someone will knock it into the goal, but we’ll come back to this in a bit.
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Rocket League sees you playing in teams of 3 (standard, but 4v4, 2v2 and 1v1 modes are also available, as well as a trio of ranked modes), each driving uniformly fast cars and try to hit an oversized ball into the other team’s goal. You do this by ramming it, and dodging and boosting into it, attempting to aim while careering towards the ball in question while the other team does their utmost to stop you.
What the game values is simple: if you’re attacking, score, assist, shoot or get the ball into a shooting position, if you’re defending, clear or stop it going into the goal — this is what you get points for, although for obvious reasons your team only gets points when the ball goes into the goal. You’ll also get a few extra points every time you do something spectacular, like hitting a ball while flipping backwards, or while boosting through the air.
This simplicity is excellent for the the game, since it means players who have gone through even the most basic of tutorials or button mapping lists can still play the game, but it’s hardly the extent of what the game can manage. Timing, skill and understanding the game’s physics play a large part in getting all this right — and playing against others who understand it presents an almost physical struggle which can be but as a base game, it is incredibly simple.
The team-play dynamic is very important and incredibly easy to overlook in public lobbies, but staying a little further back from the scramble from the floating ball means that if it pops up, you can take a shot or put it into the centre; likewise for defence, staying on the line while your team attempts to clear means that if a shot gets off or the goal deflects towards the goal, there’s still a chance it can be saved. This very simple concept of team-play means that players can play together, even without microphones, and play some form of cohesive strategy, meaning
The game is largely online focused — single player exhibition and season modes are available, but the AI lacks the same unpredictability of human players, as well as the inherent improvisation of online games. There is a split-screen mode, thankfully, so you can pile friends onto a couch and throw them in a lobby. There are also a trio of welcome training modes above the tutorial which allow you to improve on your shooting, defence and handling of aerial shots, if you want to improve your technique.
The online play works well, though there have been intermittent server issues, with dedicated servers present in Europe, North America, South America and Oceania. This means that local players may have some issue connecting although the game is still easily playable at 300+ ping, as players with a few disconnection issues here and there.
Rocket League is a surprisingly good sports simulator — completely by commitment to core mechanics, which the developers have remained adamant that they will maintain, and skill-based gameplay. It’s easily accessible both to new players and to players who had hours upon hours logged in SARPBC, and the control system is smooth enough to be called competent, but clunky enough to be competitive in cross-platform PC and PlayStation 4 multiplayer. Even a lacklustre soundtrack and intermittent connectivity issues cannot stop Rocket League for being an excellent competitive title, and an addictive experience for players of all descriptions.