Rocket League has taken gamers by storm, accumulating over 160,000 concurrent players since it’s launch. But, is this seemingly simple game of car football truly worth all of our attention? Thanks to tight controls, and easy to play but tough to master game design I’m happy to say that the answer to that question is a resounding, yes.
Rocket League’s gameplay fundamentals are built on aforementioned the easy to play but tough to master design philosophy. At a basic level the mechanics are simple, hit the ball into your opponents goal more times than they do the same for to you. In order to do this you must control your car with what at first seem like pretty typical driving mechanics. Through acceleration, turning and boosting, you’ll accomplish the task at hand. These mechanics are simple and make the game very accessible, playable by almost anyone from any gaming background.
However alongside these core controls the game also features a jump button and this is where much of the games depth is derived. Jumping throws your car into the air, and with another press of the button you can flip in one of four directions. In the hands of a skilled player, it provides a lot of control and can be used to hit the ball in all sorts of angles. You can also use this mechanic in conjunction with the boost mechanic to propel your little RC car into the air. This can lead to some truly acrobatic gameplay and again accommodates a large degree of depth to the games core mechanics.
As you play and these controls naturally become more familiar, you will find yourself capable of performing better and better feats on the pitch, with everyone experiencing their own epic moments through spectacular long shots, aerial goals or even saves if you take a defensive role on your team. It’s truly rewarding to invest into these mechanics, getting better at controlling your car around the pitch, and then seeing the fruits of this effort through the feats you’re able to achieve.
In addition to interaction with the ball, you also interact with the opposing team through bumps and scrapes. Heck, hit them hard enough and you can take them out with a fiery explosion, forcing them to respawn. It’s fun and the mechanic lends variability to the experience, there’s nothing quite like smashing your opponent into the ball, only to force him to score an own goal. It goes without saying that the game really looks the part too. Each vehicle offers an interesting design and the stadiums are all visually spectacular featuring fantastic lighting, a crowd, and even individually rendered blade of grass. The arenas really feel alive when your playing in them.
In order to enable you to keep track of what’s going on in the game at all times, the also game features two cameras, ball cam and player cam which follow the ball, or player respectively. By toggling between the two you can keep an awareness of everything happening on the field, while being able to direct your car appropriately. Although at times it can be confusing when the ball is directly above you, with either camera.
Rocket League also features a variety of multiplayer modes, which escalating in the number of players they support. From the tense, reactionary gameplay of one versus ones, to the all our chaotic, no one knows what’s going on mayhem of four versus four, each of these modes offers something different as different numbers of players interplay uniquely with one another. While these modes only vary the number of players allowed onto the pitch, the gameplay dynamics for each mode are quite drastic, forcing you to change your tactics depending on the size of your team.
Alongside these multiplayer offerings is a fully fledged singleplayer offering, allowing you to pick a team and play through a season against other teams of AI. It’s enjoyable if you don’t fancy playing online, but the AI can be pretty hit and miss at times, ranging from astroundly good to the direct opposite. My own faithful compatriots, Merlin and Jester were rather unfortunate during my season, scoring considerably more than their share of own goals for the team. Unfortunately once one season is completed, there’s little reason to return here as the AI become relatively predictable, and easy to beat. Season mode is a nice addition for those who can’t get online, but online play is always the better option when it’s available to you due to the dynamic nature of human opponents.
The AI also take part in multiplayer matches though, when one team is short on players, and despite their inconsistent performance this is generally much better than being left a team mate down. Although if you have a friend locally, you can also press start on their controller to throw them into the mix as a split screen player. The game actually supports up to 4 players in split screen, which is fantastic for those 4 player, local multiplayer sessions that games so rarely support in today.
All of this action does however take place over only a small handful of stadiums, each sharing the same form. While each stadium is beautifully crafted it’s a shame there’s no variance in their structure as gameplay is identical from one to another. Even small adjustments would have provided interesting gameplay changes however each stadium is seemingly identical. However developer Psyonix have stated they are working on adding additional stadiums as free downloadable content.
Ultimately whether your an experienced gamer or not, Rocket League has something for everyone. The games easy to play yet, hard to master philosophy ensures everyone can hop in and have fun either locally or online, while more competitive gamers will thoroughly enjoy getting to grips with the games more advanced controls in order to perform fancier and more technical feats on the field. Rocket League is an absolute blast to play and a game you shouldn’t miss out on.