July 17, 2015 by Paul Curtin
Like most, before hearing about Rocket League, I had never heard of Psyonix’s previous game, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. Released on the PlayStation 3 back in 2008, the original involved the same idea of two teams of cars playing soccer/fútbol. Now, seven years later, Rocket League has taken that original crazy car concept to the next level with upgraded graphics, better controls, more customization, cross-platform play on the PC and PlayStation 4, and of course, a much better and easier-to-remember name.
Rocket League’s beauty is in its simplicity. Whether a pro or casual fan of racing games and/or soccer games, anybody, at any skill level, can jump in and have fun right away. But just like the real-life beautiful game of soccer; shot accuracy, ball-handling, solid defense, and teamwork are key to victory – and none of which are as easy as they sound. It takes only minutes to get the hang of everything going on amidst the chaos, but could take years to truly master.
Gameplay is fast and fluid. Other than when the ball is reset in the middle of the field after goals, there are no pauses in gameplay or timeouts. This quick pacing is reinforced by beautifully designed arenas and stadiums that have no way of knocking the ball out-of-bounds and tease a stunning sci-fi city just beyond the walls. Players can instantly drive straight up the curved bottom corners of said walls without ever needing to stop and change direction. Nothing is off limits, not even the ceiling… and other than limitations set by the rocket-powered cars’ arcadey gravity-defying physics, there are no rules.
Similar to how the game of soccer evolves as the players increases in age, how you start off playing Rocket League is not how you’ll continue playing after twenty or so hours clocked on the field. It’s easy to find success as a beginner playing against other beginners (or bots in the offline Season mode) by just charging into a pile of cars headfirst like a destruction derby. These simple tactics of smashmouth fútbol quickly become obsolete as players start holding positions on the field and racing towards turbo powerups in a metagame of not only ball control, but boost control. Learning how to effectively pull off barrel rolls, bicycle kicks, somersaults, and other wild stunts is only the start of the learning curve.
While Rocket League features a solid offline Season Mode against bots that you can set to different skill levels, it’s the competitive multiplayer that stands out as the modes you’ll be wanting to play to really test your skills. Once you’re done beating up on bots and begin to make your way through the competitive ranks, you’ll understand where the “rocket” part of the game’s name comes from. Simply learning how to time double jumps no longer guarantees goals as more skilled players launch themselves in the air and fly across the pitch making ridiculous plays, epic goal-line saves, and incredible floating trick shots.
Seeing players with such skill can even at times be a bit disheartening when your dreams of going pro in Division 1 are quickly crushed and you’re forced to re-think your gameplay strategies and adapt to make it past D5. But losing to more skilled opponents never feels cheap due to how Rocket League’s balanced system keeps stats equal across all car and truck models. After every game, players unlock something new, but each unlockable item is purely cosmetic and never gives players an unfair advantage. Car choice is purely based on the user’s own tastes. Sadly, for PC players, Sony might have one of the sweetest video game crossovers ever with Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck from Twisted Metal available as one of the exclusive customization options on PlayStation 4.
After unlocking most of the game’s goofy hats, antennas, and turbo boost trail effects, Rocket League becomes more about unlocking your own personal skills. Practice makes perfect, and rather than wanting to spend time trying to unlock more powerful weapons or armor like in other games, Rocket League offers practice modes and free roam where you can spend your time trying to master maneuvering your car on the equal playing field.
While improving your own skills will help you win more 1v1 games, having some friends to team up with in the more exciting 2v2, 3v3, and chaotic 4v4 modes is key to having fun in Rocket League. Multiplayer even allows four friends to play together locally on split-screen. Unfortunately, while there is cross-play between PC and PS4, there’s currently no way for friends split between the two systems to party up together.
Partying up with friends on the same console online or locally is quick and easy. At the moment, finding a game takes under a minute as the game’s matchmaking quickly pairs up those looking for games on both PlayStation 4 and PC. This large influx of players from different platforms trying to play against one another has also resulted in the game’s biggest current issue: servers are not the most reliable and games can be very laggy. Getting dropped from a Ranked game can be especially frustrating since there’s no ability to rejoin a Ranked game once your connection is lost – forcing your team to play a man down.
Hearing the roar of the crowd when down on the field, reliving each goal in slow-motion as the ball explodes when it crosses the goal line, and saving your favorite moments with the replay editor all make for the perfect sports experience. Even with its current minor flaws and connection issues, our 20+ hours playing featured some of the most fun moments we’ve had playing a “sports” game in years. You can’t help but play one more game each time you think you’re ready to take a break. Part soccer, part hockey, and even part beach/volleyball – Rocket League’s futuristic take on sports has all the makings of a truly competitive eSport that’s just as fun to play as it is to watch. Rocket League gets 4.5 out of 5 stars (Amazing).
- Highly addictive, simple, and fun gameplay
- Level playing field puts the focus on skill and teamwork
- PlayStation 4 and PC cross-play makes finding games quick
- One of the sweetest video game cross-over extras ever
- Great audio quality and soundtrack
- Server lag issues when playing online
- No reconnect option in ranked multiplayer games
- No cross-play party system