Let’s begin in a very straightforward way: Rocket League is awesome. Not “good” or “great”: it plays, looks and feels just awesome.
In case you’ve been living inside a shelter (maybe Fallout’s) for the last two months, here’s a short recap: Rocket League is an action/arcade game in which you’re playing a kind of football by driving a rocket-powered remote-controlled car, aiming to bump a giant bouncing ball into the opponent team’s goal. As easy as it may sound, it’s one of those easy to learn, hard to master games (as I discussed before) that will charm the player with its masterful simplicity: no abilities to unlock, no active or passive bonuses. Just four wheels, an engine and a powerful turbo boost (collecting charges on the field as you go).
Trying to remember their first time on FIFA or PES will get the player an idea of how the RL experience will begin: mashing buttons while the ball often slips away where you don’t want it to go. But be patient, play the (really very well made) tutorial and you’ll quickly be amazed by the freedom of play style this game has to offer. In fact, different stunts and tactics lead to different roles: rushing and surgically hitting the ball, running on arena walls to intercept a dangerous shot, jumping to make awesome saves, be the playmaker and so on.
What’s best is that the player won’t need to choose, eventually playing all of them: after every score, cars spawn in a different position than the previous one, and the player closest to their own goal will usually have to stick to it as much as possible, to avoid long shot scores. Structured tactics are possible and viable too, yet more difficult to put into play in randomly chosen groups than in pre-arranged ones, but Rocket League really shines in both casual and organized play.
Another fact that makes RL awesome is the perfect use of physics-based stunts and hits, yet with a creative twist: some flips will actually break real world laws, favoring a double-jump system that will let the player change and regain momentum at his own will. Image a distant ball you need to reach by going full speed: suddenly, when you were almost there, another player strikes so that you would pass beyond the ball before being able to hit it. What now? An U-turn would be slow, and so would braking or sliding. Just press jump, and jump again while holding the analog stick down: you will make an instant backward flip, resetting inertia as if you were not moving. Then, press turbo while going full speed again and boom! a perfect shot.
It’s a great game system that needs lots of hours to be mastered, but it’s definitely fun and worth it.
One last point on gameplay: game modes. This is where RL is kind of flawed as of now: offline seasons soon become frustrating due to bots’ A.I. which is not exactly outstanding, even at the highest difficulty level. This is not a great issue, since the game is clearly born with multiplayer in mind, and what really bothers me is the lack of variety in this. Forget FIFA or PES modes: you can only play random matches and random ranked matches. That’s all. No tournaments, no leagues (well not unless you count a single, huge one) no real sense of progress, apart from your season rank raising or falling according to your results. There’s big room for improvement. Right now, with the opening of the first official season, Psyonix Studios (creators of RL) have added some more rewards and better naming to divisions (season ranks), even if single random matches are still the only way to play online. Let’s hope they will add further content.
One word on graphics: nice. There is nothing outstanding in terms of polygon counts or textures, but everything is perfectly made: vibrant colours, beautiful vehicles, nice effects (lights and trails on top), cool arenas. Again, I think that simplicity stands for awesome here, because anyone can easily achieve decent FPS (locked at 60 fps using V-Sync on my i5+GTX 960 at maximum detail; 30-40 fps on my i5+GT740m laptop with low settings) while retaining gorgeous and vivid visuals. Moreover, the game is so fast paced that players wouldn’t really notice or care about anything more.
Overall, Rocket League is a standout in the game industry, and its sudden explosive success (more than 100k players connected during peak times) is well deserved. Despite its lack of game modes, after 75 hours of play, I’m still in love with it and will be for a long time.