It has been four years since Rocket League hit shelves and the fun-factor hasn’t waned a bit. While the gems of the sports genre are buried under mainstream titles, Rocket League stands tall as the most unique, accessible, and affordable sports game on the market. The game is on every major system. It’s appropriate for all ages, but has the features and depth to keep players engrossed for years to come. It’s the Minecraft of sports games, and in my book, that is a well-meaning compliment.
Rocket League is the successor to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, a little-known PS3 indie title by developer Psyonix. Despite its obscurity, Battle-Cars held a loyal cult following that inspired Rocket League’s creation — and improvement in every way.
So, what is Rocket League? If you somehow haven’t come across it, it’s quite simple. It’s a soccer game. However, the ball is gigantic and the soccer players are cars. That’s it. It’s the simplicity of soccer innovated by those quirky changes. Players must learn to control rocket-powered cars in a game of oversized soccer.
Cars can jump, boost, and speed fast enough to drive on walls and ceilings in the soccer arenas. They can crash into each other and even explode at high speeds. With simple button taps and some skilled steering, players can literally fly across the field and score goals. The controls are easy to understand, but not so much to master.
The gameplay’s conceptual simplicity is Rocket League’s greatest strength. Although, some players may find the learning curve a little too steep. In any case, most players will find enough enjoyment in the absurdity of flinging cars across the field.
Of course, soccer (or “Soccar” as the game calls it) isn’t the only game mode. Various updates to the game have added plenty of new content. There’s a basketball mode, an ice hockey mode, and several original game types to choose from.
Players can participate in quick exhibition matches or an entire season with a customizable team. Even the number of players per team can be changed to create larger matches or competitive one-on-ones. Whether you’re in for a casual match or you want to dive into the game’s progression system, Rocket League makes things quick and accessible.
Progression doesn’t exist without rewards. In this case, Rocket League players will be working toward cosmetic items to personalize their experience. Cars are fully customizable, with a dizzying array of options and unlockables to choose from. Everything from the sounds of the motor to the dust trail you leave behind can be tweaked.
Players gain experience and level up as they play, unlocking new gear periodically. The Nintendo Switch port even has some exclusive options: a Super Mario Bros.-themed car and another inspired by Samus’ spaceship from Metroid.
As an indie game from 2015, Rocket League isn’t exactly the be-all and end-all of graphical fidelity, but it does hold up quite nicely. It’s a casual, unorthodox sports game with an atmosphere that lends to its accessibility. Bright colors, detailed models, and pop music make the game feel welcoming and upbeat. Players leave colorful fireworks behind when they score (customizable) and even trails of fire as they boost (also customizable). Any Rocket League match is a lively light show, but it never feels overwhelming.
It is worth noting that the Nintendo Switch version of the game looks noticeably worse than the others. The game is visually appealing on its own, but compared to other ports of the game, the Switch version features much less detail.
It also has unique graphical options akin to those found on most PC games. Rocket League on the Switch allows players to choose from “Quality” mode or “Performance” mode. “Quality” mode graphics allow the Switch to show off more detail, while “Performance” mode graphics limit the more taxing visuals to maintain a solid frame-rate. Keeping the Switch in its dock makes the game look better regardless of which mode you choose, but even “Quality” mode pales in comparison to the graphics of the other ports.
Rocket League’s multiplayer is a major part of its appeal. It features split-screen multiplayer, making it one of the few remaining games on the market that allows for friends to join in on the same couch. The Nintendo Switch lends itself to split-screen already, making Rocket League’s split-screen capability a huge selling point for Switch owners. Of course, all of the single-player game modes are available for online multiplayer, and Rocket League even features cross-platform play for any friends playing on other consoles.
Your individual skill level will dictate how much fun the multiplayer is. Pros will sink hours into it — seasonal events and unique cosmetic rewards can keep players coming back. However, the game is so tough to learn that dedicated players can grow their skills online without the threat of a punishingly-skilled online community. Whether you’re sitting around with some friends or itching for a vicious online competition, Rocket League has you covered.
It’s hard not to love Rocket League. The game’s core mechanics are simple yet polished. Although the Switch version doesn’t quite hold up to the others, the gameplay doesn’t skip a beat. It allows for a fun experience at any level of engagement. Is the Switch the ideal version of Rocket League? No, but it certainly checks all the boxes if you’re looking for an introductory Rocket League experience.
Psyonix took their small indie game and created a powerhouse of a sequel — one we’re still playing today and likely to keep playing for many years to come.
Category: Game consoles, PC