Like a finely tuned engine Rocket League fires on all cylinders, delivering a gaming experience which is easy to pick up but takes time to master. Just the thought of football with rocket cars sounds like a great idea and developers Psyonix have truly delivered on that dream.
Matches between teams of rocket cars take place in a rounded arena, with banked sides and corners which can driven up and utilised for amazing ball tricks. At either end of the pitch stands a goal, whilst a huge ball bounces lazily or flies through the air somewhere in the middle.
The core dynamic is the same as football, score more goals than the other team. This is easier said than done, with an entire arsenal of tricks up your rocket car’s sleeve including forward flips, ricochets off the wall, and even flying through the air to get an aerial hit on the ball.
Rocket League’s learning curve progresses as you get used to the controls, and how your actions can affect the game around you. Early matches inevitably have everyone flailing for the ball, trying to get that final hit but, with time, restraint is bred into you and you find yourself hanging back, defending, and waiting for that perfect moment to boost forward and blast the ball into the opponents’ goal. Your reward for the goal? A huge explosion from the goal mouth, sending you flying back onto the pitch (hopefully) to cheers of ‘Nice shot!’ from your teammates.
The control of your car’s speed becomes a major skill in itself. Should I boost for that shot? If I miss, will that be the mistake that leaves me stranded at the other end of the pitch as my opponents walk the ball in? It takes split second decisions, but luckily does become more familiar the more you play the game.
The matches themselves last 5 minutes, a perfect bite sized chunk for short bursts of play, but also dangerous for that same reason and can lead to an inner voice saying ‘just one more game’ which often stretches your short playing session into an entire evening of Rocket League.
Within the matches the game keeps it simple, the few arenas on offer are all the same shape with the game offering four different team sizes. There’s the 1v1 duel allowing you to hone your skills against a single opponent, and then 2v2, 3v3, and the madness of 4v4 which all serve up matches coupling moments of amzement as teamwork pays off with moments of frustration as the opposing team snatches a goal.
Developer Psyonix were able to create the magnificent gem that is Rocket League, in part because they’ve been able to test their ideas out on their previous game, the less catchily named Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars for the PS3 back in 2009. This previous game shares the same DNA as Rocket League but not quite the same amount of polish and attention to detail, but thankfully it acted as a fantastic prototype.
There have been promises of paid-for and free DLC in the near future, with the free DLC including a spectator mode and some new pitches, which will shake up the vanilla oval arena adding more depth to this already amazing game.
So even though on the surface the game seems simple, the nuances and sheer joy of just playing and occasionally pulling off that perfect shot or save will keep you coming back for more.
Rocket League is available now on PC and PS4.