Review: Rocket League

There are a lot of people that think the sport of soccer (or football for our international friends) is just not entertaining. While I disagree with this statement, it could be asked exactly what would make soccer MORE exciting?
If your answer was “cars”, then you’re totally right. Enter Rocket League, the successor to “Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars” released in 2008. Taking a soccer pitch, removing the lines and adding a glass dome over the top, as well as doing away with silly rules such as offside and penalties, gives us a chaotic, over-the-top and insanely fun experience. With multiple team options and a variety of customisations available for your vehicle, Rocket League is a near-endless supply of crazy action and awesome fun.RL_PRESENTATIONFor a game of this calibre, Rocket League is visually quite impressive. One of the most notable points is the effort that has gone into each playable ground in the game; with the massive stadia all giving off a different vibe. Stadiums such as Beckwith Park has a homely, suburban feel to it, where inversely something like Mannfield is grandiose and brilliant. Where the former is very calm and basic, the latter is bright and full of neon, adding to the scale of the matches played there. The general exhibition matches narrow opposing colours to blue and orange, but in ‘Season’ mode the number of teams and colours expands; and these team colours are represented on-field by both cars and halves of the ground. Even the lights on the oversized ball itself change colour when the ball crosses into a team’s half of the ground, and the lights grow more intense the closer it gets to goal.STILL_RL_0000_Layer 4The detail on the cars is quite impressive for a game with such a simple premise – each vehicle shell is rendered with great detail, and the paint jobs reflect shining lights and shadows with an aspect of realism. Customisation options allow the player to further enhance their cars through a series of paint jobs and styles, including matte, corroded metal and high gloss paints among others, as well as different decals and styles to overlay on the car. Also customisable are the wheels, rocket trails, hats and antennae for the car, allowing the player to really make their vehicle their own and stamp it in their mould.STILL_RL_0001_Layer 3Accompanying the game is an electro/dance soundtrack composed by Mike Ault, giving the game an EA Sports feel to it. While the tracks are not changeable and do not have visible track listings, the songs add to the atmosphere, amplifying the adrenaline and intensity of the game during the menus. In actual gameplay the music is replaced by the chants of the crowd as well as engines roaring and the crazy sounds of each car’s rocket trail. Each car body has its own engine sound, and this is further customised by the type of rocket trail the player selects for their car.RL_GAMEPLAYThe gameplay in Rocket League is simple on the surface, but deeper the more you play and immerse yourself. Removing the majority of rules from soccer, the game it is based on, Rocket League pits teams of 1 to 4 players against one another in a giant glass dome. The basic idea is to hit the oversized ball into the opponent’s goal, while stopping them from doing the same.

While it seems like the easiest of ideas, the implementation of car-based gameplay makes for matches of chaotic proportions. Boost patches are spread out across the pitch, allowing players to collect and launch themselves across the map at high speeds, and the encapsulating dome ensures that not only does the ball not go out of play but players can also launch themselves up walls. Every car is equipped with a jumping mechanic, allowing two rocket-assisted jumps which can be angled with the joystick to perform mid-air acrobatics to deflect or hit the ball. Handbrake slides are also a possibility during play allowing for players to quickly turn and angle the ball.STILL_RL_0002_Layer 2The scoring mechanic is relatively simple as well – the last vehicle to touch the ball is credited for the goal, regardless of how many opponents touch it. Teams can set up play by centering or bouncing the ball off walls, ramming an opponent into the ball, and even launching it halfway across the pitch. Goals cause the ball to explode, sending all players flying before resetting back to the middle. Skill shots such as ‘bicycle hits’, ‘reverse goals’ and even long shot goals are rewarded with points, and at the end of the game the player of the match is calculated vie these points.

Coupling the boost mechanic with the jumping mechanic can make for some amazing plays but can also lead to frustration due to a loss or lack of control when performing said manoeuvres. Cars are more difficult to control at high speeds and often players will find themselves being launched across the map and narrowly missing the ball, and then struggling to recover in time to save or push for a goal. The physics of the ball itself are also quite floaty, and more often than not games will be played with many aerial skills.STILL_RL_0003_Layer 1The game comes with three different difficulty modes for offline play, and each one varies significantly. The easiest level, ‘Rookie’ has AI that is unpredictable and at times, stupid. This makes the game more fun however, and with all matches sometimes the player might find themselves in a 2V4 scenario when one of their own accidentally aids an own-goal. The AI becomes tougher and more precise as it goes up, leading to higher skill challenges.
Online play has, so far, been magnificent. With reports of server overloads and high lag, Psyonix have rectified the situation as fast as they possibly can. Online play becomes fun playing in a team of friends or even in a team of randoms, and the unpredictability of the game is really highlighted in these matches.RL_CONCLUSIONIf you are tired of the basic sports games out there or just need something chaotic to bide your time with until the next AAA release title, Rocket League is for you. With an endless stream of customisations and a simple yet fun gameplay mechanic that will keep you hooked for hours, Rocket League is set to charm hearts and minds of even the non-sports oriented crowds. This game is a shot on goal that hits the back of the net with full force. Be sure to pick it up for free as part of the Instant Game Collection on Playstation Plus before time runs out!

Fun, chaotic take on soccer
High-octane action
Fun to play, challenging to master
Slightly repetitive
Unpredictability can be annoying
Sometimes ridiculous AI