Rocket League, to put it bluntly, can be described as football, but with cars. Despite this simple premise that would seem to get old quickly, it was showered with nearly unanimous praise after its 2015 release. It received even more publicity after its stint on PlayStation Plus, but was it deserving of both heaps of critical acclaim and the price reduction?
On the surface, Rocket League is able to portray the action without letting proceedings become too complicated, due to the simplistic visual style. Every piece of information is easily visible, as it does not attempt to be more than it is; that said, the game does look quite good! Each stadium is distinct from each other, so while one may have rusted surfaces and is situated in the middle of a desert, another will have blinding neon signposts while in a city, where the skyscrapers pop out of the ground all around the stadium. This ensures that the stadiums stay diverse and visually interesting.
The soundtrack lacks variety, however, as tracks are practically interchangeable, due ro the genres of these songs being quite similar. These songs only exist in the menus, which may seem as if they are underutilised at first, but that helps to give the sound effects centre stage, which they certainly deserve. These help to give the game a sense of realism, even though the game does not follow a real car’s physics. The loud thud after a car hits the grassy plain below and the sound air makes while smashing into a boosting truck are only examples of the way the sound effects help to envelop players into this strange land.
The heart of Rocket League is the controls, where a concept that may seem unpalatable becomes a great game to just quickly pick up and play. Drifts, boosts, and flips become second nature after five minutes, because of how the fantastically laid out these controls are. However, the skill ceiling is quite high, as abilities can be chained together to score some truly impressive goals that are earned through pure skill, not luck. The physics in place are quite light and perfectly complimentary with the controls, as every manuever is potentially good; flips aren’t weighed down, nor is the boost too quick.
The gameplay takes these controls that Psyonix toiled over, and then throws them into majestic chaos. The ball, which is heavier than the automobiles themselves, rewards plays that use precision and using empty space to infiltrate the opposing team of three’s ranks. As there are only three players on each team, which opposes football’s regular eleven-a-side, every player on the team can contribute in some way while using some semblance of a strategy, which nearly never happens in football.
Despite there only being three players on a side, capitalising on where the ball is situated is also a key part of Rocket League, as the quick responses that are possible builds increasing tension, until the ball has been placed into the goal. Points are rewarded for any action pulled off, too, whether that is saving the ball or scoring goals, which helps to hook you back in for just one more game, which is masterful design. It obviously works, as there has never been any difference in how matches can be jumped into and out of with speed.
There are also two other modes in the base game that deviate from football lightly, which are Snow Day (which is ice hockey) and Hoops (or, quite simply, basketball). These modes are about using the differing projectiles to good use, and it works. They helps to break up monotony and force teams to think about the ball (or puck) in entirely new ways. The puck slides across the sides of the stadium, just waiting to be broken out of the cycle, but the basketball only spends time leaping into the air. Depending on the situation, there is a decision to be made as for whether to stick to the ground or the air, which adds yet another layer to the gameplay.
Rocket League is absolutely worth it to purchase, as it is not challenging to begin playing. However, it has controls that are quite difficult to fully master, which makes it much more rewarding when goals are scored or blocked. The arcade mentality makes it quite easy to get hooked into, so do not be surprised if it keeps an online community for years upon years. Even if football and cars are not personal interests, this combination is a fantastic experience that is loaded with all-out fun.