Friday, 21 August 2015

Rocket League

Four small cars barrel around an arena, using boosters and jump jets to chase after a large ball. The two orange ones manage to get the ball past the two blue ones, lining up a shot at a blue coloured goal. The ball flies through the air, and passes through a sensor exploding and knocking everyone flying into the air, as the crowd goes wild. Team Orange has won again!

Rocket League is a game where you play soccer with cars. That's it. It's so simple in fact that you could be forgiven for thinking the game has no depth to it. But that's where you'd be wrong. You see, unlike Fifa, where you control an entire team of soccer players, in Rocket League you directly control one car. There are no predetermined button presses to pass, shoot for goal, or tackle.

The controls are deceptively simple, one button to throttle, one to brake, a boost, a jump, and a slide or drift button. Learning to control your car takes a moment, but learning to master the controls and make your car race around the arena is a matter of practice. From simple kicks by jumping and rotating your car a certain direction, to flying halfway across the field using boost and scoring a goal. It's not easy, but when it all comes together, skilled play in Rocket League is beautiful to behold. Take a look:

In single player, Rocket League offers an exhibition mode, where you play one off matches, a season mode, where you can play through a season with your team, and lastly training, where you can hone your skills. Honestly, single player in Rocket League is great to learn, but poor AI can sometimes leave you feeling angry, as it seems like your team mates don't adapt to what you are doing. They rarely set you up for shots, and when you set them up, they won't take them. I've actually seen AI players run the ball directly into their own goal, which is great when they are on the other team, but rage inducing when they are on your team.

Where Rocket League shines however is in multiplayer. Playing with friends online, especially while on some form of voice chat is some of the best fun I've had in some time. The closest way I can describe it is like playing Super Smash Bros on a couch. The game is simple enough that literally anyone can pick it up and play, so you can get people who normally wouldn't be interested in that kind of game to play as well.

Something else I am extremely impressed with is the business model that the developers have decided to go with. They release updates that contain maps for free, meaning that the player base isn't split by updates, and then DLC packs with new cars, and cosmetic upgrades. At this stage, the cars all handle fairly similarly, with bigger cars having a slightly larger hitbox making for great defenders, and smaller cars having a flatter hitbox, meaning you can aim shots a little easier for better attack, so even the DLC cars have no advantages besides looking cool.

In fact, Rocket League is so good that the one criticism I have with the game is a minor one that I'm sure they already have plans to change. The maps in Rocket League are literally all the same. They look different visually, but the same basic layout is used. While I understand the reasoning behind this, especially with how the game is being treated competitively, I feel a mode with more varied maps for more casual players would definitely increase the fun factor of the game. I also highly recommend a controller for the game. It's playable with a keyboard and mouse, but feels right at home on a controller.

For a $20 game that you could be excused for not knowing anything about before release, Rocket League has really taken a hold among the gaming community. And it's no wonder. Rocket League is just a good, maybe even great, game. I know I keep saying this, but it really is beautiful in its simplicity, and addictive in its challenge. I highly recommend it.

As always,


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