“Even if you hate ball sports and racing, you should definitely check this out. Simply brilliant.”
Released: July 7th, 2015
Reviewed on PC
Also available on PS4 and Xbox One
Who would have thought that the unlikely coupling of cars and football would make for such an enjoyable experience? Rocket League successfully combines two completely different things and somehow makes them seem as though they were made for each other.
Building on the sturdy foundation they established with Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Psyonix have honed their craft and created their magnum opus. Rocket League is an instant classic and one of the best multiplayer experiences you can have anywhere.
So what exactly is Rocket League?
Put simply, it’s football with cars instead of players. It’s a strange idea, and one that you would expect to have originated from late night lad-banter down the pub. Take two of the manliest things you can think of and mash them together. The reason this bonkers premise works so well is that it’s supported by solid, addictive gameplay.
Controlling your car is a doddle. There’s accelerate, brake and reverse for basic movement, and you can become a fairly decent player just by sticking to these fundamentals. The more complicated manoeuvres come from the robust jumping mechanic. You have the ability to hurl your car through the air at the press of a button. A second press of the same button will propel you further in any direction of your choosing. It adds an exciting aerial element to an otherwise ground-based sport.
As your confidence grows, you’ll find yourself perfecting your aerial skills. With a bit of practice, you can combine your jumps with your rocket boost, allowing you to streak across the sky performing vital mid-air interceptions and spectacular goal-mouth clearances. It’s a difficult trick to master, but the included tutorials do an excellent job of teaching you the more acrobatic manoeuvres.
Your boost is not indefinite, however. You have a meter that quickly drains as you boost. Luckily, littered throughout each arena are glowing pads that top up said meter. This ensures that each game remains relatively grounded and you’ll think twice about taking to the skies. You’ll only commit to boost-assisted aerial moves if you’re convinced that they’ll be effective. Most of the time they won’t be, but this only makes successful attempts all the more impressive and satisfying.
The ball physics are superb. It’ll bounce all over the place in a very realistic way, reacting differently to how cars collide with it. Hitting it with your bumper at speed will drive it towards your target, but if you skim past it at an awkward angle, it’ll trickle off in the other direction. In time you’ll be performing powerful daisy-cutting shots and lobbed passes.
In my time online with Rocket League I’ve seen experienced players juggle the ball downfield, drive up the curved walls to knock it into a teammate’s path and even backflip into it to execute stunning bicycle kicks. Most games descend into anarchic free-for-alls, but these occasional moments of beauty stick with you. It doesn’t hurt that you can save replays and watch them back in a surprisingly complex video editor.
You can gauge how well you’re playing by the rewards feature. Although each game is determined by the number of goals scored, you gain personal points for performing actions that benefit your team. Scoring goals and assisting them are the obvious ones, but making saves, clearing the ball from dangerous areas and even dumping it into the middle of your opponent’s half will net you additional points. It’s an encouraging system that rewards different styles of play.
Because of the chaotic nature of the game, it’s very easy to lose your bearings and clumsily bump into everything. One way around this is a clever camera system. You can toggle between cameras that follow either the ball or your car. While this is a welcome inclusion, the constant necessity to flit between both can sometimes be jarring. It’s only a minor gripe, however, and it doesn’t detract too much from the experience.
Although multiplayer is the main attraction, there is a single-player component. You can take part in exhibition matches in experimental arenas or compete in leagues against the AI. The AI is decidedly average, with the occasional episode of stupidity that brings it down. With that said, however, the single-player side does provide adequate training for the superior online experience. The multiplayer is sturdy, reliable and consistently fun. It doesn’t take long to get a game, and there are very few issues once you’re in one.
As you sink more time into the game, you’re rewarded with a bevy of customisation options for your car. These range from different decals to decorative antennae and ornaments. It’s a simple inclusion that further enriches the experience; it feels as though you’re being rewarded simply for enjoying the game.
Rocket League is an example of a simple idea explored to its full potential. It’s pure, unfiltered fun, presented in a visually striking way that all equates to a game greater than the sum of its parts. I have no qualms in recommending it to you, even if you have no interest in cars or football, I guarantee that you’ll have a bloody good time.
I’ll see you on the field.