What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said already? Everyone has said it’s pretty awesome. Everyone has told you it’s a blend of racing, and soccer. But you might be sitting on the fence even after all of the praise. Well, the fans around the game are right. You might want to get off of the fence, get onto the field, and kick a ball around. Using your car.
PROS: Entertaining. Competitive. Multiple modes. Split screen!
CONS: No LAN support on PC. Split Screen requires at least 2 game pads.
VIDEO GAME REFERENCES: Show up in the customization.
I too, was a fence sitter. For a while. Even after seeing some of the reviewers, bloggers, and YouTube personalities I like talking the game up I didn’t budge. I’m not a big sports guy. I casually follow the teams I like, but I’m not the type to record, and watch every game of the season. It’s rare I buy a sports video game since I don’t catch the same level of fever, as the die-hard sports fans out there.
I do enjoy racing games though, and so after a little bit of nudging from a friend, I went ahead, and picked it up. Suffice it to say, I’m pretty glad I did. As you probably know by now, Rocket League is an arcade soccer game. The twist is that instead of people making up the teams, there are cars. At its most basic level, that is what the game is. Soccer, with cars.
I could end things there, but the developers at Psyonix, took the idea a lot farther than that. The standard game puts two teams against one another. One team is orange, while the other team is blue. Games are 5 minute long affairs, and in that short time the team with the most goals wins the game. There are a multitude of things that make the simple idea more interesting.
There is a customization set in the game. You can choose from several cars, alter their colors slightly (Nothing too wild, as it would confuse people as to which team you are on.), and more. There are multiple tires you can use. You can change the look of your turbo exhaust. You can put a hat on your car. You can even put a decorative ornament or flag on your antenna.
These things aren’t just there to personalize your vehicle. Each of them will have a different effect during game play. Some of them may alter your turn speed, the speed of your boost, or even level of traction. Others, will keep track of time spent playing the game, the number of goals you make, and other statistics. Thankfully, the game is pretty balanced in this regard. In a typical racing game, there are classes of vehicle. Where you’ll almost always want the fastest possible car. Here, however that isn’t the case. True, you may unlock a slightly faster car. But there will be a detrimental effect elsewhere to keep it from dominating other players.
This is also great because it makes every possible car, and customization viable. Whatever play style you like, you’re going to find a combination that suits you. There is also a nice touch in how online communities, and other games get a shout out here. There are flags for your car, and ornaments that reference them. Obviously they can’t reference every game. But if there is one game you adore in the list, you can proudly wave your fandom.
The game isn’t a multiplayer only game either. Like a true sports game, you can choose one of several teams, and play a season. Or you can play exhibition games against the computer or friends. In either mode, you can set up teams of 1 to 4 cars. The more cars, the more frantic, but you also have more options on the field, setting up trick shots, and quick pass/shoot opportunities.
One thing to remember as you play, is that you can’t think of your car, as a car. At least not all of the time. There are plenty of moments where you’ll want to back up, or jump in lieu of turning the car around. You’re also going to need to survey the field, at any given moment so you can strategize on the fly, and look for openings.
In addition to the basic soccer rules, the game also has glowing orbs peppered about the arenas you can run over. When you do, this fills your boost meter. The boost meter lets you nitro, like in many racing games. You can use it for a variety of reasons. Sometimes you just need to get out in front for a good hit or deflection. Other times you’ll need to combine it with a well placed jump to center the ball, or pass it to a team mate. You can also use it to get momentum to drive up the walls of the arena, and use air tricks after boost jumping off of a given wall. You can use a full boost to destroy opponents too. There is a fair amount of depth in this seemingly simple game.
The game also offers local split screen play on all platforms, which is handy for those who have friends over. If you’ve got the PS4, or if you happen to use your HDTV as a PC monitor. The game also has online modes. Just like in the single player exhibitions, you can play on teams with up to four players on each side. There are also ranked, and non ranked versions as well as the ability to set up private lobbies with friends.
Unfortunately, while you do get offline split screen, there is one major problem with it. You can’t use a keyboard, and mouse for one player, while a guest uses a game pad. At least not without a third-party utility set up to make the game think your keyboard is a game pad. Moreover, the game only recognizes certain game pads. If you have an Xbox 360 or Xbox One pad, you’ll be fine. If you have an old USB pad knocking around, or a newer one that doesn’t use the Xbox pad drivers you’ll have to use a program like Xpadder to get up, and running. You’ll also have to own more than one, as again, the game won’t see the keyboard as a controller.
There is one other grievance, and that is that there is no offline network option. This is a lesser gripe with the game, but it seems like the perfect LAN party game or LAN tournament game for those who want something other than an FPS, MOBA, or RTS game for their event. Though the online ranking system wouldn’t likely work with a LAN feature, it still could have benefited from one. That said, the game is a blast to play online, and with the private lobby option you can still set up your own personal matches or tournaments with friends.
Something PC customers will really like however, is the amount of performance options, and bindings available to you. You can tweak the usual, expected settings like resolution, rendering options, and turning Vsync off. But there are a number of other settings you can experiment with as well. You can turn a variety of effects on or off, and even the sensitivity of your controller. You can also change the camera’s field of vision setting. Something you’ll definitely want to do if you have a bigger screen, and want to see as much of the action as possible.
The game does have DLC available, and more on the horizon. So far it seems to be mainly new car models, and cosmetic options. Nothing that puts people who only buy the base game at a disadvantage. Some of it, like the Back To The Future DeLorean actually looks really good. But again, none of it is necessary or essential to play, or enjoy this game.
I didn’t even mention the wonderful environments, or car designs. The graphics, and sound in Rocket League is exceptional. Everything is, bright, colorful, and looks as fun as it is to play. The audio is no slouch either, with some great engine sounds, crowd cheers, and upbeat electronic dance music. It really is something you can get engrossed in fairly easily.
Rocket League is a surprise hit. You don’t have to know anything about soccer, or racing to enjoy it. If you have a PS4, or a Steam account you should definitely consider checking it out. PC users may want to invest in a game pad since it is clearly designed for one. But at the same time, the game is fairly playable with a Keyboard. Just remember if you’re going to have people over to play the PC version in split screen on your HDTV you’ll need to own more than one compatible game pad.
Final Score: 9 out of 10