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Rocket League Review

Rocket League is a physics-based soccer game, but with agile rocket powered cars instead of people. It is the sequel to Super Sonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, a game I never played, so I can’t rightly compare them.

Developer: Psyonix
Publisher: Psyonix
Format: PS4/PC
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
The cars control really well, the turning radius is very small, and the drift allows you to turn on a dime. The controls are normal driving ones apart from two things, a rocket boost that allows you to fly or drive faster, fueled by small yellow boost pads placed around the field, and a double jump, which can be used to gain more height as a normal double jump, or for flips in each direction. The rocket boost and double jump add depth to the otherwise simple design of car soccer. All of these control excellently, everything feels tight and any mistakes made can be attributed to user error or lag. Rocket League is a textbook example of something that is ‘easy to learn, but hard to master’.

Each match of Rocket League has a five minute time limit, the person with the highest score at the end wins. The timer will stay at 0:00 until the ball hits the ground or goes into a goal, ending the game, or, if the scores are tied, going into overtime. Overtime ends when one goal is scored, whichever team scores the goal, wins.

Rocket League feels like a combination of billiards, soccer, and rocket cars. Soccer and rocket cars are understandable, but why Billiards you ask? Good question, it’s because the game gives off a similar vibe to billiards in that it’s all about precision and angles.

When you start Rocket League, you will quickly realize what it expects from you: precision, lots and lots of precision. There are a ludicrous amount of ways you can hit the ball, by varying your speed and direction. This means that pretty much wherever the ball is, you will have a shot at the goal, if you have the skill to pull it off.

If you aren’t interested in throwing yourself at the ball, hoping for success, you can throw yourself at enemy players, and hope for their failure. Providing you’re going fast enough, when you hit an enemy player, they will explode and be revived in around two seconds in one of the two corners on their side of the field. I prefer to avoid this, because it usually servers to obscure my vision rather than assist in making shots, but that’s just the way I prefer to play. This technique, like many others, could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

One of the biggest problem with Rocket League is that there is very little content as of now. There are 2 game modes: the base game of car soccer which can be played in teams of 1-4 offline or online, and the training section. There are public, private, and ranked online matches, but for whatever reason, you can’t enter ranked 3v3 with a party of your own, you’re matched with random allies. Offline, there is Exhibition, which allows you to play single matches against the AI, and Season mode, where you pick a team logo, name, and play a series of 9, 18, 27, or 36 matches with a championship at the end. The training section includes the basic and advanced tutorials, a sandbox mode which is just you and the ball, and 3 challenge/practice modes, one for each play style. Striker, which focuses on scoring goals from different directions, Goalie, focused on stopping shots from different directions, and Aerial, focused on scoring goals using the rocket boost to fly. Each has three difficulties, same as the AI, Rookie, Pro, and All-star. There are also only 7 different fields, the only differences being cosmetic.

There is almost no replay value if you consider replay value to be new content to experience. Once you’ve completed all the things I mentioned above, there is nothing but repeating those and hoping for challenging and/or fun matches.

Rocket League has voice chat and text chat that can be turned off or kept on in the options. There is also a quick reply system where you can select pre-made responses using the directional pad.

There are two camera options in the game that can be switched on the fly. One that follows wherever your car is facing, and one that follows the ball, wherever it is in the arena. Using a combination of the two will give you the best idea of what’s going on around the field. The camera will occasionally clip through the walls and the ball, causing some issues, but nothing too lasting or serious.

A big part of Rocket League is the customization of your car. There are 11 cars, and over 150 unlockable items to make your car into whatever you want. The different components of your car include decals, (Decals are car-specific) paint, wheels, rocket trails, hats, and antennas. Every match you complete, win or loss, you unlock something randomly.

There is a leveling system in Rocket League, the only purpose for that is to show how much you or your opponents have played. You start off at level one with the title “Rookie”, every ten levels you gain a new one, that’s all the levels do. You earn experience towards levelling up by playing the game, as you would expect. Playing online serves you double the points you would otherwise earn playing exhibition or season mode.

Now here is the biggest issue with the game, any amount of lag completely ruins the game, competitively speaking. There are few online games I’ve played that haven’t had some sort of lag, and it’s not hard to spot. I will constantly see the ball get hit, then proceed to reset its position as if it hadn’t even been touched by a breeze. Some games I can’t even drive straight, I’m teleported around the field with almost no consent as to where. Considering the amount of precision the game asks from you, this is an unforgivable issue. I say “competitively speaking” because when the game works, the brief moments it does, it feels brilliant, but the lag ruins any sort of consistency that the offline offers.

The AI, even at the highest difficulty level, aren’t competent enough to handle the most basic strategies a human player can come up with, and they are extremely predictable. They don’t provide enough challenge to help players improve, they actually serve to hurt you, lulling you into a false sense of security, making you an easy opponent online.

The sound effects are average, nothing noteworthy apart from most rocket trails having different sounds attached to fit their theme. The music does an excellent job of pumping you up and getting you ready to play. Most, if not all of the tracks are electronic dance songs. The music doesn’t play during matches, only in the main menu.

The visuals are beautiful and well detailed, in the arena, to the point of being able to see every blade of grass and crack in the pavement of the field. Everything outside the arena looks nice, not very detailed, but full of life, especially the crowds in the stadium maps, who help to propel the excitement of a good match, just like a stadium should.

Rocket League is a simple, but well-polished game that suffers from constant network issues and a severe lack of content. Considering that online is the focus of this game, and it doesn’t consistently perform well, is a huge let down to what otherwise could’ve been an amazing experience. Hopefully, in the future, that dream can be realized through updates and maintenance, but as it stands now, Rocket League is decent at best.

+Simple, quick, and addicting gameplay with tons of depth
+Tight controls
+Exciting visuals and music
+Lots of fun customization options
-Very little content
-Constant network issues
-Poor AI
-Leveling system is barely there

Score: 5.5/10 “Mediocre”

Play it if you liked: Super Sonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Billiards, Arcade-style driving games.

What I played: I played 515 matches at the time of this review, around 43 hours. I completed all the trophies in around 200 matches. Around 350 of my matches were offline, and 165 matches online.
This is a guest review by RecruitB10. For more information about the author you can follow him on Twitter @SelfishPancakes. If you are interested in writing for the DRM Gamecast, send us an email.
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