Videogames reviewed in 10 straight-to-the-point questions, every Wednesday
Game: Rocket League
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), XBOX One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Time to beat: Mostly a multiplayer game, so there is not really “beating” the game, unless you play a single player season, which is done in less than an hour.
Q1: Who’s this videogame for?
- It’s hard to categorize this, as it isn’t an exclusively driving game, nor is it a soccer/football game, but a beautiful combination of both. If you like driving, and performing tricks and acrobatics, this will certainly be enjoyable.
- Fans of online competitive games will also enjoy this. Rocket League has a huge community online, across all platforms, with plenty of streamers dedicated to this game full time.
- It is also a good game to try with friends for some local competitive play. The game supports local 4-player split-screen, and is accessible enough that anyone can pick it up and have fun. It is a great example of an “easy to learn, hard to master” type of game.
Q2: What’s the story like, and does it require any pre-existing knowledge?
No story here, the game is all about 5-minute matches. There is a single player mode called “Season”, where you can pick the number of matches in a tournament against the AI. The bots are actually decent adversaries, so if you’re stuck on a plane, or without WiFi, this is still a viable option to practice.
No pre-existing knowledge required. But fun fact: Rocket League is actually a sequel to another Psyonix game called Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. It’s good to see a developer improve their game-naming…game. I’d actually recommend you check it out online, it’s like watching a Bizarro version of Rocket League.
Q3: What’s the learning curve like?
As mentioned in Q1, this game is actually pretty easy to pick up and enjoy, but it does take some commitment to master and be competitive online. Most ranked games are well-matched, so you won’t often play against players that are too good for you, although playing against better players is how you GIT GUD!
If you’re not interested in being competitive, you will still have a good time even if you only play ocassionally.
Q4: What are the controls like?
They are very responsive, and uncomplicated. You accelerate, boost, jump, break, and steer. They are so responsive, that most pro players have taken the game to a whole other level, where they actually seem to “fly” more than they are on the ground.
The game is very flexible in that it lets you re-map buttons any way you like. It also allows you to configure your camera to change things like the field of vision, or whether you want it to focus on your car or the ball.
Q5: Does it have split-screen?
Yes, up to 4 players. It’s great fun, even with beginners. This is actually how I played the game for the first time (per my brother’s recommendation), and I was hooked.
Q6: How’s the online component?
It’s the main focus of the game, and it’s great. Cross-platform play means that you will always find someone to play against, most of the time against players of similar skill.
You can play both Casual and Ranked matches, in 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 variations. I personally prefer playing 1v1, as it forces me to basically look after myself, and not rely on teammates. I find 4v4 are almost too chaotic to really improve your skills. They are all great fun though, so you can’t go wrong.
Q7: How’s the presentation?
Rocket League looks and sounds great on all platforms. On Switch, it runs very smoothy, although on splitscreen the resolution and texture quality drops significantly. The graphics aren’t anything necessarily to write home about, but this game is so fun and frantic that you’d barely notice it anyway.
The one thing I miss is some background music during the matches. There are some songs played briefly played at particular moments, but there isn’t necessarily a soundstrack during a match. You can always supplement with your own music, though.
There is a great variety of cars available, and some of the ones available for purchase are great, like the Batmobile or the Jurassic Park Jeep:
Q8: What are similar games / alternatives you’d recommend?
If football/soccer is your thing, the Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA series have yearly installments that will certainly scratch that itch.
If your thing is more about driving, racing games like Forza Horizon/Motorsport or Gran Turismo are good alternatives. From this list, I’d pick Horizon as it’s more arcade-oriented, instead of a realistic simulator.
For quirky sports games, Mario Tennis Aces or Super Mario Strikers would be good picks, as they don’t take themselves too seriously, are fun with friends in local games, and are easy enough to pick up, but deep enough if you want to be competitive.
Finally, if you’re into testing your skills online against the best of the best, currently the best alternatives in terms of community and level of competition are Overwatch, Fortnite, Call of Duty Black Ops IV and PUBG.
Q9: Anything you wish you knew before going in?
Make sure from the beginning you learn to play with the camera locked on the ball. It may not be the most intuitive way to play at first, but it’s the only way you’ll eventually be able to become competitive online.
Once you’re comfortable with this, you’ll be able to toggle the camera at right moments when the ball is far away and you’re on your way to refill your boost.
Q10: Should I buy it?
Absolutely. I actually have two copies of this game, on PlayStation 4 to play at home and Switch for when I’m on the road.
The game doesn’t have much in the way of single player modes, besides the aforementioned “Season” mode, and the training mode, but you’d be buying this game for its online component. You can easily sink hours upon hours climbing the ranks, continuiosuly improving your skills, and unlocking customization options for your car. It’s basically endless, so you can definitely get good…mileage out of it.
8 out of 10 bicycles
I've been a gamer since the SNES days and Donkey Kong Country was the first game I ever owned.
I currently work as a management consultant, and my console of choice is the Nintendo Switch, which I carry with me during my travels.