Rocket League has to be one of the finest and most original multiplayer titles released within the last decade. In terms of the video game realm, the developers at Psyonix and Panic Button Games created a game when read on paper (soccer…but cars), you can’t help but think to yourself: that works. For a game with as much explosive potential as Rocket League, it would be pretty easy to botch just about any of its aspects — like programming the mechanics — but I think it’s safe to say there is not one single misstep taken in Psyonix’s and Panic Button’s sports game masterpiece.
There is nothing extraordinarily unique about Rocket League’s concept; it is simply a five-minute game of soccer where the team or player with the most scored goals obviously wins, but it is in Psyonix’s and Panic Button’s grafted creativity and personality in the mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics that give Rocket League the warranted chaos it needs in order for the player to revel in its sheer simplicity.
So…what makes Rocket League so unapologetically fun? I have dedicated much thought to this question, but I think the answer lies in the complete lack of control over the ball. That sentiment might sound weird at first, but think about it: in a real life game of soccer, a player uses both of their legs to control the soccer ball. In Rocket League, touch the ball, and it’ll just bounce off of you; it is almost like the equivalent of playing real life soccer but with both of your ankles tied together.
What I’m trying to get at is this: at its core, the source of fun in Rocket League can be broken down to the player’s lack of total control. Yes, seasoned players can find out ways to manipulate the ball into spots however they’d like, but at its most simple, the fun stems from the player futilely trying to get the ball into the enemy team’s goal or up the field and hoping the ball goes where they want it to, and that’s what makes Rocket League so fun from a fundamental standpoint.
But clearly, this core idea wouldn’t be half as fun without the game’s many other applaudable attributes, such as the impeccable controls. Never have I played a game before where the controls seem to flow so naturally from the player’s fingers. I don’t know about other platforms (I play on Xbox), but I would not change the controls in any way because they have never once felt unresponsive or wonky for me.
The additional techniques in the controls are also helpful and make Rocket League significantly more dynamic. The jumping mechanic, for instance, has a multitude of uses such as gaining speed or performing a sort of “strike” movement that helps in both offense and defense. Another brilliant aspect is the addition of “boost” (which explains itself) in which players can pick up off the ground in plentiful amounts and actually demolish other players’ cars (only temporarily so). The last one is power sliding which helps the player drift to quickly change direction. In the air, the same control is reserved for aerial rotation. Mix all three together (jumping, boosting, and rotating), and the player is able to pull off an unlimited palette of often insane and precise aerial tricks. All of these combined angle and power techniques is part of the reason why Rocket League is such an intense and volatile experience.
Though I may start to sound a little too meticulous here, another two aspects I believe deserve praise is the spacing and physics. The physics, quite simply, is what gives Rocket League its unadulterated feeling of flow, while the spacing mostly involves scale and size. Everything feels perfectly sized and designed: the cars, the ball, the maps (both horizontally and vertically), the goals, and even the small and large boost panels (as well as their frequency). Though these may sound like inappreciable appraisals, just think how different the game would feel if any of those specific things were sized just a little larger or smaller — the game would feel considerably different and as a result not as flawlessly compact.
The artists of Rocket League completely embrace the game’s explosiveness through a sleek and colorful art style (plus the special effects!), utterly honing the game by giving it a crisp flair, not to mention its sublime soundtrack (thanks Nathan). Critics and players complain about the loot box and blueprint systems but these complaints are of course complete overreactive hogwash — anyone who quibbles over a game for its external qualities is being too pedantic (as hypocritical as that may sound), for they should really focus on the game itself and not its trivial merits.
The game has only got better since its release in 2015, mostly because of some new and exciting game modes (rumble being a personal favorite). The refined physics and scale are maintained in these game modes and are a great supplement in case the player is looking for something a little fresh.
I sure hope I did Rocket League its deserved justice through my words because I have nothing but unreserved praise towards it. I think it will most definitely stand the test of time; it’s the type of game the industry needs more of in the 21st century. Chaotic, thrilling, and fun: Rocket League is a peerless, roller-coaster of emotions.