Rocket League is that crazy idea that happens at the end of an action movie. The one that everyone thinks is stupid and will never work, but then ends up staying at the top of Steam’s “top sellers” list for over a month.
Developed and published by the American game studio Psyonix, Rocket League is essentially a game that replaces soccer players with high-performance rocket-powered vehicles. If it seems ridiculous, that’s because it is, but that’s what it’s going for. You drive cars, hit a giant ball into a giant goal, cause explosions, and score points. Rocket League doesn’t pretend. It’s a game that banks on simplicity and competition to make up for what it lacks in depth.
The gameplay itself is simple and easy to pick up on; cars go backwards and forwards, but also have the ability to jump and even double jump/dodge in any direction, which can be used in a variety of ways. Boosting allows you drive on walls and ceilings and even take flight in order to nail those tricky aerial shots. While it is easy to learn, it takes a sense of finesse to master. Due to Rocket League being physics based, cars will often slip and slide into places you don’t want them to. The ball will occasionally bounce in ways that doesn’t make sense, and resemble that of a beach ball bouncing aimlessly over a mosh pit.
Rocket League offers four game types: 1v1 (duels), 2v2 (doubles), 3v3 (standards), and 4v4 (chaos). Duels will often have players maintain a balancing act of aggressive ball control while defending their own goal from their opponents, where in standards and chaos, players must work together to set up shots that will get past the other teams defense.
As you play, you will continually unlock a set number of cars, decals, paint types, wheels, boosts, hats, (yes hats, because yes) and antennas/flags. However, the main hook that Rocket League has, is its addictive gameplay. 16 hours in and I’m still having a hard time putting the controller down.
Graphically this game looks like a kart racer. Running on a modified Unreal Engine 3, you are treated to bold and saturated colors, smooth textures, fuzzy grass, and a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. Everything has this sort of Hot Wheels aesthetic, even the cars themselves. Ranging from old school hot rods, to futuristic land speeders, these cars all feature huge afterburners and exaggerated exhaust pipes.
One of most critical features of this game is the camera. In a game where ball control and situational awareness is key, the camera is done incredibly well. With the push of a button you can toggle “ball cam,” which will focus the camera on the ball but still allow you your standard movement controls, allowing for easy tracking. With the same button press you can set camera into a standard third person camera, which is useful when speeding back to your own goal or rushing for boost pickups when you need them.
Rocket League also features cross-platform capabilities allowing Playstation 4 and PC players to play together on the same servers. However, unless you and your friends happen to be playing on the same platform, you won’t be able to party together, which is something I would have liked to see.
If players feel intimidated about going online, they may participate in full seasons and exhibition matches against bots, which come in variable difficulties for players to hone their skills. Unfortunately, this is where the game’s biggest downside lies: it has a mercurial AI. AI players will often swap in between brainless and genius on the fly, your teammates or opponents will score amazing physics-bending shots in one round, but then run the ball into their own goal the next.
Overall, Rocket League is a fantastic experience that came completely out of nowhere, and for $20 its constant unlocks and aesthetics will be enough to pull you in, but its simplistic and competitive design is what will more than likely keep you coming back for more.