The most important thing about Rocket League on Nintendo Switch is that it feels like Rocket League. There’s the same bizarre mixture of cars and football (or Soccar as it’s known in game), the boosting, the showing off with fancy car decals and skins, and it plays just as well as on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
That is to say, the game is as near as dammit locked to 60fps. There might be the odd dip here and there, such as when there’s weather effects combined with a big flashy popcorn goal explosion, but during regular gameplay there’s nary a hiccup to be found. It’s this key fact that makes this one of the better ports that we’ve seen coming to the Nintendo Switch.
Of course, given the disparity in power between PS4 and Switch, there are visual downgrades. To keep that 60fps target, Psyonix say they’ve targeted 720p while docked and tend to be around 1024×576 when handheld, albeit with a dynamic resolution at work that can be noticeable when it shifts. Honestly, it’s really no surprise to see this, because even though it’s a relatively tame game, the many stadiums are packed with detail, from thick grass under the tyres of the cars to the distant stands packed with what we can only assume are people.
That visual style is retained, and the game’s main menu is practically identical outside of a different gamma point on Switch making colours appear darker on Switch – this may be down to settings on my respective consoles as well. The thick cropped grass covering the ground wraps around the tyres of the car, the confetti blows by, there’s a thick depth of field to the crowds and waving flags behind the hexagonal wireframe that makes up the walls and ceiling of each stadium.
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Heading into a match, it certainly feels very close at first glance, but closer inspection reveals that environmental detail has been stepped back significantly. In the default DFH Stadium, the hexagonal floor plates on PS4 have a light checkerboard texture to them and the grass looks and acts the same as on the menu when you freeze the frame. The Switch version, however, has much plainer textures to those hexagons and a lesser detailed surface for the grass, though it still looks convincing and the cars sink into the surface.
There’s no anti-aliasing at work here, much like in the other versions of the game, but that actually helps the image feel sharp and crisp in comparison to Doom or Rime. Effects work has generally taken a step back during gameplay, so you’ll find that shafts of light from flood lights are missing, for example, but depth of field effects for distant backgrounds remain. That actually comes off as a negative, as it fuzzes and blurs the otherwise aliased and clear lines of the wireframe walls.
However, all of these differences really fade into the background when you’re playing though, and that’s part of the magic of Rocket League compared to Rime, for example. Take stills from the game and it’s a low resolution, low detail, jagged image, but it feels great in motion. You’re not really focussed on the world, as you’re eyes are drawn to the ball or the other cars you’re battling with. Rocket League is a game that can sacrifice a few airs and graces in the name of gameplay, and the high frame rate is exactly the right thing to prioritise here.
Of course, the game is and has to be identical to the other versions of the game, because it features cross-platform play. The ball physics have to be the same, the car models have to be the same, the stadia, the customisation, and so on. Rocket League on Switch is a match feature for feature, and you even have split screen play. It actually works really rather well and feels just as smooth as playing solo, though the better option would probably be to create an ad hoc network and play locally against another Switch player, if you can.
Cross-network play is a huge boon to the game on Switch, as it means that there’s no worry that the player base on the console will die out and leave you with nobody to play against. Right off the bat, I was playing against “PSY NET” players that denotes players from other platforms, and it worked exactly as expected: seamlessly.
The only real difference is actually the addition of Mario and Luigi cars. They make the 2D Mario jump sound when you jump with them.
Rocket League is still a fantastic game, and one that I’m glad I’ve taken the opportunity to return to with a port that ticks all the boxes. Playing online has been as compelling as ever, even if I’m just as vaguely bad as usual and spend entire matches marvelling at some people’s rocket car skills. Of course, then there’s the ability to pull out your Switch on the train and get a couple rounds in against bots on your daily commute.