Platforms PlayStation 4, PC
Developer/ Publisher Psyonix
Genre Sports Platform Played On PC
There’s no simpler premise than Rocket League: It’s soccer, with RC cars, in a futuristic setting where these matches fill stadiums. This simple concept also marks the most time I’ve spent smiling while playing a video game. Rocket League is tonnes of fun, and sometimes that’s all that is needed for a game to be worth playing.
Rocket League is purely skill based, all of the cars have exactly the same statistics and abilities. The only difference between players is how well they understand the mechanics. Cars can jump, double jump, spin in all four directions and boost. Success in Rocket League is all about timing your movements. Jump too early and you’ll beat the ball to the spot, jump too late and the other team has probably already knocked the ball towards your goal. Precision is definitely difficult when you’re trying to use a car to kick a soccer ball. Most of the time it’s chaos, the fun kind. When I play, I’m reminded of my time playing soccer as a young kid (we called it roo ball). No one knows how to pass properly, so what you get is a bunch of kids running into each other, chasing a ball around and loving every second.
Whether it’s two, four, six or eight cars on the field, the action is always fast and frantic. With matches restricted to five minutes, games last the perfect amount of time. Matches are normally close affairs, with the result only decided when the ball hits the ground after the timer stops. One point wins and losses are the most common, and the addition of a continuous overtime in the result of a draw adds more strategy. Do you get aggressive when the opposing side is pressuring your goal late, or just defend well and force the ball to be reset in the middle for overtime. On the odd chance that a team gets blown out, it’s often because the other team got a few lucky shots in. Then it all starts again. I think this is why Rocket League is so fun, because you get a new start every five minutes. My play sessions often went well past midnight because I couldn’t resist going for another five minutes.
For those who want a single player or offline experience, there are exhibition matches to play, which are just like multiplayer except with AI controlled cars. There is also a season mode which features playoffs at the end of the season. There’s no real reward for playing the season mode, but I enjoyed the fantasy of creating a team and competing in an RC car soccer league. The AI is no slouch either, matches were always competitive, with a lapse in concentration sometimes leading to a three goal deficit. The AI team mates are actually quite aware too. If they notice no one is staying back to cover the goal, they’ll drop back; If they see you’ve moved to the wing to try to hit the ball into the centre, they’ll drift into the centre to try to score.
Surrounding the gameplay is a rewarding progression and unlock system. In Rocket League, a lot of different actions grant experience points, with the player with the highest score at the end of the match earning the MVP. No matter what your playstyle, you are rewarded. Of course, scoring a goal awards the most points. However, points are also awarded for assisting in goals, crossing the ball into the centre, destroying other cars by picking up enough speed to run into them, clearing the ball from your goal box, and saving shots that are certain to go in.
Performing these actions also unlock customisation options for your car, including hats, décor, flags and boost streams. It’s cool to have a unique, personalised car to drive around with, especially when you can drive a car wearing a pirate hat and a unicorn flag. Progression and unlocks come at a steady rate so that you get time to equip one item before another is available.
It’s also worth noting that Rocket League supports cross-play between PlayStation 4 and PC. The game recommends using a gamepad, which is wise because it is much harder to control the dodge movements with a keyboard and mouse.
The only issue I have with the game is that the cameras are not particularly good at helping you keep an eye on the ball when it is in the air near your goal mouth. The default camera does not allow you to look directly up, and the ball camera does not allow you to look at the ground properly when the ball is in the air. This can make it hard to line up the jump required to knock the ball away from the opposition’s cars. It was never a frustrating issue because most of the time someone did something to mess up the perfect shot anyway.
That’s what I love so much about Rocket League, the randomness. It’s not easy to hit a floaty ball with an RC car, and normally you won’t be uncontested either. Cars are often running into each other and colliding for hilarious results. In one game, one car accidentally pushed its team mate into the ball, which put it on a collision course for their own goal. Even when things weren’t going my way in Rocket League, I was still having a great time.
The developers have highlighted that there have been some server issues due to an unexpected amount of players, but I have not witnessed many issues personally on the Oceania servers. I have however, experienced a few client crashes on PC, but it was quick and easy to just jump straight back in. The good news is, none of this harms the experience, and a fix is on the way soon.
Some games have amazing narratives that provide great experiences. Then there are games that are purely fun through gameplay mechanics alone. Rocket League is one such game. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much when playing a video game – maybe in those awe inspiring moments in truly great games, but not constantly like with Rocket League. It’s a simple concept with knowledge of the game mechanics the only thing separating skilled players from the pack. I never thought I would have so much fun chasing a ball around a park with an RC car. Rocket League is a great game and evidence that fun gameplay still trumps all.
- Skill based gameplay
- Lots of personalisation options
- Unpredictable, chaotic, fun
- Difficult to hit aerial balls near own goal
- More game crashes than other titles on my PC