Rocket Arena is a brand new hero shooter, and the fourth under the EA Originals imprint. In the game, two teams of three go at it in a series of different multiplayer game modes. When it launches on July 14th, it’ll have 10 playable characters, 10 maps, four PvP modes as well as one cooperative PvE mode. Even better (and worth applauding), the game will support crossplay between all the platforms it’s launching on – Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.
After some time with the game, it was hard to deny that the game was fun with its simplistic approach. While the game is a third-person shooter, it bizarrely reminds me a little bit of Super Smash Bros. You don’t die – but instead build up the “blast meter” of your opponent with every attack you dish out. After sustaining a set amount of damage, opponents are launched into the air with an explosion before promptly returning to the map. During this time, your player is inactive and in a limbo state of sorts. It’s a quite clever way to help you feel like you’re still in the action even when you’re not or between lives.
Each of the characters carries with them the same sense of floatiness, but also comes equipped with a unique type of rocket. Boone, for example, has a sniper-style rocket which is great for long-range combat whilst Blastbeard has a huge cannon style rocket more suited for close-quarters encounters. The game is unique in the sense that you also use these rockets to jump or scale walls (by shooting downwards), which you really have to rely on in order to avoid enemy fire.
Each of the characters also comes equipped with a secondary weapon as well as special abilities. For instance, Amphora is a character with liberal inspiration from Splatoon. She can turn into a Hydroform and travel underground at greater speeds, has bouncy mines, and a charged torpedo rocket. I’ve only been able to sample a handful of the characters but there appears to be a good amount of variety between them, which is encouraging given that there are ten or so characters available at launch.
In terms of modes, they were a little inconsistent. Knockout is a standard 3v3 team-based deathmatch where one team must build up the opponent teams blaster meter in order to score a point. The whole flow of the game gives it a more arcade-like feel than the likes of Apex Legends and Fortnite, and as such Rocket Arena feels like a game where frantic battles are the priority in lieu of more technical and intricate skills.
My favourite mode, without a doubt, was Rocketball. In this mode, each team has to get the ball to the same net (think Capture The Flag but with one base) but it’s here that the unique mechanics of Rocket Arena really come into their own and helps distinguish itself from other online shooters.
I really enjoyed Treasure Hunt too but felt like it could become grating quickly. Both teams try to grab hold of one treasure chest to build up points, but then between those rounds you’ll also be collecting coins from around the map in a second-round which plays out in almost a Mario-esque fashion. These two rounds were fun but felt really disjointed, and I’d like to have seen a few more sub-modes included within Treasure Hunt to keep it a bit more interesting.
There’s also a PvE mode called RocketBot attack, which I only had some short time with but can definitely see the potential with.
So what of longevity? Rocket Arena will supposedly be supported with daily and weekly challenges too, as well as over a hundred levels of progression, but I can’t help but feel like the game could have made use of this element to offer a single-player experience too. Especially given the price of the game. Still, there is some potential to keep players coming back here though it does feel like a little bit of wasted potential to not see these characters and abilities expanded into a campaign.
It’s hard for me to deny that Rocket Arena will be fun initially with friends – it’s easier to jump into, very fast-paced and more chaotic than other hero shooters. But I definitely call into question whether the game retailing for around $40 to $50 will be detrimental to its initial uptake, especially when Fortnite and even the EA published Apex Legends are both offered for free right now.
That being said, it’s also hard to deny that the game has an incredibly gorgeous art direction, and I can definitely see it appealing to younger gamers. Such personality in the design will hopefully be fleshed out with some nice backstories for the colourful cast of characters too, as they each seem to have great and likeable personalities.
When all is said and done, I really enjoyed my three to four hours with Rocket Arena. The game is colourful, the characters are memorable and the slew of crazy game modes on smaller maps really puts the game in a great position. I just hope that the game can find an audience, and penetrate an already incredibly saturated multiplayer market.