Review by Nathan Miller on PS4 Digital Download
Available Now on PC and PS4
Psyonix created a soccer centric sensation that delivers a wow factor and most importantly a good time. Rocket League is a physics-based vehicle soccer game where players race around in RC-esque cars equipped with rockets in order to hit a ball into an opposing team's goal. You can barrel roll, front flip, bicycle kick, rocket boost, and even fly these battle-cars in whichever way possible to ensure victory for your team. There are no rules other than whoever has the most points within the time limit wins and if it is a tie, a sudden death round occurs where whoever scores first will win. There is an insanity behind Rocket League that is beneficial for those who think outside the box. It is unexplainable how such a simple game can result in a tremendous amount of depth where you can pick out veteran players over newbies yet either one can be a threat. This is strictly a competitive game even though there is a single player component to it, but let's dig a little deeper as to what is present in this game.
Rocket League's gameplay is two teams battling it out for dominance one goal at a time. The player's capability and resolve to manipulate the game's physics is what creates the thrills in this game. Boosting into opponents at full speed can cause them to explode on impact, but players can run out of boost fairly quickly. There are beacons all over the floor of the arena that will replenish the battle-cars that drive over them. The meat and potatoes of this soccer inspired car game is its online component. 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3, or 4 vs 4 configurations are all available online, and splitscreen of up to 4 players is available for both offline and online play. Playstation 4 and PC users can compete against one another with cross-platform play as well. The single player modes are training (which has a free roam mode) and season mode which replicates a soccer (FIFA like) season as one can imagine. Unlockable items/vehicles and customizations are in abundance in Rocket League. There are over 10 billion possible combinations of customization, so it is possible for a player's battle-car to be an unique snowflake. Replays, leaderboards, and stats are all available to keep track of your progress, and it provides an opportunity to work out a strategy for future matches.
Driving up a wall then barrel rolling off it in order to hit the ball into a goal is exactly why Rocket League is good. These types of trick shots are simple to do, and only takes well timed maneuvering by the player, which makes matches replay worthy each and every time. Regardless of a player's skill level, it is possible to pull off insane trick shots. The best part about these simple gameplay mechanics is somebody can stop such a shot with a basic double jump. The ball does not force itself or gravitate towards the inside of a goal, instead it is all dependent on player manipulation. More often than not, you will see the ball flying towards a goal just to hit the top or side of it and bounce back in the other direction. This adds intensity to the match and fuels a competitiveness inside you that pushes you to want to make an outstanding shot. If you are a patient driver like myself, I see these opportunities as alley-oops.
There is a strategy or a position for everyone in this game. Aggressors, defensive, and support roles are all crucial to playing smart in Rocket League. Although it does not have to be entirely that way because it fun to splitscreen with friends over a few beers, but the depth is there for people who want to play seriously. The customization of vehicles in Rocket League is a feature always welcomed by me regardless of the game, but I give them credit for providing a large amount of customization options at no extra cost. Psyonix could have nickled and dimed people from the start, but they avoided it for their launch which is unprecedented in this day in age. Also, whoever at Psyonix decided to put a camera angle that focuses on the ball was a good person. Without that camera angle, this game would be very frustrating.
The AI in the single player season mode is horrible. I had to chase my own teammates from taking the ball back into our opponent's side of the arena more than ten times throughout my experience with it. The mode is great to brush up on your skills, but it is not useful for building up strategies or for any sort of competitive thrill. The only other issue I had with Rocket League was the arenas: they all have the same shape and boost layouts. Their aesthetics are the only differences between them. If obstacles were present or a different shaped arena was introduced, it would alter a team's strategy and create different scenarios in matches. Psyonix did state that all added maps will be free, so it is not all bad.
Simplistic gameplay with real depth and outrageous possibilities are what makes this independent release so addictive. Players could be better than you, but it is still possible to be a threat even without skill shots. In fact, it is even more enjoyable when somebody is doing a trick shot, and you completely obliterate it by boosting away with the ball. It pays to be flashy sometimes just as it pays to be patient. This is a game dependent on gamers who love playing multiplayer competitively. This is not a game that someone should buy to play offline. If someone did do that, it is a complete disservice to the game and of its essence. This is one of the best multiplayer games you will play and it is important to do just that.