So… is this a bit late, or what?
Well, it’s a game that I feel so strongly about, that I decided it warranted a review. In my 20 years of gaming, I’ve only really gotten into one multiplayer game in a big way, previously; Team Fortress Classic. And it was a beautiful and somewhat underappreciated game, that was simple to play, and difficult to master. It had a steep learning curve, but offered a massive feeling of satisfaction when you could do things “well”.
They’re not games that seem to come around all that often. But Rocket League is very much that kind of game. Anyone can drive cars around an arena; the car driving mechanics on the floor are pretty intuitive.
But when things take to the skies, it’s a whole new ball game.
Rocket League is a very simple premise. Take 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4 cars – put them in an arena with two goals, and see who scores the most. If it’s a draw at the end of a match, the game will continue past the normal 5 minutes, and extend into Overtime until someone gets a winning goal.
So far, so simple.
The cars also have nitro, that can be collected around the pitch to “top up” after use. Now, this is where things get interesting. The cars can also “Jump”. Combine “jump” with nitro, and you begin to see how this ends. Cars that can fly through the air, rocket propelled into a ball 50 foot in the air, slamming it into the goal.
If that sentence does it for you, this is the game for you. It’s really that simple.
Learning to fly, and handle your car in the air, is the tricky part. But the game does offer tutorials that allow you to practice your skills offline. And the matchmaking system will always seek to pair you off with players of a similar skill. You can still end up on the end of a 12-0 drubbing, as it uses a number of factors to keep the matches coming thick and fast. If there’s not enough people, in your area, of your skill, online at that time, other factors will be considered.
The game can be played with a keyboard and mouse, or an Xbox / Steam controller. Personally, I’m a big fan of the controller, as I feel it helps to make things a little more manageable. When you’re trying to time jumping, with boost, with angling your car in mid-air, you can quickly run short of fingers.
Psyonix have worked hard to keep the game fresh, by adding a variety of features over time. Ice Hockey was added, replacing the ball with a puck that slides along the surfaces. Most recently, a Basketball mode has been added; putting the goal in mid air, requiring cars to “dunk” the ball into the goal. Additional arenas have also been delivered, with the most recent offering slight tweaks on the normal pitch. And credit where it’s due – a large amount of paid DLC has been added to the game, but it all amounts to purely aesthetic content. New car models (including the Batmobile, and the DeLoriant from Back To The Future), as well as optional customisations by way of aerial attachments, decals and “hats”. None of the paid content provides stat bonuses for the cars.
So, how good is the game? It runs at a constant 60 FPS with all video settings turned on, on my NVIDIA 970 i7 rig. It’s smooth as silk, in fact. There have been issues in the past, but the developers have always been quick to respond on the forums. Even the split screen sofa play keeps the FPS high, and allows for 2 local players to team up with up to 2 remote players on a team.
Pros: As much fun as an FA Cup Final, with rocket propelled cars.
- Multiplayer gaming that will have you screaming, cussing and laughing your way to victory.
- Servers are well filled (as of September 2016) so you’re not left waiting for a game.
- It scales with you. As you improve, your opposition will improve.
- Split-screen local play provides plenty of after-pub mayhem.
Cons: Easy to learn, difficult to master.
- The steep learning curve can put people off.
- It’s not a game that can really sell you on variety. You either like it, or you don’t.
- Single player / bot mode isn’t much fun. The bots are idiots.
Multiplayer competitive games don’t really get better than this. I’m a firm believer that you reserve 5 out of 5 for God mode games – but to be fair, when I factor in the cost of this game, add the hours of fun I’ve had out of it, this is about as close to a 5 as you’d hope to get. But as it isn’t quite God mode, it gets a thoroughly deserved 4.5.