What is Rocket League? Put simply, it’s football/soccer with large remote controlled cars, and it’s kinda brilliant.
I’ve been getting stuck into the new beta and Rocket League is already shaping up to be an essential PS4 multiplayer title. There will be local multiplayer options in the final game, but this beta has focussed on the online matches and is already showing huge potential.
The controls are basic enough to make the game easy to jump into. Acceleration and brakes are on the R2/L2 buttons and you can jump with X. Powersliding for sharp u-turns and turbo boosts are also available. The football isn’t bogged down with any rules, it’s just a case of bash and barge the large oversized ball into the gaping goal at the other end of the pitch. There’s no shoot button, you just have to drive into it and hope none of the other players get in the way.
You can drive up the curved walls surrounding the pitch in order to try and get near the ball when it bounces high, but most of the action is on the main pitch, with timed jumps -like headers- playing a key role in maintaining possession or goalkeeping. There’s no assigned goalkeeper, so it’s down to everyone to get back and help cover when on the defence. At this early stage, I’ve not really seen anyone ‘dribble’ the ball, it’s more about hoofing it up the pitch and chasing after it. The lack of tactics is what makes it so refreshing though.
Match options include 1v1, 2vs2, 3vs3 and 4vs4 options. I’d advise starting with 2vs2 as the eight player matches are insanely packed affairs that are incredibly difficult to score in sometimes because of the sheer numbers of players. Your own players get in the way of your own shots in most modes though to be fair. Once you’ve got your bearings though, eight players is an absolute riot.
Judging the flight of the ball is the toughest element to the game as the two jumps on offer (standard or forward flip) aren’t very high at all and it’s difficult to nail the timing when going for an aerial touch. The ball is very floaty too and by the time it comes down rival players have had time to catch up and defend it.
I’ve been very impressed with the camera options though. You can opt for a ball-lock cam that keep it focussed on the ball, meaning you’ll never lose sight of it. This increases the risk of running into other players if it’s looking sideways, but you can unlock it at the tap of a button if you’re confident of where it is, there’s an arrow pointing towards the ball too.
The online connections have been fantastic so far with no signs of lag and I’ve had no problems finding players in any of the modes. The final game will feature a campaign that can be played through solo or with a local friend and there will also be different vehicles to unlock.
Rocket League has been enormously fun so far and a genuine laugh to play as you howl with despair as three of you miss an open goal at once, only to retreat back down the other end of the pitch and dive in front of the ball or attempt brave headers ‘over the bar’. The completely walled arenas keep the game’s momentum going making every match a breathless affair where goals are hard-earned showings of unique skill as often as they’re complete flukes or own goals. Watching the replays is just as much fun as you try to make sense of all the back-flipping cars and explosions too. Keep an eye out for Rocket League this summer, and possibly never look at a copy of FIFA again.