So, you don’t like sports? Wrong. You just haven’t found the right sport for you, and the right sport for you is Rocket League. Developed by Psyonix, creators of Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, this is the souped-up car football game you didn’t even know you were waiting for.
The story unfolds thusly. You are Chad “The Rocket” Brobrovsky, professional Battle-Car racer and all round top bloke. By a convoluted twist of fate, you are forced to participate in brutal car football matches in order to prevent the demolition of a kitten orphanage. Just kidding, there is no story! Rocket League is all about controlling a super fast RC style car equipped with boosters and acrobatic capabilities in order to score more ball-holes than the other team (I think they might actually be called “goals”, but I’m not a “sports person”). To elaborate, you control your car from a tight third person perspective, manoeuvring around a football pitch attempting to hit the ball which is almost laughably bigger than your car. To complicate matters further, there are boost pads littered around the pitch used to fill your nitro-meter, and your car can jump, double jump, flip in any direction, or with a little skill, fly briefly with the use of your booster. The pitch even has curved edges, allowing you to drive up the walls and onto the ceiling, opening the door for even more incredible and, lets be honest, unpredictable stunts.
This may all sound a little tricky, or perhaps even overwhelming. However, with Rocket League the premise is simple and universally understood, the mechanics only as complex as you want them to be – it’s less “technical” and more “cartoonish”. In your first few matches you will do well to hit the ball at all, but by your tenth you’ll be flipping through the air to score that Aerial Hit or snatching that Epic Save like a pro. The game has been released on both PS4 and PC; this review is of the PC release, but a console controller was used. Whilst playing with the keyboard and mouse is fine, and indeed people who have never even tried using the controller may well be able to rival their enlightened brethren after some practice, the controller feels far more natural in the context of the game, and at the very least gives the player the illusion of more control over their car. All in all Rocket League is very “pick up and play”, and even the most green of players could pull off a shot that would impress a vet, although it may not be as intentional as you would claim. As a side note, speaking as someone who has sunk well over 20 hours into this game, I can confidently say that sometimes you will never understand why the ball goes where it does. But then again, who are you to say? A god of balls? A spherical deity?
Rocket League smashes it right into the back corner when it comes to visuals. Over-saturated and suitably zany, the colours of the cars and pitches are bright and polished to match the overall aesthetic of the game. Although relatively graphically simple, the textures are clean and it runs like a dream. Overall, the whole things looks like it was given a fresh coat of glossy paint at the shop. As for audio, Psyonix have done an excellent job at giving realistic sounds to what is a very unrealistic game – the engines have a good mix of RC “whine” and V8 “roar”, the stadiums feel alive, and the goal klaxon is oh so satisfying. A menu soundtrack of dance techno and the odd hip hop beat add to the bombastic atmosphere.
“But what about customisation?” I hear you cry. Well fear not, because Rocket League’s garage is full of paint, decals, wheels, rocket trails, antenna, and, er, hats. In addition to the 10 different car models (all identical in spec apart from negligible hitbox differences) and a secret eleventh, there are also 25 wheel sets, seven decals, 36 rocket trails, 34 antennas (not including country flags), and 18 different “toppers”. This level of customisation is ripe for the DLC market, right? Right. Coming August 2015 Psyonix is releasing the Supersonic Fury DLC Pack which will feature two new cars, six decals, five paint types (including “Wood”), two rocket trails, and two new sets of wheels. This is arriving at the same time as a free update that will introduce a new pitch and Spectator Mode, and it would seem that Rocket League has certainly left an open goal for endless future DLC.
Finally, let’s examine the modes of play that are available. We have Exhibition for one off custom games versus bots (bots who, despite being assured otherwise, you will be convinced have unique personalities that all have it in for you). Then there is Season Mode for playing championships of various lengths against bots, allowing you to make your own team with (limited) customisation. At last, we have the crux of the game – online play. A choice of games ranging from one vs one duels to four vs four “Chaos” matches await you, all of which you can play with your buddies or on your lonesome. If you are brave enough to play with strangers you can communicate using the quick chat options mapped to the D-Pad, or using your keyboard. If you somehow end up liking or making a nemesis out of these strangers you can vote to rematch at the end of play, or move on to pastures new. If you do have friends who like to see you outside of the virtual world, there is also capability for split screen matches, although this is not compatible with the keyboard and mouse.
Each match is five minutes long, and they’ll keep rolling as long as you keep playing, it’s as simple and easy as that. This is why Rocket League is so addictive: it has that “one more match” appeal that every multiplayer game dreams of. However, Rocket League is somewhat plagued by the nightmare of every multiplayer game also: server lag. Unfortunately Psyonix were not quite prepared for the popularity of their game, and as a result your match’s server may not be up to snuff. Although perhaps only a problem for 1 in 10 matches, it can get frustrating at times, especially when any lag at all makes a match unplayable. On the plus side, this is solved easily enough by leaving the match and trying again.
Regardless of how you feel about “sports” games, you should really give Rocket League a punt. Easy to play and outrageous fun, this is a game that will surely enter the stable of games that you never quite get bored of no matter how much you play them. With the new Ranked Season starting at the end of the month, there’s nothing stopping you too becoming obsessed with whispering “goal, goal, goal” whenever the ball flies anywhere that isn’t your own net.