Let's just get this out of the way; Rocket League is pure fun. In what is being called "soc-car", you don't have to know anything about the sport of soccer or racing for that matter to have a blast in Rocket League. Easy to learn but tough to master, Rocket League appeals to a wide range of players that make it relatively easy to pick up and play. Even with its fun and fanatic gameplay however is a light dressing of modes and content to compliment the gameplay.
The gameplay takes place in the Rocket League arena, which can take place in several venues. All the arenas are the same size and regulation, so alternate venues are purely for visual variety which we'll get into that later. As the game starts, the ball is placed in the middle with teams of one, two, three, or four on either end. Once the clock starts, so does the mayhem. Players are set in different spots at random for the start of the game and after each goal. Whether it was the intent or not, the ball in the middle is a target that almost everyone is gunning for. Rather than trying to gain possession, it is a matter or breaking at full speed and aiming for the ball, hoping to put it in the other team's side of the field. Games can be over before you know it with only one five minute period. Should the teams be tied at the end of regulation, sudden death overtime determines a winner.
The standard match is a three on three match. Even with the large amount of space, three players on each team feels right and you'll still have plenty of room to make your way around. Add in just one more player on each team and you have chaos, which is what the game actually calls it. You wouldn't think that adding one more player to each team would make a difference but it really does. A team of four can be pure fun or a mess if you're not communicating correctly. I'd suggest starting off with the standard three versus three before going to a four man team. The two versus two and solo modes are there as well, mostly for advanced players as a lot of skill is required in those matches.
The ball in play has a fair amount of physics to it. Running your car into the ball with no boost or special move will send it downfield but not with a ton of speed. Charging full speed and boosting the whole way will send the ball flying in the direction you're aiming. Contact with the ball is important, as to where and how you make contact can make a big difference in what happens next, much like in real soccer. Sometimes it is better to not rush in hastily but rather time your hit to get the ball past your opponents.
Now just driving around an arena would get a little boring if there wasn't something to keep it interesting. This is where the "rocket" part of the game title comes into play. Players can boost their cars to significant speeds which can get you down the field quicker, hit the ball harder, and even destroy your opponents. You can even use the boost to take flight for a short period and pull off some crazy aerial plays. Refills for your car's boosts are all over the field and respawn rather quickly, and helps prevents a team from have a sizable advantage. The field's size fits nicely, as getting from one end to the other takes only a matter of seconds and even faster if you have full boosts. It seems best to keep your boost for when you really need it, rather then constantly draining it every time you move towards the ball.
It is easy to look at Rocket League and go "wow, that looks fun but I bet it is complicated." That couldn't be farther from the truth. Handling of the cars has been done very well. The controls feel very tight and responsive, making the carnage much more enjoyable. It only took me about five minutes to feel accustomed to the controls, which are explained very well in the game's tutorial. Sure there are some advanced techniques that you can do, but five minutes is all it takes to get acquainted with Rocket League and have a blast. Whether you are a novice or an expert, driving around the field and scoring goals is very accessible.
You will have to deal with the camera at times. If you have ball cam enabled, the camera keeps the ball always in view on screen. This certainly helps if you are driving backwards but becomes an issue if the ball is directly overhead. The camera goes all the way to the ground, thus only focusing on the ball in the air and leaving yourself not knowing where the hell you or anyone else is on the field. This results in a lot of unintentional crashing of cars into one another. Turning off ball cam puts the camera solely focused on your vehicle, which I find helpful in the scenario cited above.
While all the arenas have the same field dimensions, the foregrounds are all varied. They don't effect the game in anyway but they bring a nice visual comfort to the action. Rain can pour on some fields but I didn't find it to affect the game very much. The visuals won't win any "best graphics" contest but the amount of polish done gives a nice clean look. There are a lot of customization options for your vehicle but they're all cosmetic. That's not taking away from what is available, which is a lot. It is just a shame that they don't affect the gameplay in any way. There is quite a bit to unlock and you'll be getting new stuff almost every match until you reach level 16.
Although the great gameplay comes in such a small package, the latter is the achiles heel of Rocket League. Outside of Exhibition, Season, and online play, there isn't a whole lot else in terms of game modes. On the bright side co-op play is included which can make for a good local experience. The season mode doesn't have much to it; pick a logo, name the team, pick some A.I. drivers, season length, and go. There is not really any reason to go into season mode other than for a few achievements and getting some practice in when not playing online. Online ranked play is there, but sadly you can't bring a party into that mode. Rocket League requires a lot of teamwork and communication, so not being able to bring in a party for the most competitive mode is surprising. The interface with ranked play is not quite as smooth as normal matches. Once a ranked match is over, you HAVE to exit to the main menu. Since the game does not want you having a rematch with the people you play against, I can see why they went this way. Still, an option of being automatically thrown into another lobby would be nice rather than going through the main menu all over.
The fact that there is not a tournament or season mode online is surprising. An online tournament mode would be killer, and provide players a reason to keep coming back. Given that the precursor to Rocket League (Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars) didn't have the same level of success, I can see why they opted to exclude extra modes at launch. Hopefully with the runaway success of Rocket League, we could see those modes added in a future update.
Rocket League could be the surprise hit of the year. Fun and addicting gameplay overshadow a light amount of modes and features. The large amount of cosmetic options allow players to express some personality through their vehicle. Even with a lack of other modes, the $20 price tag is more than a fair price for what Rocket League currently offers. While seemingly combining soccer and driving, you do not have to be an expert at either in order to have a blast in Rocket League.
+ Simple and easy controls
+ Easy to pickup addicting gameplay
+ Team play is fun
- Ball Cam can take away view of field
- Lacking other modes
Hours played: 29
Available on PC and Playstation 4