Rocket League is an exceptional implementation of physics in video games. It’s an offshoot of the sport soccer, where players control cars that kick a giant ball, trying to score points by getting it into a goal. The premise sounds simple enough, but the clever implementation of physics and a high skill-ceiling to abuse them transforms an idea that may sound novel and slightly unweildy to an experience that is both exhilerating and addicting.
GAMEPLAY & PHYSICS:
Momentum and angles are everything. You need the momentum to kick the big floaty bouncy ball across the pitch and into your opponents’ goal, but you have to hit it at the right angle to get it in. Considering this, you’re controlling a car, so you can go fast but can’t turn on a dime, so the game gives you some unique tools to utilize. You can jump for one thing, and pressing the jump button again without pressing a direction on your keypad/control stick makes you double jump, but if you mash a direction when you press the jump button while in the air your car will flip and move in that direction, giving you an important amount of air-control. This is how players “kick” the ball, and the feeling of rushing down the field, jumping, and flipping into the ball so it gets in the goal is nothing short of satisfying.
Another important tool is the boost gauge, which is the one finite resource you have. Boosting at max speed gives you a monstrous amount of momentum, and provided you hit the ball at the right angle, it’s a shot that is very difficult for the opposing team to defend because the ball is moving so fast. Also, if you collide with another player at max speed, you can destroy their car in a glorious explosion, giving you a precious few seconds of advantage while they respawn. Using boost is the highest risk, as you lose control the faster you go and you need to conserve it to overtake opponents when they have control of the ball. It can be refilled by moving over glowing spots dotted on the field, and it’s important to strategize your movement across the field to cover those spots when you’re running low.
Combining these tools and learning to properly use them is the key to getting good at this game, and their deceptively simple implementation gives it an easy to play-hard to master aspect that is instantly approachable to all typse of players.
PERFORMANCE & CONTROLLERS:
This game is absurdly well optimized, and though my GPU is fairly old (AMD HD 7850) it ran at a smooth 60 FPS from the very first time I booted up the game. The only thing I needed to change in the options menu was to tick the Borderless Window option.
It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED you use a controller. It’s a third-person driving game, and as far as precision goes a keyboard is sub-optimal.
There are no sever issues or connection issues that I’ve encountered, it’s as simple as clicking “play online”, selecting a game mode and waiting for a few minutes. You can even customize your car and mess with options while in a party with friends. *cough*CS:GO*cough*
AESTHETICS & CUSTOMIZATION:
On this last topic, I have to say what really makes me happy is that there are no tangible gameplay advantages you can get through unlockables. All of them are cosmetic, so you can drive a stinkin’ big van and it’s just as effective as the sleek sports car your friend is using. You can also add decals, different looking wheels, change your paint job (sadly restricted to different hues of red/blue for the 2 teams), accessories for your car’s antenna, different particles that come out of your car’s afterburner when you boost, and even hats. You earn them after every round, win or lose. There is DLC for cosmetics, but no microtransactions.
As far as taking a real life sport and imbuing it with the kind of creativity you can only get from video games, Rocket League is to Soccer what Mario Kart is to NASCAR. A competitive game as fun as it is whimsical. But what Rocket League has over Mario Kart and its ilk is that it levels the playing field for everybody, where the only thing that can get you to the top is pure skill. I highly recommend it.