There’s something really interesting about Rocket League when you look at it from a gaming and sports culture perspective. While we’ve had sports games almost as long as we’ve had video games, there’s a distinct chunk of gamers who scoff at following and/or playing those types of games. It’s the jocks versus nerds archetype. Rocket League obfuscates what boils down to a version of “crab soccer,” a sport you likely played in elementary school gym class, and makes it incredibly addictive and approachable to everyone.
In Rocket League, players take control of fast cars thrust onto a soccer pitch with an oversized ball, forcing players to utilize “real physics” in an attempt to put the ball in the opponent’s net. There’s a few things Rocket League does to make this game incredibly easy to play, but hard to master.
The stadiums themselves are completely enclosed, the ball never goes out of play, ensuring action is continuous and also giving players five other “driving” surfaces to play on. Yes, you can drive on the ceiling if you gain enough speed. Control of the car is bolstered by a jump ability, double jump ability and of course...rocket boost. Your boost is a limited meter filled by driving over certain hot spots on the map. Most of these hot spots give a minor amount of boost, but six of them fill your meter entirely, adding another layer of positional strategy onto the game.
The controls in the game are tight, it’s what I imagine controlling a rocket powered RC car feels like. Even with the limited button set, you’ll find you have a lot of “moves” at your disposal. Bicycle kicks, aerial “headers,” and even chips shots are all possible with the right timing and practice. Watching a car suddenly flip and rocket into the air for a header never gets old, especially when the timing is JUST right. The quick camera button to track the ball is a must, so you’ll be able to keep tabs on the ball or other players depending on the moment with a quick tap.
The game is designed for a 3 vs 3 match, though there’s flexibility there to play doubles or if you wish 4 vs 4 - which the game calls “chaos.” All of these modes are identical in terms of goal size, layout, and size of the stadium. With matches lasting five minutes, it’s easy to play a quick series of games. Despite the short timespan, the unpredictability of just where and how that oversized ball bounces also can yield some pretty incredible and rapid comebacks. It’s not uncommon to see a team down by 2 or 3 goals with 45 seconds to go, come back and win. This makes the game as tense as it is exciting.
Like any sports game, Rocket League is inherently a team-based affair, and while the focus of the game is on its versus multiplayer with online ranked and non-ranked play, there are a few cooperative options. For a true co-op experience, you’re limited to exhibitions against bots (both local and online) or season play in two player split-screen. Its here that the rubber meets the grass as you work through various matches against other teams of bots. There are three difficulties of bots to face off against, and while Rookie ends up being just a tad too easy, Professional should give you a solid if not frustrating challenge at times. Players must work together and communicate to succeed at this level by playing positional soccer for lack of a better term.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to play a season online with friends. Thankfully, the games are so fast and the ability to trash talk or grief are so limited that you probably won’t mind it if you traditionally stay away from these games because of the aforementioned reasons.
We should also mention just how pretty Rocket League looks, with several great stadium set-ups and different pitch types to admire while blasting down the pitch at 90KM/h. There are day and night variants as well as weather types too. Just about everything you do in the game is going to earn you experience and levels which unlocks cars, skins, paint jobs, wheels, and even hats for your little car. There’s plenty of content here to keep you coming back for more - I mean - who doesn’t want their exhaust to be a stream of sweet, sweet, cash?
All in all Rocket League is an example of letting the game dictate the fun. The sheer unpredictability of that giant bouncing ball is both exciting and heart wrenching. Through all of our games we’ve played you’ll cheer, scream, and maybe even cry. During one of our streams after losing 7 games in a row, Co-Optimus Editor Taylor Killian was dismayed and crushed. “We have nothing left but tears,” he stated. The very next match they won and continued to play for sixty more minutes. Rocket League is just that much fun.