Review – Rocket League. You are car playing soccer. Drive fast, but not too fast.
You press down the R2 button and your car flies forwarding as you hit X to jump at the ball. You might push different buttons if you are playing on PC instead of PS4. It is available on both. You understand what I mean. Anyway. You mistime the jump, but it’s only too late that you realize your mistake. You try to back up, but you were the last line of defense against the opposing team. The ball bounces, it feels like it is in slow motion and then everything explodes. Not literally, but close enough.
This is Rocket League. Basically, it’s soccer with cars except the cars can climb on the walls and jump and have boosts that they pick up as they drive around the arena. There are a few different arenas, but I’m pretty sure it’s just aesthetic. Lots of options to customize your car that unlock over time across single player and multiplayer modes. Viking hats and whatnot. It’s a nice touch that helps keep you invested in the game.
Mostly, though, Rocket League is a game of skill. It is a competition in the purest sense. A game of placement and timing. At first I believed it was just a game about ramming cool looking cars into a ball and hoping for the best, but the art is in the counter-punching. In making sure someone is always back on defense. The game feels really shiny. Everything has a super-saturated aesthetic and – while the visual scope of the game may be somewhat limited by nature – it’s really quite nice looking.
And maddening. As a game of skill, people are going to be better than you at Rocket League. A lot of people. I play 3 v 3 mostly to cover my own weakness. I find ways to contribute to teams in the same way I tried to when I played sports as a youth. To find a niche and do that as well as I can. It’s how I play MOBAs, too: The first rule is not to hurt your team. If you can help, it’s a bonus. The games are fast. Like, a few minutes each, but you can take some pretty bad beatings if you are outmatched. I keep losing. I keep revisiting it.
The velocity is palpable. It plays fast. That messes with you, because it’s not usually a game about going fast. Sometimes you have to, but going fast comes at a cost of accuracy. A bad jump, a mistimed turn and you’re out of contention. And then the goal. You have to be careful. Understand what is extending yourself too far. What will put your team at risk.
I wish more people skipped the replays. That’s probably my biggest complaint. I hate replays in sports games, generally, especially when they are of me losing. In order to skip replays everyone has to skip them. It doesn’t seem to happen often.
Season mode is fine. It’s basic. A season where the top so many teams play in a playoff. It’s fun, but the meat of the game is the multiplayer, which can be played with one, two or three player teams. It’s a game that can be extended in a number of ways (and there are reports that this will happen in the future, with DLC slated), but it’s great as it is. Such a fine-tuned, specific experience. You are a car. You do flips. You hit a ball. You hope it goes into a goal. You hope you don’t cost your team the game.
It costs $19.99. I got it for free as part of my PS Plus membership last month and almost certainly would not have bought at that price, but I can honestly say now that I’ve played it that I would recommend it if you want a game that you can learn and grow with. And lose a lot. And drive fast.