My rocket-boosted car flies through the air as a sudden heavy metal guitar riff plays. The musical notes forcing their way from my exhaust pipe as two opponents are left in the dust. The ball is high in the air, about to descend and I notice the player NoSCoPe69 coming in for the same ball, rocket power is at 20%. I manage hit the oversized ball perfectly with the underside of my car. It travels across the pitch, spinning slightly to the left to nestle in the bottom corner of the net with just two seconds left in the game.
Rocket league is a car/football game from Psyonix and is one the few games which can create incredible sporting moments on a game-by-game basis. A simple formula: rocket powered acrobatic cars + over-sized football. That’s it, an equation probably spawned from watching Top Gear on cocaine, but it’s still genius. The main game mode, which can be played 1v1 up to 4v4, is just put the ball in the back of the net… While occasionally looking like a learner driver taking his ninth test and still not getting the hang of the three point turn.
For some this wouldn’t be enough, in an era of downloadable content, season passes and games like the Dragon Age: Inquisition which boast more than a hundred hours of play it seems tiny. But once you delve into the gameplay and force your way past the L plate stage you realise what this game is. It’s a game which can be played by anyone and everyone but if you’re willing to put in the work it can be perfected to professional levels.
The game can make you feel like a Lewis Hamilton mixed with David Beckham as you drive up a wall, knock the ball towards to oppositions goal as your team mate arrives to neatly took the ball in the back of the open net. On the other hand, if you get the angle wrong or jump at the wrong time you can look more like Mr Bean. The ball will drop to the floor while you hang in the air long enough for the opposition to charge the ball into the back of the net you should have been protecting.
The game appeals to both people who just play for fun, and people who want to win, win and win some more. Get a few friends online and try the ranked modes to see if your friendship can withstand arguments over who should have been in goal in a specific play. Or just laugh together about how inherently silly the game is as you smash into your friends car and knock the ball into the back of your own net by accident.
Chances are you will spend twenty hours in the game thinking you know everything your car can do. Then suddenly after twenty-one hours you accidently press the wrong button and your car spins or flips in a way you never expected. That new move could become the lynchpin for your play-style. Are you a goal keeper with a tendency to use your boost to propel your car through the air for spectacular saves? Are you the wall runner who stalks the boundaries waiting for a stray ball to fling yourself off at the perfect time for passes or shots? Or you could be a player who sticks to the fundamentals, no fancy flips but you can track the flight of the ball to perfection to create and scores chances.
There are a number of customisation options for your car. Choices of hats, boost trails, flags, paint jobs and wheels all give your car a unique feel, and the game boasts there are over a billion combinations. The car types are also varied, from hot-rods to modern sports cars to monster trucks depending on your preference. There’s no customisation options that unbalance the gameplay however, no speed upgrades or tougher cars but you can create cars that wear top hats and a rocket trail which sprays dollars. The six different arenas are visually appealing, some look like mad max style deserts, while some look like futuristic cities inhabited only by the blob people in the audience.
For a game which is only £15.99 (on Xbox one) you get an experience which can dwarf any other sports game. Games like FIFA or Madden are games that anyone can play, but the rule book has to be learned, offside rule etc. On the other hand rocket league could be handed to anyone and they know everything they need to.
The risk-reward system the game creates is beautiful in it’s simplicity. You know that every ball you go for can lead to victory or failure and it can be your success or your fault. There is already a growing E-sport community around the game and Psyonix are running their own championship series which is still running right now and has a prize fund of $75,000 if you’re feeling lucky.
Psyonix have recently released a free DLC pack consisting of two new playlists. The first is hoops. From football to basketball. (I can’t wait for their take on cricket) Instead of knocking the ball into a goal it’s into a hoop while your car squeaks like trainers on polished wood. The next playlist is named rocket labs and consists of experimental arenas, some that curl round like a horseshoe, some that have a wall in the middle of the goal, creating two goals for each team. Each new map offers new challenges and unique moments such as going from offence to defence by driving through the opposition goal just in time to make a vital save as you appear miraculous at the front of your own goal.
Rocket league is a must for any gamer, eight to eighty, male, female, sane, insane, carbon-based life form or silicon. From the first game I guarantee you will be sink into your seat and your controller will need carving out of your hands.