Let me begin by saying I was very sceptical about downloading this game from the Playstation Store. Football with cars? It sounded like a terrible idea. A friend at work had said it was one of the free games on PS Plus for July (2015) and had given it a glowing review. So I thought why not? I did not regret my decision.
So I downloaded the game and entered Rocket League, to see what the fuss was about. The first noticeable thing was the soundtrack. I’m not really a fan of dance or trance or whatever it is the kids are into these days, but I must say the tunes that accompany this game are pretty darn good. They all pretty much have a high energy and tempo that fits well with the game itself.
I went through the various options presented to me on the main menu. From here I was intrigued by what the garage section had to offer as I wanted to know what I was going to be working with. When you first enter this you will notice that you can customise your car in a range of ways: colour, body, decal, antennas and hats (yes hats for a car). Initially you do not have many different vehicle bodies or other accessories, however you gain these whilst playing through the game. My personal favourite items so far are the Sombrero and Gingerbread man antenna but there are items of a wackier nature out there to find. There a variety of these accessories you can give to your motor to give it its own unique identity and changing these or the main body of the car doesn’t give you any sort of further advantage in a match. Everyone begins equally and the advantage comes from playing and getting better at the game.
After finishing faffing about in the garage I went straight for online play where the real action is. You have the option of ranked and unranked games and also how many players you want on each team of blue or red. Like football you have two sides and you can have a maximum of 4 players versus 4 in unranked games and 3 versus 3 in ranked games. I’ve found 3 versus 3 matches to be the most enjoyable as it seems to be the right amount of players in a game. 2 versus 2 is not without its charms however and getting the balance of attack and defence right between you and your partner to earn a victory is very satisfying.
Finding a match is very quick and simple and all it takes is a few clicks to initiate the short search. Once you’ve found a match you enter one of the many different arenas Rocket League has to offer. The makers of the game, Psyonix, are constantly developing new levels and other material to keep the game fresh, a lot of which is free. Even the new cars they do charge for are not overpriced and purchasing these will not leave you with a massive hole in your pocket.
You now find yourself behind your selected vehicle and the countdown to kick off begins. Just like actual football there is a net for each team to try to score in and you win by having scored the most points. All this is done within a 5 minute time limit, however if the clock runs down and the scores are even, overtime ensues and the next goal wins.
When the countdown hits zero, players frantically race to the oversized ball placed in the middle of the field. Some will try to get the first touch, others may try to get the second in the hope the ball deflects towards their opponent’s goal. The slyer players may even hold back completely and let everyone else do the dirty work, waiting to see where the ball flies off to before making their move.
The look and feel of the car you control is great and it’s a joy speeding around the different arenas in your pimped out automobile. You can make the vehicle jump with a press of the X button and you can double tap this for a double higher jump. Once in the air you can flip your car any which way you want pulling off all kinds of different aerial moves. Timing these moves well can result in a strike on goal or a perfectly placed pass for your team mate to latch onto. Once the ball hits the back of the net, it’s placed back in the centre of the pitch ready for kick off and for the mayhem to begin again.
You can adjust the camera to however you see fit and can even change your focus to the ball by pressing the triangle button at any time. This can be very useful if you have lost sight of the ball and enables you to get back in the game quickly. The ease with which you can manoeuvre around adds to the joy of playing this game. You can perform tight handbrake turns, stick to the walls of the arena and generally choose how you want to play. If you want to go all-out attack, you can. If you want to sit and defend your goal as you feel your teammates are not providing the cover that’s needed, you can. Feel like you’re having a bad game? Maybe you are trying to get involved too much and are disrupting the play of your teammates? Or perhaps you are just not getting involved enough? Whatever the problem you have the power to change it within the allotted 5 minutes.
With each car you have a speed boost that you can activate by holding down the designated boost button. Every player will start with a low amount of boost at kick off, but this can be topped up throughout a session by driving over the glowing charge points scattered around the pitch. The boost can reach a maximum level of 100 and is a vital part of the game. As you continue to play you find yourself improving and picking up new techniques such as boosting during a jump which can lead to you flying through the air and leaving all the other cars below. With this skill you can gain the advantage over your opponents, getting control of the ball whilst they all wait for it to drop. Aerial goals can also be the best looking ways to score and often well worth a cheeky upload to YouTube.
Rocket League can become seriously addictive once you’ve played a few matches. “Just one more go” is probably a phrase that pops into my head every time I play this game. There are tight battles all over the field often leading to little moments of skill from players and some great goals. There are also a fair number of lucky breaks that can leave someone through on goal and being hunted down by the opposing cars, in the hope that they can steal the ball away or demolish the vehicle in possessing. Rocket League can also be quite a selfish game with cars on the same team trying to get that final touch of the ball before it crosses the line, stealing the glory from one of their teammates.
You can score some fantastic goals in Rocket League and the video below shows some of my favourite strikes. Basic elements of actual football such as dribbling the ball are much more difficult when trying to achieve this in a car and pulling something like this off in a game is a satisfying feeling, especially if it leads to a goal. There is something really great about that moment where you can recklessly launch your car towards the net, in the hope you will make some sort of connection with the loose ball and earn another point for your team. After a while you get to know how to use elements of the arena such as the walls to your advantage, hitting the ball at the right angle so it creates a chance for you or one of your teammates to finish with aplomb. The more goals and assists you get increase the chance of you becoming the MVP (Most Valuable Player) in the match.
You are not just restricted to online multiplayer, as the game also includes split screen offline play. There are not enough games with local multiplayer anymore so this is a very welcome addition. It is great fun having a group of friends come over for split screen battles, or even going online together to take on other players from around the world.
There is a single player mode too, but I only touched on it briefly. There is certainly not as much satisfaction playing bots (which you can adjust the difficulty of) but it’s a good addition to the game nonetheless. You can play one off games or compete in a tournament where you take a team you have designed thorough several matches in order to be the ultimate victor at the end. This is all well and good but I couldn’t help feeling like whilst I was playing this mode I was missing out on the online multiplayer, when Rocket League is definitely at its best.
Overall Rocket League is a fantastic game and something I can just pick up and play anytime. The more I play it the more I love it. It’s up there amongst my favourite games ever as it’s fun, looks good, is extremely rewarding and has an excellent online multiplayer mode. The fact Psyonix are constantly updating the game means there are always new modes or features to try out. Since the release of the game we have seen ice hockey and basketball modes added to the game and there are plans in the future for more modes, levels and cars to be included. Rocket League is something I will keep going back to and has taught me never to judge a game before trying it, no matter how crazy the initial idea may seem.