Rocket League Review

Score 90Rocket League may be a real contender for game of the year.  It’s simplistic controls makes this an accessible game for everyone, and encourages players to naturally improve as they learn the finesse it takes to win matches.  It’s a game where goals are made quickly, and your emotions will jump between dead serious and ravenously enthralled.  For a budget title game, this may be the best 20 dollars you’ll ever spend.  Sports fans, competitive gamers, and split-screeners; what are you waiting for?

º The fast action of racing combined with the excitement of football.
º There’s nothing more amazing than diving to clear someone’s shot.
º Customizing your car with playful hats and tons of different designs.

º Doesn’t feature in-game chat feature, when team strategy is a must.
º In providing competitive uniformity, the maps lack variety.
º No additional modes outside of online matches and offline season.
Every once in a while, a game comes around completely throwing me off from my expectations.  Games like Rocket League, with its fast-paced competitive gameplay is not only fun to play, but it’s completely invigorated my idea of what e-sports could be.  Zipping around the track, flipping my car in outlandish and improbable ways to slam a giant soccer ball into a futuristic goal- it simply doesn’t get better than this when it comes to budget-based games.  It’s one of those game that’s easy to get into, but it’s even better as you become more acquainted with its complexities.

Rocket League is half sport, half racing as you and your team play soccer as turbo-charged RC cars in a domed stadium.  Or are they man-driven?  Are those spectators other cars?  Are these cars sentient!?  While the story may be vague, this game is all about the gameplay, and that’s the way the developers like it.

There is a season mode, which provides fun single player gameplay, but the real fun is in playing online 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 in exhibition or ranked matches.  You can also split screen for fun in-person trash talking.  The game starts with the huge ball placed in the middle of the field, and all the players bum-rushing it.  The carnage that follows is electrifying.  Your cars are able to jump in any direction, and pressing the jump button again sends them flipping like Pele, leading to spectacular goals.

Again, sounds easy, but deciding the angle of attack and the time at which to spin all plays into how much experience you have in the game.  Your first goal will most likely be a small tap from just outside of the strike zone, but eventually you’ll be lunging from mid-field for a quick strike at the goal.  Eventually, you’ll be juggling the ball downfield, and taking it off the back wall for a nice unimpeded alley-oop.

The game implements booster rockets, providing an even faster experience.  The field is equipped with pads that adds a little to your reserves, or you can risk moving to the far corners for a full refill.  You’re going to want to make sure you have some juice in your rockets, because this game is all about securing superiority.  A sudden change in the direction of the ball could leave your goal defenseless, so having enough boost to get downfield is essential.  You can also use your boost to destroy your enemies by slamming into them, which provides a whole different type of offensive gameplay to account for.

Savvy players shouldn’t forget about defense either.  Not only is proper strategy necessary when it comes to winning pile ups mid-field, but quickly deflecting the opposing teams momentum is a must.  You wouldn’t think there’s a lot you can do to defend against shots, but using the goals curvature and your jumping ability can lead to some amazing dive saves.  There’s nothing as intense or rewarding as rushing up behind a rival player, and blocking their on target attack by diving in front of it and sending the ball flying.  It’s simply breathtaking.

Customizing your cars allows you to personify your manless, possibly alive vehicle.  At first, you’ll only be given a few body types, paints and decals, but you unlock a new piece of flair with every game you complete.  Do you want to throw out a rainbow whenever you boost?  Well, keep playing, because they unlock randomly.  While some may dislike this, I find it to be far more fair than putting the coolest attachments behind some challenge that some gamers may be unable to complete.

No tire or body type is better than the others, providing a level playing field for all those participating.  This again, may not be a crowd favorite to those who like Mario Kart or Call of Duty, but I never felt like someone beat me because they had a better loadout.  That team beat us because they were the better team.

There’s a large assortment of arenas, but with them all housing the same booster pad layouts and size, it does feel at some points that the developers missed the opportunity for a little variety.  Granted, they’re trying to provide uniformity, but if we’re all playing the same field, adding little differences would only encourage another aspect to master.  A map with ramps, or mud patches- it doesn’t have to be used in tournaments, but it could provide some additional fun to non-professional players.

That’s not to say that the arenas don’t have variety outside of the field.  Each arena offers dramatically different visuals to their design. One is red and rusty, comprised of mostly concrete and brick, inside of what appears to be a train station.  The next, a full arena filled with spectators, confetti falling from the sky.   There’s a Tron-inspired arena with glowing green fields of grass and digital hexagons.  Each arena has its own feel, which makes the game feel that much grander in scale.  The one downside, where some additional development could help, most of the fields already have years of wear to them, and your actions don’t add to the overall condition.  I’d love to kick up patches of dirt after slamming on of my corners into the grass, but hey- it’s a budget game.

One thing I thought would be difficult is the camera, but the developers did a great job of implementing a camera system you can switch on the fly.  You can either focus entirely on the ball, or you can jump to a standard behind the car view.  This can be beneficial if you want to reposition real quick, and then jump back to keeping your eye on the ball.  This also comes in handy when you’re attempting to demolish an enemy with a dash attack.

The graphics, while simple, are actually quite stunning due to the focus on important details.  The lighting effects are spectacular, providing depth to what could’ve felt like a flat experience.  Action lines and plasma streaks across the screen as you flip your car across the diverse environments. The astroturf even slightly blows in the breeze, providing some realism to this fantastical game.

You simply have to play it to understand how amazing this game controls.  In terms of controller layout, everything feels great, and if you wish to change things up, the game offers complete mapping.  Outside of braking and accelerating, there’s a boost, a jump, and a drift.  It’s a simple setup that requires far more understanding in timing than remembering layout. I do wish there was a way to adjust my yaw, as flying out of pile-ups can sometimes leave you falling on your back with no way of countering it.  If you do fall on your backside, you’ll be momentarily left rocking around like a turtle in the hot sun, so it’d be great if I could prevent it.

Even the audio is exceptional, with the light sounds of the environment pouring in under the booster rockets of your ride.  When you hit the ball, the audio connects well, helping you feel the impact of the hit.  Powerful explosions, energetic crowds, or the sound of crickets in a quiet arena at night.  Everything is subtle enough to not become annoying, but present enough to immerse you in the world.

And make no mistake- you’re bound to see this game in E-Sport tournaments in the future because this game screams competition.  I’ll personally welcome it in with other MOBAs and shooters because this game is all about communication and cooperation with your fellow teammates.  Which is really unfortunate, because the game doesn’t have a chat feature.  Seriously Psyonix; that’s one oversight I can’t ignore.

One thing I really like about this game is the fact that they moved away from traditional red and blue color schemes, considering that it’s been found that being on the red team gives a slight advantage to players.  Replacing it with orange not only offers a softer and still distinguishable color, but they even let you adjust the color shading- which allows for even more customization of your ride.

While this may be a budget game, with a debatable lack of game modes, it does the one thing it set out to do perfect, providing a fantastic new sport that’s is close to perfection.  Able to provide heart-pounding action without violence, it favoring of precision over speed is what makes this game so challenging and rewarding.  Not only is this game a hidden gem, but it’s surely the start of a brand new franchise.  It offers the twitch gameplay of multiplayer shooters with the teamwork of an MOBA in such fresh and revigorating ways.  Despite its few flaws, this game is as close to perfect as you can get. It’s the best car-based football battle arena game on the market, and one of the best competitive games I’ve played in years.
·      Publisher – Psyonix
·      Developer – Psyonix
·      Genre – Action, Racing, Sports
·      Release Date – July 7th, 2015
·      Version Reviewed – PS4
·      PEGI Rating – 3
·      Multiplayer – Yes

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