Rocket League Review

Console on and controller in hand, the first time I booted Rocket League it felt as though I had been reunited with a long-lost friend. Looking around, almost everything fans love about its 2008 predecessor has been preserved, expanded, and given a fresh lick of paint. Although not exactly risky or adventurous, it’s the follow-up many have been dreaming of for years and now it’s finally here.

For those who’ve never heard of Rocket League or SARPBC before, the concept behind these games is a delightfully simple one. It’s basically football (or soccer) but with cars instead of players. However, what makes these cartoonish buggies particularly versatile is their ability to travel at high speed while also flipping and spinning in mid-air.

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This level of mobility is crucial as players leap and zoom around the pitch, tussling with one another as they attempt to blast a huge metallic ball into their opponents’ goal. Aside from a handy boost mechanic – powered by nodes and capsules left scattered around – that’s all there really is to Rocket League’s core gameplay.

Where this lack of complexity would usually hamstring many games, here it works as a boon. Instead of giving players more HUD elements and systems to pore over, Rocket League focuses almost exclusively on its physics-based gameplay. Whenever players collide, either with the ball or one another, there are a number of factors that determine the speed and trajectory of what (or who) is on the receiving end.

This single physics-based element gives each match a unique sense of unpredictability. That said, victory in Rocket Leagues will mostly come from skilled play. Although there is the occasional fluke shot, just as there is in real football, winning usually comes down to deft handling of the ball as well as teamwork (when not playing one-on-one, that is).

Easing players into the game is a series of quick and effective tutorials. These go through the basic controls while steadily introducing new tactics for you to experiment with. Of course, the best way to improve is by simply playing matches, against AI or real opponents online.

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Replacing SARPBC’s series of star-rated challenges, Rocket League offers Season Mode. Here players can assemble a custom made team, throwing down against a pool of AI teams as they aim for top spot on the league table. Where most players will hopefully be spending their time however is in multiplayer.

Again, there’s nothing fancy here. Whether alone or in a party, you can jump straight into regular or ranked online play. Although the servers have been fairly patchy during launch week, Psyonix has now more or less levelled out these issues. From my experience, as someone who has a fairly average internet connection, online gameplay was just as seamless as what it is against the AI, even when paired with gamers from Oceania and the US West Coast.

Up until now, simplicity has been Rocket League’s winning feature. However, there is one particular area of the game that has suffered as a result of Psyonix’s straightforward approach. One of things I, and many other fans, loved about SARPBC was its diverse stock of stadiums; each was different in shape and size, forcing players to alter their tactics accordingly. In Rocket League, however, there is zero variation to be had apart from aesthetics. Each of the current stadiums are of similar size and completely flat.

What’s Good:

  • Superb physics-based gameplay.
  • Loads to unlock.
  • Season Mode.
  • Simple yet effective design work throughout.

What’s Bad:

  • Current stadiums lack character.

Bar this one niggling issue, everything else about Rocket League is superb. Sure, Psyonix could have perhaps been a bit more daring yet the safe route has certainly paid off. With the foundation now set, hopefully the developer will start to experiment as it begins rolling out the first of its free content updates.

Score: 9/10

Version Tested: PS4

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38 Comments

  1. As might be expected from my comments the other day, I’d have to disagree with that score strongly.

    If you’re playing online against real people, it might be better. But the servers were broken when I tried, so I don’t know about that.

    Against the AI, it’s a frustrating experience. The AI players on your team will frequently decide they prefer to score for the other team. Once that happens, they’ll spend the rest of the match trying to score own goals.

    The physics is also very suspect at times with the ball frequently going in completely the opposite direction. I’ve no idea how you can drive straight into the ball with nobody else around and have the ball travel back the way you came from.

    And the lack any variation in the locations is, as you pointed out, disappointing. That might have prevented me getting bored of it so soon.

    If the servers work properly, the physics gets fixed, and some extra arenas appear, it might deserve a 7 or maybe even an 8. As it is, 6/10.

    • Can’t argue about the AI, something that needs fixing asap, definitely. But I assure you playing against people is brilliant fun. The most fun I’ve had playing online in a long time.

    • The server issues are definitely annoying yet one has to take into account that Psyonix probably hadn’t anticipated so many players at launch – even with the PS+ deal.

      The AI can definitely be hit and miss though this somewhat reflects the behaviour that I’ve seen in real life players. Saving shots made by your own team on the enemy goal, taking crappy shots just for the sake of it, and constantly fumbling the ball.

      Personally I haven’t run into any glitchy physics.

      The 9 reflects just how fun and addictive the core game experience is. Just luike SARPBC I know I’ll keep coming back to Rocket League year after year. Hopefully, by then, Psyonix will have released some newer, more exciting maps.

      • Do real life players spend an entire match deliberately trying to score in the wrong goal?

        Actually, some probably do, but is that really something they put in the game on purpose? Or is the AI just broken?

        Is “glitchy” a polite way of saying “does exactly the opposite of what it should”?

        Of course, I’ve only got a degree in physics. This is traditionally absolutely useless when it comes to games with balls in. When I was at university, too many years ago, all the physicists were terrible at pool. But the balls never went 180 degrees away from where we were trying to put them. Maybe 90 degrees on a bad day. About 45 degrees if we were doing well ;)

      • Much like Jim, I’ve not seen any glitchy physics. Maybe I’m not as eagle eyed as you, but there haven’t been any occasions where I’ve felt the ball has gone in the opposite direction to which I hit it, unless it was hit a fraction of a second after I had by an AI come in at full pelt.

        Speaking of which, I’ve also not found the AI to be that bad. Sometimes they’re unerringly accurate or infuriatingly good in defence, but whenever there’s been an own goal, it’s been something that would typically be very difficult to defend against anyway, like trying to chase down a ball without anyone in defence. Either way, they’re playing the game far better than I possibly can.

      • Totally agree with Teflon, not seen any physics issues, the ball does pretty much what I’d expect just like the original game.

        Also the AI is quirky and has to be. If it was perfect then it would be dull / impossible. I get frustrated with my AI team mate all the time, just like playing a game with a little brother!

    • I think the score is a measurement of how much the reviewer enjoyed the game rather than docking points from indifferent A.I. It is great fun. Give it another chance man.

      • I might give it another go if it gets updated. Even just to try and finish off the last 1/4 of the trophies.

        There’s a trophy there for winning 10 games in a row. Obviously you’d want to do that against AI on the easiest setting. But even then it’s impossible if you’re playing against the other team and the rest of your team because the AI has got confused.

    • Given the server problems, the dodgy AI and the ease of scoring once you find that particular spot you can always, in a way akin to Sensible Soccer, score from, I struggle to quantify just how much it isn’t a 9/10 game.

      • Nothing wrong with the servers, just took them a few hours at launch to adjust to the huge number of people wanting to play. Everything is running perfectly now.

      • Nothing wrong? They _still_ don’t work. At all.

      • I’ll take your word on that, they work fine every time I play and I’ve not seen any reports personally about there being problems since launch day.

      • I’ll admit I was wrong on the servers being fine, they are actually playing up quite a bit, my mistake. When you’re in an online game everything runs great, but the game doesn’t always allow you to connect on loading up at the moment which is annoying.

      • A lot of people would have kept quiet there and hoped the servers got fixed. So well played sir.

        I’m guessing that means the servers aren’t completely dead then? Just very, very unwell? I still haven’t managed to play a single game online. Maybe I’m unlucky.

        If the servers ever do work properly, and they fix some of the issues (at least they seem to know about the PS4 about to take off via the gift of mighty fans problem), and add some more interesting arenas, I might reconsider my verdict.

      • I’m not sure what the issue is, seems to be a 50/50 chance for me as to whether I can play online or not when loading up, sometimes it works perfectly, sometimes not at all. I’m guessing they are limiting the amount of people who connect at any one time so the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down. Just a guess mind you.

    • I agree on the AI, although i never had them deliberately trying to score own goals. They did score more by accident than seems normal, but i also dont find it impossible to get that 10 win trophy, i played about 15 games in season mode and lost only one, got the trophy without even trying…
      Also the physics werent glitchy at all for me so fat.

      • Maybe I’m just unlucky. I’d got plenty of wins in a row, then the AI started being a bit challenged.

        It’s quite funny the first time, when your team starts charging back towards your goal with the ball. But then you realise they’re going to keep doing that for the rest of the match, and it’s effectively a 1 vs 7 match. (Or less, but really, who would want to play with less than 4 on a team?)

      • my impression is that they are “just” really bad at chasing a ball thats travelling to your goal. they dont try to ovetake it or tackle it from the side, they just literally chase it and bump into it from behind, which often results in an own goal.
        also the servers did work today for the first time for me.

      • I’m not sure that’s the problem. They seem to do fairly well at it, and then suddenly in the middle of a match, they go a bit mad. They’ll deliberately try and get the ball down the wrong end for the rest of the match.

        But I don’t want to argue with someone who has a picture of a prinny next to their name, dood. You may explode.

  2. I love it, my only criticism is the lack of music in game. But considering we can plonk some mp3s on a usb, it’s not a big deal.
    Excellent game, although you’re right, more stadiums or just bringing back the ones from the previous entry would be most welcome.

  3. Sounds good, i didn’t get a chance to try it yet but will do so tonight.

  4. It is what all video games should be-fun, more fun and more outlandish. 9/10 is a great score :)

  5. Absolutely loving the game. I missed out on SARPBC the first time round and I regret it massively.

    Regarding the comments about AI, there are problems with own goals on the pro difficulty only, as far as I can see. I’m playing a season 4×4 on All Star difficulty and it’s immensely enjoyable with no quirks to the AI at all, everything acts as it should, though the AI is slightly too good at predicting the path of the ball.

    The servers being down was/is a pain, but I got online for the first time last night and found it immensely entertaining, and a lot easier than playing against the AI!

  6. Rocket League and its predecessor were never meant to be played offline. It is an inherently online experience. I’ve touched single player only for the trophies and practice while waiting for a game!

    • Remember all the fuss over Driveclub? When it launched and the servers were a bit flakey for a couple of weeks? And review scores in a lot of places were a lot worse than they should have been because of the server problems?

      That was a game that you could get a lot of enjoyment out of even if you weren’t online.

      In this case, it’s a game that, as you say, is meant to be played online. I’m sure it’s more fun that way (and won’t have terrible AI to contend with). But the servers haven’t been working at all so far. And yet everyone seems to be saying how great it is.

      • I managed a few games online last night.

      • To be honest MrYd I just get the impression you are acting very hard to get or coming into the experience with an expectation in your mind of what it was meant to be.

        It’s mindless fun.

        I don’t think it has ever aimed to be as big as it ended up being and I can understand why the load on the servers has become too much. To counter your Driveclub argument using this trail of thought, Driveclub was hyped up MASSIVELY and with the Playstation Plus Edition to come AND as the first post-Motorstorm Evolution project it was always marketed as a Triple A title.

        Of course a Triple A title which has fallen flat on it’s face we now know.

        It’s all about whether you like your custard cold or warm. I don’t think Rocket League is 9/10 worthy but it certainly is a 7.5 or an 8 in my mind as it delivers mostly on what it promised and under the PS+ package it is incredibly good value.

        Each and everyone to their own though :)

    • Meant to be played online?

      No, local multiplayer is king here

  7. Brilliant game. I’d only played the original once and not enough to really get into it, but when the TSA buzz grew after the Rocket League announcement I found it hard not to get caught up. The game is good, playing on the easy difficulty is totally fine and although the rampant ball crowding annoyed me at first it actually works out well as I find I have time to find space and line up for a shot when the ball inevitably strays from the bundle. The Remote Play performance is also superb, I didn’t expect the inevitable stream lag to have no noticeable effect, the amazing performance is a nice surprise!

  8. Love it! spent hours playing it last night. i was crap, but lots of fun.

  9. I’ve only played if offline but I’m finding it pretty dull so far. I’m gonna trudge through the season I’m in and may try some multi-player over the weekend to see if it changes my view.

  10. Loved the original and love this one also great game.

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