The idea behind Rocket League is, like all great ideas, a surprisingly simple one – take a car, strap some rockets to it, and take it down the park for a game of football (American readers – read soccer). This is Rocket League, boiled down to its constituent parts and simplified so it serves as an opening line to this review, and it is an idea that works to create a fast, frantic and fun game.
Starting off for the first time you are presented with your car and the options to jump straight into a match either offline against the computer or online against others around the world. Training is the obvious choice, but the controls are as you would expect, triggers to accelerate and reverse, with the added options of a jump, a boost and a powerslide button all thrown in for good measure.
Cars handle well, accelerating and breaking quick enough to feel powerful and make you feel in control, and the rocket boost gives just the right amount of acceleration to make a difference, with you able to recharge the amount of boost you have by driving over orange power ups that litter the arena floor. Customisable options are available should you want to jazz up your car a little bit, but the beauty of Rocket League is that behind all the aesthetic changes you are able to make in changing your car, each one is essentially the same vehicle underneath – you can change it’s colour or body or even the smoke it emits when under a boost, but all of these changes are purely superficial ones – in Rocket League, everyone drives the same car, instantly levelling the playing field. This is a game about skill, therefore you can’t upgrade your car to make it superfast or indestructible to get that added advantage in-game – everyone is the same and each game relies on you to be the difference between winning or losing, which only adds to the joy of finally booting up an online match.
Each game begins in one of three positions at your given end of the playing field, and as the clock counts down until kick off, a sense of gladiatorial anticipation comes over you as you stare down the opposing team. Games can consist of 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4, and each one last 5 minutes. This may sound like a quick round, but the time limit only serves to add to this element of haste as you accelerate around the pitch trying to hit the oversized ball into your opponent’s goal, especially in the games with a larger player count where even getting a clean touch of the ball becomes difficult.
A tip for any newbies to Rocket League – start on Pro difficulty. I whizzed through the training and even a 9 week season on Rookie difficulty, winning games and realising that if I accelerate and boost at the beginning of a match, aim to get first touch, and hit the ball just right, 9 times out of 10 I score a goal, I quickly began to think of myself as some Rocket League whizz. Filled with confidence at my Rocket League abilities I jumped into my first online game expecting a fair challenge that I could either live up to, but if I’m honest I half expected a win. You can probably guess where this is going, and you would be right – I was royally whooped. Rookie difficulty quickly makes you feel like a pro against the comp, so yes, by all means play a few games to get the hang of the controls and what not, but do yourself a favour and start out at Pro difficulty as soon as possible – hate me at first but then thank me later when you face your first online match.
Rocket League is enjoyable, and it does come in to its own when playing online. As with most competitive games, playing against the computer only gets you so far before you can start predicting what will happen or working out exploits (accelerate quickly at kick off, get the first touch, aim at the goal, that one is on me, an obvious one take it or leave it) that allow us to win, but playing online Rocket League finds that added edge. After a few games you quickly find yourself paired up against players that offer a real challenge, utilising the boost or the jump or even the dodge to get around the pitch quickly, and there is a certain power when you score or prevent the opposing team from scoring, which is only added to the more acrobatic said save was. The ball has just the right amount of bounce meaning the jump button does come in handy, and when this is paired with the boost button in just the right fashion you can achieve a limited amount of flight, scoring aerial goals or defending as the ball is just about to bounce across the line making you feel like a hero, and makes for an impressive slow-mo replay straight after.
So is Rocket League worth your time? Yes. Undoubtedly. Rocket League is a simple game to get the hang of, with no complicated controls or back story to get to grips with it is literally pick up and play, and once you get the hang of it each game is quick and fun, with you walking away feeling like a total hero or convinced that you will do better next time. Not only that, but it is currently one of July’s free games with Playstation Plus if you haven’t already added it to your download queue, what’s stopping you?
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