Rocket League is a physics-based soccer game played using cars. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s basically one of those silly Top Gear football soccer challenges, but instead of VW Foxes and Toyota Aygo’s, the cars are rocket- powered, practically-indestructible, machines with acrobatic tendencies.
As with soccer, the goal is to punt a football into a goal whilst protecting your own. That seems simple enough, but like all classic arcade games and the beautiful game itself, Rocket League is simple to learn, but very difficult to master.
Gameplay is a nimble affair. Cars can double jump, boost, powerslide, flip, bicycle kick, and barrel roll, and there’s even a rudimentary flying ability. Combining these abilities during a match is the cause of much mayhem, but the resultant play is a fast-paced yet fluid back-and-forth battle that’s much more fun than it sounds on paper.
Rocket League can be played solo by way of a training mode or decent-sized, customisable seasons that can also be tackled online or offline three others. It’s the single player mode, though, that is home to Rocket League’s biggest negative.
The AI, which can be set at three different levels, has a tendency to do score own goals – even from the other end of the pitch – and also races back to defend its goal unnecessarily, among other things. Disappointingly, goals can often be scored directly from kick-off simply by punting the ball straight over the its teams and into the net.
Thankfully, though, the multiplayer more than makes up for any of the game’s single player shortcomings. Played in private or via a matchmaking system with bots accounting for any player shortages, each round lasts a mere five minutes – long enough to be tense, but short enough to not burn players out.
And when you do party up and play with a group of friends online or off, Rocket League is pure entertainment. Hours evaporate as the trash talk flies and the goals pile up. It’s an absolute hoot, but there could stand to be a little more variety to proceedings.
The problem here is the pitches are all fundamentally the same. They are all rectangular and share the same dimensions and speed boost pad placement. Really, they are only distinguished by background, weather conditions, and time of day, so if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all.
Variety in the vehicular side of things would have made a difference here, but developer Psyonix has normalised each vehicle’s traits, so each behaves in similar fashion. Some are little taller and grant the player a little more surface area for ball contact, but that’s it.
There are 15 vehicles to unlock including Sweet Tooth of Twisted Metal fame (PlayStation only), and each can be jazzed up with a huge number of customisations, including decal kits, wheels, paints, and hats – but it’s all simply cosmetic. Multiple teams and goals, or the addition of the obstructions that featured in Rocket League’s forbearer would have made a world of difference here.
Despite these shortcomings, Rocket League is one of the best multiplayer games I've played this year. It’s fast, fun, and easy-to-learn, and cross-platform play is between PS4 and PC is on the way. Even if you never played SARPBC – and most didn’t – you’ll have a great time here. Grab it this month for free via PlayStation Plus.