ROCKET LEAGUE Review
If I was a bit confused walking into the theater for AMERICAN ULTRA, then I was absolutely clueless as to what I was getting into when I picked up ROCKET LEAGUE. All I knew was that it had cars and…soccer balls? Great. I had never heard of the game or its prequel, SUPERSONIC ACROBATIC ROCKET-POWERED BATTLE CARS (or SARPBC if you don’t want to get decked by anyone who has to write that out). I’m very ambivalent towards racing games, and if I’m even playing simulated sports, I’ll get a concussion. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled about the thought of playing the game and took my sweet time getting around to it.
“Dad’s been gone for seventeen years getting cigarettes, I sure wish he could teach me how to play catch”
Let me make something perfectly clear: ROCKET LEAGUE is the greatest multiplayer title to date in 2015. Every match I play feels like my first, every goal I make feels like a victory. I feel confident in saying that it’ll be a cold day in Hell when I lay down the controller for the last time with ROCKET LEAGUE.
The general concept is as simple as the game’s conceit allows: up to four cars on either blue or orange teams have to knock a giant, exploding soccer ball into the opponent’s goal as many times as they can in five minutes. On paper its sounds very similar to Grifball from HALO 3, but there are added dimensions considering the addition of four wheels. Cars can jump and flip to hit the ball, and boost power ups are scattered across the field, useful for flying through the air or ramming and destroying opponents. There is a free camera as well as a lock-on ball camera, and both work equally well.
If FIFA had been as exciting, we would’ve gotten beat up less in middle school
While the rules are simple, gameplay is not, and it’s the gameplay that makes ROCKET LEAGUE exceptional. The controls are simple enough that anyone can be good, but flexible to the point where skilled players can unleash some legendary plays. Ball juggling, trick passes, and out-of-nowhere saves are all possible with your Hot Wheels cars. It’s hard to describe in words just how satisfying it is to execute standard soccer maneuvers when you’re going 100 mph in a rocket-charged RC car. Whether you’re delivering a dive bomb goal from the arena ceiling, or simply passing the ball to a teammate, everything in ROCKET LEAGUE is an absolute thrill.
Ah, this must be the difference between “football” and “soccer”
ROCKET LEAGUE includes offline season and exhibition modes, but please, for the love of God: DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME BY YOURSELF!!! AI teammates are maddeningly incompetent, either fouling up shots that would be surefire goals, scoring on themselves, or a combination of both. You bought this game to scream at and spread your virtual feces on roommates and assholes in other countries, and that’s where the fun is to be had. Multiplayer is supported online and locally, both with full split-screen support for up to four players. 1v1 matches are rather intimidating for new players, and 4v4 mode is chaotic to the point where it could easily be mistaken for footage of Desert Storm, so it can be hard finding games for those settings. 2v2 and 3v3 are where it’s at, and will likely make up the majority of the matches you play.
Real sport when?
From a content standpoint, there isn’t a whole lot to ROCKET LEAGUE. You’ve got five arenas plus two rehashes with rain and an evening setting, and all of them play exactly the same. There’s only the four competitive game modes: 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4. There’s a free play arena and a few training modes, but ROCKET LEAGUE is a very learn-as-you-go experience and you likely won’t be spending much time in any of them. It speaks to the game’s credit that never once did these limited settings make the game stale. Instead, ROCKET LEAGUE’s simplicity is one of its greatest strengths.
There is, however, a Scrooge McDuck-equivalent vault of unlockable cosmetics for your car. Every match rewards the player with new chassis, wheel types, paintjobs, rocket trails, antennas, and even hats that can be equipped from the garage screen. Of particular note is that the garage can be accessed by every player sharing the same display; there’s no taking turns to pimp your ride!
ROCKET LEAGUE didn’t have to look good to be fun, which makes it all the more admirable that it looks as gorgeous as it does. To be fair, there’s not much to render aside from grass, skyboxes, and explosions, but what’s there is gorgeous. The game’s menu has a very safe if not somewhat catchy selection of songs, but you’ll be spending more time in-game than in the menu, so you’ll have a hard time even noticing it.
It looks better than the outside world, that’s for sure
For only fifteen dollars, ROCKET LEAGUE is a complete steal. The amount of gameplay you’ll get from such a small package is astounding, and the quality of it defies every reasonable expectation. This is the new game that your friends will be bugging you to play whenever there’s a free moment. Pick up ROCKET LEAGUE right away.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available for PC