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Rocket League (PlayStation 4) artwork

Rocket League (PlayStation 4) review

"Rocket League uses an excellent combination of simplicity and depth to create a thrilling and fast-paced experience. "

I love sports, and by proxy sports games. As a slow, short guy who likes the taste of Cheetos, video games are the best way to vicariously live out any sporting fantasy I've ever had in a photorealistic simulation. While the current crop of sports games is mostly solid, they have become the only show in town. The lack of alternatives to realistic sports games has become more and more lacking over the years. The likes of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz never adjusted to modern times. EA Sports Big, Electronic Arts' home for more fantastical takes on sports games, closed in 2008. Less serious, arcade-style sports games bring an extra level of accessibility that most modern sports games don't have. The amount of systems and the way those systems work together can be daunting to newcomers or more casual players. Rocket League uses an excellent combination of simplicity and depth to create a thrilling and fast-paced experience.

Rocket League is deceptively simple on the surface. As part of a team with up to 4 players on each side, you control a remote-controlled car on a miniature, dome covered field, frantically trying to put a ball as big as your car into your opponents' net. It's obvious to see why people refer to the game as "soccer with cars". But there is much more to the game than that. The game's dedication to keeping matches fast is expressed through how the car controls. The momentum of your car has an effect on everything you do in the game. The car rolls for a few feet, rather than stop immediately when you let off the gas. Without speed, you can't hit the ball very far or particularly strongly. The physics engine feels very similar to more standard driving games. There are plenty of speed pads on the field that recharge automatically, so you never feel slow for very long. This leads to everyone bursting across the field constantly, creating a really fluid pace of play that requires every player on the field to help out in attack and defense.

Rocket League's range of movement is very expansive. In addition to the turbo boost, your car can also jump, as well drive up the walls of the stadiums, meaning that neither the player nor the ball is ever quite out of a play. Learning how to execute these moves consistently, or any of the moves in Rocket League's surprisingly deep roster can be frustrating early on. Luckily, the tutorial mode is well designed. There are four separate tutorials for each of the main components of the game (the basic controls, goalkeeping, scoring on the ground, and scoring in the air), as well as a free play option for anything else you want to work on.

The ability to personalize your car is also a big plus in the game's favor. Every aspect of your vehicle has some level of customization to it, from the body to the rocket trail your car emits when you use your boost. The changes are all cosmetic, so you can design your car in any way you want to. You'll rarely see the same car twice.

Sadly, there aren't many modes to show off your skills or your car. There are exhibition games and a season mode, with a playoff system to determine the champion. The season mode is offline only, and can't be played with other people. While the a.i. is surprisingly good, the game is by easily at its best when played with and against living, breathing human beings. The lack of a tournament mode for online is all the more frustrating since the game functions really well online. The servers are pretty stable, and most of the games I've played online rarely suffer from lag issues. Hopefully, they can add more modes through downloadable content.

Another stain on the online mode is the way it handles disconnects in ranked games. There's no real penalty against ragequitting. If you're the first person to leave a ranked game, you are banned from matchmaking for fifteen minutes. That's not a long time, nor does this negatively affect your ranking. If anything, it affects your abandoned teammates more. In ranked games, the departing player isn't replaced by another player or an a.i. car. This, of course, leaves one team at a numerical disadvantage and the potential for games to become one-sided increases greatly. Staying in the game after someone else has dropped hurts your online ranking more than just leaving the game.

Despite these missteps, Rocket League is an incredibly addicting experience. There are very few games that can match the game's constant sense of excitement and spontaneity. It is well worth your time.


sam1193's avatar
Community review by sam1193 (August 11, 2015)

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