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Rocket League Review

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Graphics:

 

9.0

Gameplay:

 

9.2

Sound:

 

8.8

Control:

 

8.9

Replay Value:

 

8.7

Online Gameplay:

 

9.4

Overall Rating:       9.0

 

 

Publisher:

Psyonix

Developer:

Psyonix

Number Of Players:

1-2

Genre:

Sports

Release Date:

July 7, 2015

Back in 2008, I reviewed this quirky little game called Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. It was a really creative version of soccer where the players were actually little race cars; they'd race around and smack into the ball, with the objective of knocking that ball across the opponent's goal line. It was a little digital-only 178MB title on the PlayStation Store and while certainly inventive and lots of fun, it also felt a little light (as you might expect, given the game's very small size). And no, it didn't sell very well. So, when I caught a glimpse of Rocket League earlier this year, I was confused; I didn't think the original warranted a sequel and yet, the review scores were shockingly high. What the heck is going on?

Well, let's start with the obvious: This new effort is a lot more advanced from both a technical and content standpoint. The graphics are extremely slick; they're colorful and appealing, the special effects are a great deal slicker and more diverse, and the arena design is exemplary. It's as if the team took all the elements of the first title and enhanced them to the nth degree, bringing out the very best of the inherently quirky yet attractive presentation. Even the blades of grass on the fields move independently, and the detail on each of the vehicles is eons better. Supersonic is now well over 7 years old and its age really shows when compared to its vastly improved successor.

The sound is in much the same boat, but I should note that while I played Rocket League with a top-tier headset, I only played the predecessor using regular ol' TV speakers. That does make a big difference, I'm sure. But I distinctly recall a lack of audio variety and quality in the first game and here, one notices a lot of different things. For instance, in the background you'll hear the crowd react enthusiastically to certain plays, and I don't remember that happening at all in the first game. The soundtrack is another big highlight in the new title, and I love how the effects and music work together to keep us immersed. As crazy as the concept is, the rock solid and even impressive technical aspects are often what keep us glued to the screen, and let's not forget that the addition of cosmetic customization further adds to the product's appeal.

At its core, Rocket League is simple: Knock a ball across a goal line using little speedy vehicles. Whoever scores the most goals wins. But beyond that simplicity is a hectic, no-holds-barred, ceaselessly entertaining - even addictive - game that gets into your bloodstream and won't let you stop. You don't even want to get up to go to the bathroom. Food becomes an annoyance. If your gaming sessions are frequently distracted by other people in the house, this is the one game that might make you throw something at those pesky invaders. You need razor-sharp reflexes and constant attention and diligence because without it, the action will simply pass you by. If you're up to the challenge, though, you'll be in for one hell of a madcap experience.

It's the split-second nature of the gameplay that is just so damn...exacting. It's also absolutely riveting. You don't want to look away and you're always planning out your next move; will you simply chase that ball all over the arena, throwing caution to the wind and constantly playing offense? Or will you start to use your team a little more and realize that opportunities often open up when the opposition makes a mistake? If you see an opening and pounce, it's the greatest feeling in the world. After all, just about any sports coach will tell you that so many times, the best defense will always beat the best offense. Of course, it can be lots more fun to chase the ball around like a chicken with its head cut off but therein lies the beauty of Rocket League: It's stupid simple but strangely, it has mesmerizing flow and, yes, even strategy.

The controls seem tighter and more responsive than they were before, and the ball physics also seem a great deal better. The greatly enhanced stadiums are immaculately designed and because the core gameplay is significantly improved, the fun factor goes through the roof. And it's really the overall design that makes the game because it just never stops. By that, I mean your momentum is absolutely everything and thanks to a whole lot of curved walls and edges, your car will never come to a jarring and disappointing halt. It's just a matter of controlling that speed and landing pinpoint-precision strikes on a ball that's a good deal bigger than your car. It sounds difficult and sometimes, it can be a challenge, but the level of satisfaction and intensity continues to rise with every passing minute.

You're not limited to the ground, either, as boosting can send you flying into the air. It's not exactly "verticality" in the strictest sense of the term but it opens things up, and means you can play offense and defense in mid-air. The only downside is a remnant of the first game, when it occasionally feels frustrating simply because you can't get into the flow of the match. It's like that sometimes; you just can't get a handle on the situation and you always feel like you're a step behind. But if you can get your nose in front, if you can start to control the tempo, everything tends to fall into place. However, I should mention that the AI isn't very good, so it's invariably better to hop online and play with other people. That's really the primary appeal of this game: Throwing down with someone else online and having a blast.

And while the concept is simple and the controls are tight and accessible, it'd be a mistake to assume the game itself is easy. In fact, it takes a lot of practice to properly handle that speedy little car; you can spin it forward, backward and even sideways, and it takes timing and finesse. Furthermore, you'll soon realize that it can help to target opposing cars instead of the ball... I wish the computer-controlled teammates were a little smarter because I would've liked to see them perform more advanced moves, so I'd trust them more in the open field. But even without that, you're so laser-focused on maintaining momentum and control that you rarely notice the flaws. And there aren't that many drawbacks, anyway. I do wish the single-player was a bit more fulfilling but I'm saying that a lot these days; it's probably just me.

Perhaps most interesting about this game is its obvious widespread appeal. That's one of the benefits of reviewing a game late, I suppose: You can see how the community has responded. And in point of fact, I have difficulty thinking of a title that is so highly regarded by so many. It obviously crosses boundaries and lines; it caters not to a specific group of fans, but simply to those who like fun games. Isn't it odd how few games these days actually manage to do that? In its stark simplicity is massive, almost universal appeal, and beneath that simplicity beats the heart of a surprisingly deep - and decidedly unique - sport. It's all about the timing and the reflexes and the flash and panache, yeah. But it has real spirit and it's not bogged down by any dead weight. It's not overdone or underdone. It just...is.

Rocket League is an extremely well designed and presented game, a veritable feast for the senses at times, and an undeniably addictive experience. It blends sports and styles but it also solidifies this bizarre hybrid into a streamlined, hugely appealing presentation. The AI falls a little shy and the single-player fun can't hold a candle to the multiplayer entertainment but besides that, it's hard to find fault. And why would you want to? This is not a game that's begging to be dissected or over-analyzed. It's not asking you to judge it from a distance or with a deeply probing piece-meal approach. It just asks you to try it. And if you do, don't be surprised at the whitened knuckles and the grins that keep exploding on your face; all of that is completely normal, I promise.

The Good: Excellent overall design and visual presentation. Tight, responsive controls. Simple and accessible but still surprisingly tactical. Continued sense of gleeful urgency. Fun factor is sky-high. Almost universally appealing. One of the better online multiplayer games of 2015.

The Bad: AI is lacking. Single-player not quite as addictive as multiplayer, unfortunately.

The Ugly: "If you can find ugly' here, you're much too difficult to please."

12/21/2015 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System


Legacy Comment System (8 posts)


BigT_1980
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 1:02:24 AM
Reply

Ben I'm glad you got an opportunity to finally review this game. I've been really enjoying this game since the first day it came out. I tried to convince my friends this is a really great game, but they can't get past this not being an AAA production. I hope you're able to inspire more people to play this game!

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tlpn99
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 3:00:52 AM
Reply

My clan has already had a season on this game. We ran our own league 3 a side. The team I was on won too. Really is a great game. Most of us got it when it came out on ps+. My mate even bought the Back To The Future De Lorean too.

Were having a second season soon. Try this game.

Good review Ben.

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Temjin001
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 12:37:26 PM
Reply

I tried it out. It's fun but I just can't get into the feeling that I'm playing soccer with rocket powered cars.
I'd rather Twisted Metal had this game's popularity because I enjoyed it a lot more.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/22/2015 12:40:36 PM

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Temjin001
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 1:00:19 PM

I also think the learning curve is higher than its rep suggests because of having to learn to manage the two cams. I had more struggles learning to work with it here than I ever did in something like Bloodborne.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/22/2015 1:01:14 PM

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Temjin001
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 1:11:43 PM

"The problem with performing these stunts, however, is that the game’s camera can’t keep up. It can be set to follow either the player or the ball, but neither option is as effective as I’d like. When it follows the player, the camera hugs the rear bumper pretty tightly, so it’s easy to lose track of the action when I’m taken out of the play or I shoot past the ball.

If the camera follows the ball, the controls change, making it far more difficult to control the car. You can switch between the two on the fly, but the herky-jerky transition isn’t pleasant. Instead, you’ll probably have a better time taking your chances with the default camera. A wider camera option, or even one locked at midfield, would have been a nice solution." -EGM

couldn't have said it better myself.

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Banky A
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 6:02:44 PM

Sorry. After 5 hours it all clicks.

Game's design means you only need to manage one camera - the Ball Cam. Toggling it off means you're getting Boost, scouting for ~2 seconds or dribbling (VERY SPECIFIC).

The only hard part after the initial ~5hr click, is being able to control the car in these following conditions - Simultaneously:

1) In the air
2) Taking a shot
3) Holding [Square] to barrel roll your body for angle of impact/shot with horizontal directions on Left Stick
4) Angling the LS vertically it pitch the height and hit ball up/down
5) Managing Boost consumption to suit the shot's situation

No. 3-onwards are completely optional but make for funny times while learning.

Couple this with having the ball behind you on Ball Cam and you can have a good time by transitioning back and forth between direction inversion, multiple times all in one maneuver.

It can become a +95hr constant fun learning curve during this time.

Super Excellent stuff.

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Hexen
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 3:08:09 PM
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Tried it and the boredom was too much to handle.Could be because all sports are boring to me and this is basically soccer.

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Banky A
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 @ 5:51:25 PM
Reply

About time you reviewed this Godly masterpiece.

Wow!
Wow!
Wow!
OMG!
Chat has been disabled for 3 seconds.

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