Xbox One

  News 
  Reviews
  Previews
  Hardware
  Interviews
  All Features

Areas

  3DS
  Android
  iPad
  iPhone
  Mac
  PC
  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Switch
  Vita
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One
  Media
  Archives
  Search
  Contests

 

Rocket League

Score: 100%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Psyonix
Developer: Psyonix
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Local); 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Racing/ Sports (Soccer)/ Online


Graphics & Sound:

When I reviewed Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, I noted that the game would have benefited from more time in development. Its hybrid gameplay was a bold, creative departure from what most people expected of the genres from which it cribbed. Psyonixís follow-up, Rocket League, is a grand slam of a sophomore effort. Itís deep, gorgeous, rewarding, and addictive. Put simply, this is one of the greatest competitive sports games ever made.

Rocket League is the perfect marriage of technical wizardry and artistic confidence, even though only one side of the coin can be considered absolutely necessary. Thereís no way around it: if the physics engine fell even a smidge short of perfection, the game wouldnít work at all. Thankfully, Psyonix has delivered a flawless one. Cars hurtle across the ground, along the walls, and through the air with wild abandon. Not only is the sense of speed a thing of beauty, but thereís a magical symmetry between the cars and the rockets that give the game its title. Furthermore, the weighty, inertia-based driving physics provide a brilliant contrast to the ball, which has the substance and momentum of a soccer ball while simultaneously having the capacity to float and arc around like a beach ball.

The rest of the game follows a very specific motif: these are rocket-powered remote control cars locked in a series of rounded-out arenas, each of which has its own style. Of course, youíve got your standard outdoor pitch with day and night variants, but there are some really creative ones, including one set in a foundry and another that looks like it was pulled straight out of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Everything looks fantastic, from the astroturf to the background designs. And I havenít even gotten into the multitude of ways you can customize your vehicle.

Rocket Leagueís sound design is as borderline-perfect as its visual design. It almost sounds like a soccer game if you close your eyes; from the hollow thuds that accompany each strike, to the raucous cheering of the crowds, to the blasts of propellant, to the explosions that mark each and every goal. Okay, so it doesnít sound like the World Cup, but at least there arenít any of those damned vuvuzelas. To cap it all off, Rocket Leagueís soundtrack keeps your blood pumping between matches and during trips to the garage with a series of excellent techno tracks from Mike Ault and other artists. I can only think of one possible complaint in this department: the cars sound kind of weak on their own. But I had to think long and hard in order to remember that, so make of that what you will.


Gameplay:

Soccer. With cars. And rocket boosters. Yeah, that doesnít sound like something that would actually work, does it? Fortunately for us, weíre not dealing with reality, and video gaming is the perfect medium to transform the impossible into the possible. Rocket League pits teams against each other in a rounded box arena, adds a ball to the mix, and charges each team with ensuring that the ball makes its way into the other teamís goal by whatever means necessary. You have no weapons, but the bulk of your vehicle and the laws of physics.

Letís get one thing out of the way: Rocket Leagueís focus is on its competitive online multiplayer. And thatís how it should be. The game supports up to eight players at once, but it also accommodates every permutation short of that; you can play singles, doubles, standard (3v3), and chaos (4v4). Not only do all of these options live up to their names, but they actually require different strategies in most cases.

If youíre not an online player, Rocket League might not be completely worth it, but itís still a great time even if youíre on your lonesome. You have the option to set up Exhibition matches or make your way through a Season, which delivers pretty much what youíd expect. No more, no less.

With the gameís physics engine fine-tuned to Newtonian nirvana, Psyonix didnít really need to go any further with Rocket League. But they did. Regardless of how well you perform in each match or even if your team wins, you will be rewarded at the end with a cosmetic item. These vary wildly and add to the already magnetic pull of the game. There are tons of bodies, paint colors (and types), toppers, antennae, wheels, and even exhaust. In classic indie game fashion, several of these are clever references to other games or pop culture licenses. Every now and then, your group will want to jump back into the garage to see exactly what kinds of insane combinations you can come up with.


Difficulty:

Rocket League is easy to pick up and play. However, itís devilishly hard to master. Learning to master this gameís precision controls is but one of its myriad delights. Above all else, Rocket League is about patience and opportunity. Patience youíll need when things are hectic, when every car in the field is jockeying for that one crucial touch that turns the tide of the rally or increases their teamís momentum and scoring potential. Knowing when to stay away and when (and how) to go for the kill is perhaps the most important lesson Rocket League has to teach, and despite the varied training scenarios and the Free Play Mode, the game is rarely explicit about it. You learn by doing. By failing. By succeeding.

Make no mistake: you will inevitably come across a team that is better than yours on every conceivable level. And youíll have no choice but to sit there and take it. However, this is your chance to learn and experiment. You need a team thatís willing to communicate by voice; the emote mechanics and chat board are fun to mess with after each goal, but they're ultimately little more than diversions. Provided youíre a good observer, an effective communicator, and a prudent driver, youíll be pulling off insane crosses, long shots, and ridiculous saves in no time.


Game Mechanics:

Precision. Thatís what Rocket League is built for, and itís apparent the second you gain control over your car for the first time. Psyonix could build an arcade racer on the incredible foundation of driving mechanics established here. Cars are responsive to your every input, and when you screw up, the blame is yours and yours alone. A perfect time, position, and angle exists for every microsecond of play; while achieving them all at once is rarely a simple feat, it is always satisfying when you nail it. More importantly, it remains fun even when you fail. Rocket League can be an incredibly humbling experience for everyone involved; it isnít uncommon at all to run into agonizing moments in which every car on the pitch screws up royally.

Basic driving controls seen in just about every other game in the genre are adapted to satisfactory effect, but itís in the differences that Rocket League truly shines. Boosting is an integral part of the experience, and itís often the difference between a save and a goal. But itís much more than that; boost pickups are scattered at determinate places on each pitch. Most are of a moderate quantity, but in the corners and at the center sides are pickups that completely fill your meter. Boosting naturally and exponentially increases your speed, but once you reach a certain threshold, you go supersonic, like in SARPBC. Collide with an opposing player while supersonic and watch the fireworks as you utterly demolish them, knocking them out of the action for a few seconds.

Battle cars are more capable than your average remote-controlled car; they can jump, dodge, and pitch around in addition to all the aforementioned craziness. Again, angles are important in Rocket League; if you make a sideways dodge at the ball as it glances off your hood, youíd better believe that will have a bearing on the ballís trajectory. Perhaps the craziest application of the boost system is brought to light when you pair it with your ability to go airborne. Jumping, triggering boost and pitching upwards creates lift, transforming your car into a projectile with wheels. Flying is extremely difficult, but if you can learn to do it right, youíll eventually start causing more than your share of "holy sh*t" moments.

Loft and velocity figure heavily into the whereabouts of the ball, and the variable camera ensures that youíll have a decent view of the action, depending on your priorities at any given time. Most people will stick with Ball Cam, which has the ball centered at all times. However, I find myself switching to the behind-the-back Fixed Cam whenever I get a bit of bloodlust.

If you donít have an internet connection or are simply allergic to fun, Rocket League is not for you. Everybody else will be rewarded with countless hours of some of the best and most bizarre competitive play on the market. So hit Alt-F4, boot up your Xbox One, and buy this game already.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:



Sony PlayStation4 Street Fighter V Macintosh Dinocide

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated