There exists two category of sports titles in 2015. The traditional sports simulation games like Madden NFL, NBA 2K and the FIFA series. On the other end of the spectrum are smaller titles like those found in Sportsfriends. The arcade sports titles like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz went the way of the dodo. Psyonix’s Rocket League could be categorized as an Indie sports title but word of mouth, release timing and the fact that it was a PlayStation Plus freebie propelled it to unimaginable heights. It’s soccer with cars and as any Top Gear fan knows, that’s a very potent recipe.
I love playing FIFA 15 but it doesn’t make me feel like a member of a team. I am the team in FIFA. I control all the players, I set up all the plays and I am scoring all the goals. In Rocket League, I’m a member of a team of up to 4 players who somehow have to knock a ball into the goal of an opposing team. Player stats don’t exist in Rocket League, everything was physics based and how good of a dribbler, scorer or tackler was dependent on my proficiency in those areas.
Rocket League didn’t immediately sink its hooks into me; it took several sessions before it began to click. 20 minute sessions quickly ballooned to hour long sessions as saw myself improve with each passing match. The act of flying through the air with these rocket powered cars slowly turned from an impossible option to a viable one as I became more familiar with my car’s capabilities and how the ball physics operated.
I’m still learning new skills and strategies as I progress. As I progress, soccer strategies and positions begin to surface as players assumed roles. I primarily play 3 v 3 matches and I see myself in the attacking midfield role trying to set up crosses by knocking the ball into the rounded corners where they’ll hopefully go in and across goal. I’m not a reliable goal scorer and an even worse goal keeper but I’ve begun ramming into opposing attackers who are trying to position themselves in front of our goal in anticipation of a cross.
A handful of technical issues mar the game but they weren’t enough to keep me from playing. Launch window server troubles were eventually stamped out but the less than perfect 60 FPS framerate in certain arenas make me question why those arenas with those graphical effects were included in the first place. The rain didn’t affect the handling of the cars or the ball, it was purely aesthetic which was why I questioned its inclusion.
The playing field is incredibly level in Rocket League and it’s the player’s skill that determines who wins or loses. Thankfully quality ranked matchmaking makes it possible for everyone to have competitive matches. I’m currently hovering around 550-600 pts in the matchmaking and if the leaderboard is to be believed, there are those out there who are quadruple my level out there. Early disconnections by sour players were the only bothersome quirk in ranked matchmaking but ever since Psyonix added a 15 minute matchmaking ban, those disconnects have become rare.
So unless the player base dries up, I can see myself continuing to play Rocket League for a long time. I have friends that play and enjoy it on the same level as I do. It’s one of the few games where we’re all on a similar skill level. And it’s just a different style of game than the shooters that we usually team up in. We and most of the world overlooked Rocket League’s predecessor with that long name but don’t repeat that mistake and check out the much palatable and refined Rocket League.
I love it