Thursday, 28 July 2016

Rocket League

Rocket League is simply a phenomenon. A game of football with cars that’s actually a spiritual sequel to a PlayStation 3 title called Supersonic Arcrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. Its premise is simple: a game of 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4 in football but instead of being humans, you’re controlling a car in a domed stadium with an oversized ball. What makes it magical though is its execution.


Developed by Psyonix and out now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Rocket League features three sports: football, basketball, and ice-hockey. The focus though is very much on the football side of things. With no rules and a five-minute time limit, it’s simple to pick up and play but devilishly deep to master all mechanics involved. It all starts simplistic enough as you get used to the boost, jump, double-jump, and driving along the walls of the dome. But as you play, you learn more advanced techniques like flying, angle shots and so much more to make it one of the deepest and most rewarding multiplayer games available.


There is a single-player mode in Rocket League – one that features exhibitions and tournaments but because the AI just doesn’t feel as dynamic as real players, you will more than like move on quick enough from it. Playing against other players though is bliss. Matchmaking works like a charm and the ticker always tells you how many players are currently in the hopper. When you play though, you learn something every single game: Don’t jump at that moment next time, keep watch on your boost when tracking back, pick a position and act accordingly, be mindful of momentum when you decide to take to the air, and so much more. You’re always improving but never perfecting. 

It’s that constant chase for perfection that will keep you coming back. Learning and improving on every aspect of play is satisfying beyond most experiences in video games. Finally timing the aerial from a cross sent in by a team mate or clearing the ball off the line are the genuinely heart-thumping, adrenaline-pumping moments you won’t forget in a hurry. There’s no kill-streaks, no perks, no “one-life” and yet it remains the tensest moments found in any competitive game. 

Despite this competitiveness, there’s no massive feeling of loss, there are no infuriating moments of a player being “cheap” or something working against you. Sometimes an unlucky bounce from a clash of cars can lead to conceding a goal but that scattershot unluckiness is part of the fun. You can always look at your own individual performance and access is. Everyone is on a level-playing field for the most part. There are a decent number of battle-cars but despite very slight variations in hitboxes and speed mean that none feel overpowered but suit different positions better. 

And those positions you will eventually take make it a much more tactical game than you might imagine. At first, it feels like a free-for-all as everyone chases the ball, following it everywhere it goes but the more you play, the more you consider your options and choices. You’ll take positions, consider the score and whether your team needs an attacker or someone to stay back.


You can choose to have a free camera or one that’s constantly focused on the ball. It’s tough at first to use the lock-on cam as you attempt to keep your bearings as you have to find points on the pitch to know exactly where you are and understanding what kind of move is viable. Switching the camera lock on and off at the right time is the key to mastering your presence on the pitch. I could go on all day about the intricacies that make the game so damn enjoyable. The gradual and satisfying learning curve makes that “one more game” feeling always present. It’s easy to start playing and enjoy but the more you play, the better your abilities. There’s nothing deep in terms of its mechanics but the gameplay and the sense of improvement keeps the replayability almost infinite. This is simply one of the best multiplayer games to release in years.

The M.V.P. of online sports titles. 5/5.



★★★★★

Jason Redmond


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