Rocket League is the most moreish multiplayer game since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Psyonix's vehicular soccer simulation adeptly illustrates the idea that simple concepts can succeed when expertly executed. And while it may have taken an entire generation for the seeds sewn by underrated PlayStation 3 exclusive Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars to truly take hold, we suspect that this leftfield local and online team-based hit will be boosting into some Game of the Year lists once the final whistle blows on 2015.
But what is it that makes this PlayStation 4 outing so entertainingly addictive? In essence, it's the pitch perfect blend of accessibility and depth. The free-flowing rules of football are dialled down, doing away with boundaries and off-side traps, meaning that anyone can learn how to play. However, this ease of understanding is enhanced by a skill-based control system; the game's fleet of frivolous vehicles are simple to pilot, but few will master the art of aerial play. It means that, like Infinity Ward's first-person shooter, there's something here for everyone.
But the car-cum-soccer smash has one other trick up its exhaust pipe: it manages to make proceedings entertaining even when you lose. The simple act of controlling your car – which does away with input lag due to a silky smooth framerate – means that even when you're chasing teams ten times better than you, there's fun to be had. Identical vehicle classes – bodywork changes are purely cosmetic – and symmetrical arenas mean that the title is perfectly balanced; it never feels like the game is conspiring against you like so many others do.
And that means that when you do get on the score sheet – be it courtesy of a lucky long ball punt or a brilliantly timed boost-powered bicycle kick – you'll always feel like you're responsible for the goal; there's no number crunching or rubber banding going on beneath the surface. However, the game's real genius is the way in which it acknowledges every effort on the way to a win: goal line clearances can be just as spectacular as aerial shots – and even the way in which the screen rattles as you strike the ball provides a sense of sublime satisfaction.
All of this would, of course, be meaningless without net code to match its expertly honed mechanics – but, while the game has sadly fallen foul to the Instant Game Collection kiss of death, it's started to stabilise nicely. You can pick between ranked and unranked playlists ranging from two to eight players, with the matchmaking working in the background while you spend time on the training pitch if you like. Games are found with Call of Duty-esque speed, and players are funnelled in and out almost invisibly to ensure that there are no breaks in play when someone inevitably quits.
Considering how many titles get this crucial aspect wrong, it's refreshing when a release just works – when the servers are online, of course. Once you're in a match, you can pretty much stay there indefinitely, allowing the netcode to introduce new players as you hop from round to round. And, after dozens of matches, we haven't noticed any instances of severe lag; even in the hectic eight-player match-ups, proceedings remain smooth – a marked improvement over the slightly shaky days of the pre-release beta.
There is an offline option for those that want it, but it's clearly not the package's primary appeal. Season allows you to create a custom team using a variety of rudimentary options, where you'll work your way to the summit of the, er, Rocket League. The artificial intelligence can be a bit dumb on lower difficulties, but it steps it up when you reach the All-Star tier. Still, you can't ever account for the unpredictability of a real-world human, and while it's relatively fun lifting the fictional cup, it's probably not something that you'll come back to after winning the championship once.
The training minigames are, secretly, probably the more entertaining solo option. These are divided into three categories: defence, offence, and aerial play. Here you'll be tasked with either saving, shooting, or flying respectively in a selection of random scenarios, and it's quite fun playing through these while you're waiting for an invitation from friends or the servers to connect you to a match. You'll also be levelling up and earning cosmetic items as you progress, the latter enabling you to kit out your car with personal flourishes such as flags and flowery effects.
Performance is paramount in a game like this, but great image quality and slick artwork help it to succeed from a presentational perspective, too. There aren't an enormous number of arenas available – though post-release additions will be free – but they're all buoyed by attractive features. Some are fitted with AstroTurf which sways in the sun, while others are equipped with shiny hard courts. Meanwhile, some locations are lashed with light rain, while others overlook futuristic city skylines at night. There are some minor anti-aliasing issues, but nothing worth shouting about.
If there's any presentation flaw it's the soundtrack, which employs forgettable trance tracks – a couple of which boast unexpected vocals parts. When you're on the pitch, the sound effects take centre stage, but while these are generally strong, it's the type of title that practically begs you to construct a fitting Spotify playlist before booting it up; fortunately, all of this functionality is built directly into the PS4. We'd also point to the menus – which are forcing some formats to sound like aircrafts – as another problem, but we're nitpicking a little bit.
Rocket League is a good idea that's been expertly executed. While you may roll your eyes at the idea of a vehicular adaptation of America's least-favourite sport, this is a title that's hard to put down once you give it a try. Flawless controls and a frightening amount of depth ensure that both casual and hardcore players will have fun on the field – and the generally excellent online implementation transforms it into four-wheeled crack. Not even a lacklustre single player option and an out-of-place soundtrack can stop us from declaring this the beautiful car game.
Watching football bores the socks off me and I live in the UK. But this game, it's brilliant, I love it.
Thoroughly deserved, a real gem.
9/10? Are you having a giraffe?
A large number of times when finding a server, it starts up with 1-2 players absent... If it doesn't find anyone within 10 or so seconds it sticks a bot in an online game - very unbalanced bots at semi pro level. Same if ppl drop out, doesn't replace with humans but bots. Yesterday servers were dropping out and down for hours.
Its a very fun game, and once they sort the network issues and matching then its definitely be a great game to play, but currently I can't see how you can justify a 9/10 when a major aspect of this game... E. G. Online play is broken.
This is why review sites such as IGN have stopped reviewing online specific games until they've had a proper look at it in the real world, your review fails to do so imo... Check some of the reddit threads about the issues with AI bots in online games and the terrible match making bugs.
Which game should I play next unity, planetside 2, geometry wars 3 or rocket league??? Sony you are boss.
@Cron_13 Not true. I held back on the review all week until I could get ample online time. The issues are a very real problem, but I sympathise slightly with the developer - PlayStation Plus must be the kiss of death for any online game. It's disappointing, but things are working much better for me.
I'm not sure what people have written on Reddit, but I can only review what I've seen. It's unfortunate people are having problems, though.
"The issues are a very real problem..." and yet it still warranted a 9/10?! Look, I'm not disagreeing that when it works its not a lot of fun, but the issues seem to be worse rather than better (match making showing 0 people on list today).
I get why AI fill a blank spot if a game is going and someone drops out, but it never replaces the bots with humans until next match, and why it does that when its a new game instead of waiting is beyond me.
I really don't get the justification of such a high score considering the issues. It was free on plus so its fine? The game is flawed and broken in its current state.
There are a few connection issues at launch which they are working on, but when in an online game everything runs super smooth and is the best online game I've played in years, so much fun. Well deserved score I think.
I had very few online problems in Eu, honestly 9/10 is my score aswell. Amazing game.
I agree with this. But the amount of time I spent on the beta and now the final product would lead my heart to call it a 10/10.. 9/10 is great though!
Rocket League is one of the best examples of a simple concept tuned to perfection. As for the server issues, it's worth bearing in mind that it came out on Steam too and it's cross platform with PS4 players.
@adf86 I was not aware of this, thanks for the info!
@Cron_13 It's not broken because I've spent several hours playing it today. It's getting slammed because: a) There's a ton of word of mouth surrounding it; and, b) It's free on PlayStation Plus. It's a problem, yes - but in this instance I didn't feel it would be fair to remove a point for a criticism that's mostly resolved at the time of typing. If, in the unusual event that things worsen, then I'll add an addendum.
@LieutenantFatman No problem, it's what I do
To Push Square: I like the little Game Collection feature on the side, good way showing each person gaming interests.
I've downloaded it 3 days ago and ever since tried multiply times to play online, but it kept saying that I was unable to connect to the servers. Had few matches against computer but it's not that fun in a long run. So far I have to agree with @Cron_13 online is terribly bad and 9;/10 is waay to high for game with such problems, at least for me
Although I'm sure the game must be 8-9/10 for those who have no problem with connection issues
@KratosMD yep, massive issue and surely something that would have shown itself in beta (this isnt a launch or server issue.. This is a design issue) ... Yesterday i was playing 3v3, we were 3-1 down with just over a minute to go and the other two players on my team dropped out - replaced with two bots our team won 3-4...
This review isn't objective enough for me, fails to highlight some pretty poor design choices - and whilst i get you defending the games server issues due to the ps plus launch, if this was a triple A game and not an indy freebie i sincerely doubt you'd have awarded it such a high score.
Just as I thought this game is amazing loads a fun 9/10 bang on score, happy days It's simple but awsome. I'll be buying the DLC anyway I was expecting to pay for this game anyhow. GJ sony best PS+ game's month this gen, credit where credit's due.
@Cron_13 I noticed the BOT problem late last night when most of the player's were BOT's, it's a problem but i'm hoping and it probabaly is only happening because the server's are so unstable atm, i'd rather have a bot than be a player down for the rest of the game still a 9/10 for me though. The bot's are the only bug so it's hardly riddled.
I don't think you can call football/soccer America's least favorite sport anymore after tens of millions watched the women's world cup finale.
Really enjoying it, but the first 2 or 3 days were bad with the servers usually being offline and the last 2 days have had frequent connection problems with a connection warning icon flashing up and pings between 150 to 800 for myself and other players in the same game.
@Vorlon The sad irony is that hardly anyone who likes football outside of the US gives a crap about women's football.
Played this tonight, 9/10 is too high for me the issues with the lacklustre music, lack of single player options, the AI on your team in single player is rubbish also massively tho
"There are some minor anti-aliasing issues" on one stadium it looks like the stadiums floor is rocking.
If they fix launch issues then this is a solid 9/10. Most fun I've had gaming in a long time!
Great game, just the connection issues are the problems.
Haven't downloaded it yet. Is it difficult to get the ball to go where you want it to?
I've had more fun with this game than any other mp game I can think of in the last few years. Such a simple premise yet so addictive and the most fun I've probably ever had for free
Was surprised by this game, I like football but thought it was going to involve more racing elements. Wasn't going to bother dowloading, but I'm glad I did now. Really fun game.It's good between eso and shadow of mordor for me and really addicting.
This game is a lot of fun. The controls work great, graphics are clean and crisp and bright, and it's easy to pick up and play. It's definitely worth a try even if you're not even remotely interested in driving or sports games.
Superb title, gameplay alone warrants the solid 9/10 in my book, the big book of truth:)
Make your boost L1 its sooooo much better than 0
Late to the party, but a friend recommended this. It is great!
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