Rocket League Review
Price: £14.99 inc VAT
Developer: Psyonix, Inc
Publisher: Psyonix, Inc
PS4 tested. Also on PC
Growing up, I was never allowed to play football with the other kids. I was a behemoth compared to the others, a foot taller than second largest in my year. As a result football has never really gelled with me. The offside rule doesn’t make any sense and although I love West Ham United, I don't really have a sense of what football is
. As for driving games, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed one since Burnout Paradise
So believe me when I say Rocket League
is the most exciting multiplayer sports game I’ve played in years. A large part of this is the clean and simple design. You pilot cars around an arena, trying to put a ball into goals at either end. When the ball goes into the goal, it explodes, knocking cars all over the place. It’s bumper-cars meets the beautiful game.
It would be easy to buy into the “karting” aesthetic and add a host of different power-ups around the arena, or to give different car types a variety of powers. I’m glad to report that Psyonix steered clear of such unnecessary complication, and you have just 3 tools: The jump button, your fast car and your boost, gathered from small studs on the ground, or filled at once by the lesser spotted “Boost Globe” (my name, not theirs) which fills you to 100%.
I would say Rocket League
is simple to pick up and hard to master, but I don’t think it’s possible to actually master. Part of the chaotic fun is the unpredictable nature of just about everything. With every smash, crash and bash, the physics based driving bounces you and the ball all over the place. If you’re doing it right, there will be plenty such collisions. You’ll be ricocheting up and down the pitch trying to keep track of the ball, your teammates and your rivals in the fight for victory.
There’s a surprising amount of nuance despite the stripped back controls. When in the air, you can flip and spin your car to hit the ball in different ways. This feels analogous to bicycle kicks, headers and volleys, although landing one as both yourself and the ball are flying through the air takes a lot more finesse than those “professional” footballers.
There is one slight concession to the bumper car heritage: boosting at full speed for a couple of seconds triggers a sound and slight visual effect. After this, any car you hit while still boosting will explode, removing them from the game for a couple of seconds. This isn’t as jarring as it sounds and is fairly rare in play, except for this video
where it happened twice, culminating in a majestic goal.
You can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4, although with 8 players the match can feel a little overcrowded, resembling a rugby scrum instead of a football pitch. 2v2 seems to be the sweet spot. This arena is well designed too: The ramps to the side enable you to drive up onto the walls before launching yourself off in pursuit of the gigantic ball bouncing around the arena.