I’ve never liked sports games. I haven’t Madden-ed a single FIFA into a— touch-goal-down or— something. Rocket League is different because all you need is a love of explosions, fast-paced action, and shouting the word “GOOAAAAALLLL!” in your friends’ faces at make-out distance. Sports games tend to fall victim to the issue of approximating something you could get the full experience of by just going outside and doing it, but Rocket League doesn’t have this problem. If you tried the simplest possible action in Rocket League in real life, you’d immediately paint your car’s interior with a fine pink mist that used to be your internal organs.
Not pictured: The shattered pelvis that outdistanced the ball.
In short, it combines a real sport with a fantasy that only a video game can provide—and isn’t fantasy the whole reason we play video games in the first place?
Unlike most e-sports, Rocket League is simple: There’s no laning, minion farming, or combining your Troll Femur Staff with a Sorcerer’s Jockstrap to double your magic damage. Instead, you’ve got two teams of cars, a ball, and two goals. Your task is simple: score goals and eviscerate the enemy. I’ll admit, the first time I saw gameplay, I thought to myself, “This is neat, but I bet it gets old fast.” Eighty hours of unrelenting explosive action and crazy acrobatics later, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is mostly due to the fact that the skill ceiling is too high for me to even see. Little things like destroying opponents via ramming, driving on walls, double jumping, aerial rotation, and using your boost to careen through the air, all contribute to making this game insanely difficult to master.
And here’s the thing, while the game is difficult, it’s not a pain point for me. Sure, you miss the ball, and at first, you miss a lot. But everyone is whiffing shots left and right, and the amount of satisfaction returned when you land a solid hit outweighs the “oh darn” feeling of missing so much that it doesn’t register as a problem. Nothing feels better than boosting through the air like a cruise missile and slam-dunking the ball into the opposing team’s goal (especially since the game replays every goal, and everyone is forced to watch your sick moves). And even those moments when you find yourself trapped in the goal lead to introspection about how you can do better next time—after the initial cursing the universe for trapping you in a fiberglass prison of embarrassment.
Add to the mix the abundance of customizable features you unlock for your car: hats, boost trails, paint jobs, etc., not to mention the fact that the game throws you one of these unlockables upon the completion of each match (win or lose), and you’ve got a perfect formula for making sure the player always feels like they’re getting somewhere. Hell, you can turn your car into a wizard that farts rainbows if you want.
Or even an ethnic stereotype. You decide!
I only had one complaint about the game: There wasn’t a ranked 3v3 playlist. This meant that if you had a team of three, you had to do unranked. And that was a shame, because playing online with friends is where Rocket League really shines. However, Psyonix actively listens to their audience, and they’ve fixed that already. They even added the ability to create private games with passwords so that any friends who might be playing on a PS4 while you’re on PC can still join your game. Psyonix is fixing problems before I realize they even exist.
All in all, I’m more excited about Rocket League than any game released this year. It’s an e-sport that anyone can pick up and understand immediately, and it’s so engaging, you guys. If you’re reading this review and looking for a score, I’m giving it a “Why Aren’t You Playing This Right Now, Stop Reading This Review And Download Rocket League!” out of five.
In case you missed out, here’s Kevin hanging with the developers of Rocket League on Pointless.