Rocket League is the perfect example of a game that makes great use of a simple concept; the concept in question? Rocket-powered cars playing football. In Rocket League you control a rocket-powered car and participate in football matches, both online and off – and it is pure fun.
There are a lot of things you can do with your car in this game beyond driving into a ball to send it flying towards goal – and luckily, there is a really handy training mode thrown in. I’d advise starting the training mode before attempting to play a full match, as it really does teach you the essentials. There is actually a lot to learn about Rocket League, as although seemingly simple it offers a nice amount of complexities to get your head around. Even just hitting the ball is a bit of a challenge at first, let alone a boost-powered glide followed by a front-flip into the ball at a tight-angle initially from the wall.
Luckily, the controls are not tricky, and after a few hours of practice and abject failure you’ll be flying into balls flung into the air and boosting along the walls in a desperate attempt to prove to your teammates that you are most certainly not a ‘noob’. I don’t think there’s a steep learning curve to Rocket League, but it is a game that needs to be played in order to be understood – the more you play, the more you’ll be able to do. But trust me; you’ll want to start off with the single-player, as the essentials are, y’know, essential.
Online is where Rocket League truly shines – it becomes a cauldron of taunting, showboating and disgrace, at least, it does in the ranked matches. Ranked matches are five minutes long, but if the score is tied at the final whistle, then the match goes into overtime until a winning goal is scored. Not one match is the same in Rocket League with the game allowing for many different styles of play and tactics – much like any football game. Ranked matches are either played in teams of two or three and both of the sizes allow for different tactics as 3v3 is much more hectic than 2v2.
Matchmaking is a tad hit or miss unfortunately; most of the time it works perfectly fine, but there are the few occasions where it takes a few minutes to find a match, and other times you are placed in a match, only for someone to not get in ending the match before it even starts. Connection problems are a bit of an issue also – I tend to think the internet connection in my house is stable and quick, but Rocket League likes to disagree with me sometimes, creating matches that like to bug-out thanks to a fair amount of lag.
As I have already mentioned however, the issues online don’t happen most of the time – for the most part, Rocket League’s online is an absolute joy, especially given that you can play split-screen online. I do think that matchmaking could be a little better in general though, as although the game does try to put you in fair match-ups with people supposedly at a similar level, there are definitely times where you are put up against players much worse and better than your good self. Typically you are put in a match against people of similar quality, so it is not a big issue.
Rocket League is definitely a game to be played online, and it is especially fun when people start talking. With the D-pad, you can use quick-chat, which offers twelve pre-chosen phrases to say to everyone playing and four that only your team can see. The quick-chat is a nice feature, but there have been more than a few occasions where I’ve just wanted to say ‘Nice!’ instead of ‘Nice Shot!’ for example. I don’t think the phrases are perfect, but you can type exactly what you want with a tap of the Dualshock 4’s touch-pad – which brings up a keyboard on-screen. Using this feature has led to many angry and hilarious moments (I once wound someone up so much by typing in ‘I like water’ over and over again that I was on the receiving end of a few unpleasant words on my PS4’s personal messages) but it is far too slow to use mid-game, only really becoming an applicable choice during goal replays.
Playing matches online does three things – it improves your personal level, ranking and unlocks items. Each time you play a match in Rocket League you get points, these points build up during gameplay, based on shots taken, goals scored, saves made, clearances, centre-balls and so on. Each point you get takes you one step closer to levelling up, which increases your status in the game. You start out your Rocket League career as a ‘Rookie’, but your title improves every ten levels or so, as of writing I’m at level 39, a Rocket League veteran, with somewhere over 120 hours spent on the game.
Rocket League is a changing game too, with new arenas, items and ranking systems being added into the game every now and then. As it stands, in the game’s second season, there are twelve ranks, with your rank being updated after every ten matches, based on everything you do, not just losing or winning a couple of matches. It’s a nice system, one that makes you want to play ten more matches, to try and increase your own ranking. It becomes addictive, and hours can pass before you stop playing it in one session – you don’t realise how long you’ve spent playing Rocket League.
You will even spend a stupid amount of time fine-tuning your car’s looks with all of the items you’ve unlocked over the course of playing the game. Unfortunately however, the colour options are fairly limited, as all matches place you in either orange or blue team, meaning car colours can only be blue, orange, or something fairly similar. I wish there were a couple more team colours, like green, black or white for example, but oh well, maybe I just want a brown car too much. Still, the colour of the car doesn’t matter much when you’ve just scored a 90-yard screamer, or flew half the pitch only to just miss a goal or scoring a last-minute equaliser – Rocket League is exhilarating, extremely good fun and at times incredibly tense, just as any good sports game is.
Although the servers still need a little more work, Rocket League offers incredible amounts of fun at a very affordable price. There are so many games I just haven’t played because of Rocket League, games like Metal Gear Solid V and Arkham Knight. Dare I say Rocket League is the best sports game of all time? It just well could be you know. I expect to see you online very soon, be prepared.