Three, two, one…GO!
Get yourself into gear and feel the rush that is Rocket League! This game flawlessly blends the intensity and speed of racing, with the tactics and teamwork of soccer. It sounds like a crazy idea, but the people over at Psyonix have pulled it off perfectly. With teams of up to 4v4, an over-sized ball and an arena that is very similar to a soccer field. However, the sides of the field are replaced with walls that your car can seamlessly drive onto. You can then jump off of the wall, and hit the ball in mid-air, immediately changing its direction on the field. This adds an entirely new dimension to soccer, and the tactics used by the competitive community are really quite astounding. You’re put into the driver’s seat of a car that is equipped with a Batmobile-like rocket boost on the rear for insane speed. The bottom is equipped with jump jets, giving your car the ability to jump into the air from the flat ground. Using these, you can perform some very cool stunts while actively participating in an intense soccer game. You can even sort-of fly, using the jump jets along with your rocket booster to launch yourself into the air and across the field, to hit the ball before others have the chance to get the rebound. However if your angle is off by even the slightest, it will result in a catastrophic miss. I myself am just starting to get the hang of flying, and I’ve been playing this game since launch. The varied options for playing the game are astounding. Play with and against AI offline in full fledged 36 week season-style play for the sports fan. Play alone against ridiculously difficult AI settings to test your mettle in regular exhibition matches. Play with your friends with up 4 player local split-screen, with “mutators” to increase/decrease gravity, increase boost intensity, ball size, and more. Or, take your skills online in both competitive and social matchmaking.
Social matchmaking includes a few fun variations to the game as well. Snow Day takes the concept created with soccer, and brings in hockey. The ball is now a puck, and it will hardly bounce or fly across the map like the ball can sometimes do. The ground is also covered in a layer of ice, making your car slide a little bit, but enough that your tactics have to change. Now it is not so much about boosting and hitting a ball mid-air at the right moment, but simply putting your car in the puck’s trajectory on the ground. There is also a variant map playlist called Rocket Labs, where it takes the Rocket League soccer formula and puts you into some really interesting arenas, including a map that is twice the size of the usual with 4 goals instead of 2, and an arena in the shape of a cylinder with goals that are back-to-back. The newest mode, Hoops, takes the exciting action to the realm of basketball. Instead of having goals into the side, like in hockey or soccer, the goals are now horizontal. This forces you to launch the ball up into the air, then hit it down into the goal, or lob it over and hope a defender doesn’t bounce it back out from the inside. This new mode is extremely difficult for those unseasoned with the flying aspect of this game. It requires some very precise mid-air hits, or some ragingly crazy speed to try and bounce it into the goal.
Choose your car and customize it with over 5.2 billion options!
With DLC from such franchises as Back to the Future, Batman vs Superman, and now the official licensing of the NBA, making your car look one of a kind while flying around the arena is easier than ever. Change your car’s body style, colors, wheels, equip a topper to the roof, add a flag, change your boost to be flames, smoke, water, rainbows, and more. These options are purely aesthetic however, but it does add a lot of personality and fun to the game. When you’re in an intense match, seeing some rainbows or flowers can be a nice relief. Some items are unlocked simply by playing the game, while others are unlocked only while playing online. Typically the better you perform in a game, the better your chance is of getting an item for your car.
I have noticed that the matchmaking process can take a very long time. Even when searching in all regions, the servers seem to be difficult to find. Other times, you are able to jump into a match almost immediately and there is very little wait time, if any at all. The server issues have gotten much better since the time of the game’s release, but with it being almost year since launch, I would expect that these problems would have been worked out by now. During some matches the lag can be downright game breaking. Numerous times I have been forced to forfeit a ranked match simply because I could not handle the 900 ping I was forced to play with. Other times I have found myself waiting for far too long, to simply find a game when it tells me there are 90,000 players online. These frustrations are not constant, but when they do present themselves I typically just turn off the game and return to it later.
When playing competitively your ranking depends strictly on your performance during your games, so you may rank up in one game, and rank back down the next. It may seem frustrating that this happens, but this is the game trying to find out exactly how you play compared to the other competitors within your rank. This almost always prevents newer players from being matched up with pros, insuring that all players are having a fun experience. The online matchmaking system is global, and currently cross-platform between PS4 / PC, and Xbox One / PC, however you can change these options, restricting yourself to only players on your platform, and global region. Although players on different platforms cannot currently party together, they can compete against one another. There is hope for the future that Rocket League will pave the way for universal cross-platform play, allowing all gamers of all platforms to enjoy Rocket League together. However none of this is confirmed, news in the gaming industry does suggest that this is the route we could all be headed.
A big problem that I have experienced with Rocket League, however, is the camera. You are given two options for the camera in this game. You can either have it locked behind your car, as is common in racing games, with a floating arrow that hovers around your vehicle, constantly showing the ball’s location. The other option is called “Ball Cam”, which fixates the camera’s focus onto the ball. This is very useful, as you never need to worry about where the ball is in relation to your vehicle. However, this is faulted by not always being aware of which direction you are facing because it is not focused on your vehicle. This can be an extremely frustrating thing when the difference between driving inches forward or backwards can result in your team losing or winning. This game plays very quickly, and if you are not totally precise with your positioning it could mean a goal scored for the opposite team. These camera frustrations can be overcome though, as it really boils down to how you prefer to play the game.
Quite honestly this is the greatest sports game I have ever played. I am not an avid sports game fan, however I have played more than my fair share in the last 20 years. The way Psyonix took their approach to the sports world is absolutely awesome. This game is so much fun to play that I have not stopped playing it since it was released on July 7 of 2015. Even when I am infatuated with a different game with an epic storyline or expansive world, I always make some time for at least a couple of matches of Rocket League. The updates that they have released, and the other sports that they have brought into the game, have truly increased the replay value beyond anything I could have expected. I thoroughly believe I will be playing this game for years to come!