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Review

Rocket League Review

  • First Released Jul 7, 2015
    released
  • Reviewed Jul 15, 2015
  • PS4
Robert Handlery on Google+

Soccar.

Excelling in sport means knowing when a moment is outside of your control and recognizing when an opportunity is there to seize. In Rocket League, both events occur countless times in any given match--not surprising for a game heavily inspired by soccer. It caters to the competitive realist who thrills in having sole control of the ball for a few seconds despite knowing it can be snatched at any time. The best part is that you get to kill opponents' dreams and agonize in your own losses from the comfort of a very, very fast car.

Every moment in Rocket League demands split-second judgment. Are you the assertive type who takes control of the immediate situation at the risk of being in the middle of a chaotic, unpredictable scrum? Are you more of a long-term planner, one who watches your cohorts fight over a ball in a corner with the confidence that the ball will inevitably escape. When this happens, are you ready at the top of the penalty arc with the hope that the loose ball will roll between you and the goal? This echoes Wayne Gretzky's words of wisdom: "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." Rocket League offers countless opportunities to be Gretzky--or Nostradamus.

Rocket League thrives on speed and momentum. This is best exemplified by the gravity-defying excitement of driving up the side of any of the game's arenas. This ability is useful as well as thrilling. Without the curves along the edges of the pitch, cars would simply bang into the wall. Constantly having to reverse and make three-point turns over a five-minute match would be a disappointing series of momentum-ending buzzkills. Rocket League has none of these obstacles. The curved corners means you do not lose momentum. Your tires will smoothly caress these bends as you ride the walls horizontally, chasing the ball in parallel with rest of the cars on the pitch. Given that the ceiling is also fair game, every player will feel compelled to attempt a gravity-defying loop across the width of the roof. The game's physics and your limited boost will prevent you from completing such a stunt, but you'll attempt it anyway.

The ball in play is comparable to that perpetually bouncing beach ball you find at every music festival, only slightly less buoyant. It bounces and flies in unpredictable directions when touched by two parties at the same time. This is where fortune favors the Rocket League sportsperson who embraces chaos. Transcendence comes when you realize you don't have to be in control of the ball at all times; you should chase it only when you think you can make a difference.

Getting a
Getting a "first touch" credit during a drop ball is as tough as it sounds.

A goal scored ends the fleeting, yet fulfilled, existence of a ball. In its death, the ball's life is celebrated with a literal bang. It's a colorful, smoke-filled explosion that sends all the cars flying away at heights and velocities that would kill any human in real life. It is so spectacular that you can't help but savor the blast, even if you weren't on the team that scored. Rocket League is that rare kind of video-game sport where you're compelled to play your best, even when you're being blown out 5-1 and there's only a minute left on the clock.

There's no shortage of advanced ball handling in online multiplayer. In Rocket League, experience leads to tactical thinking. Tactical thinking leads to performing with finesse. You cannot open car doors to use them like arms; that would be the equivalent of a handball in soccer. Instead, you can spin your car forwards, backwards, and sideways, which is analogous to bicycle kicks and headers. Once you learn to use these moves to advance the ball, you are soon ricocheting shots on goal. Over time, you also discover that your chances of scoring are boosted by hitting the car closest to the ball rather than the ball itself. It's all obvious highlight reel material, which is why the replay save option is so welcome. Learning and mastering these advanced moves makes playing Rocket League endlessly absorbing, even after you've logged over 50 matches.

The joy of Rocket League rests on the countless plans that are conceived and discarded every other second in any given match.

No Caption Provided

Playing a single-player season in rookie mode is as useful a practice ground as the training mode itself. Without real-life competitors ruthlessly charging to the center of the field for the drop ball, you can practice making spectacular goals from midfield. The drawback is that imperfect A.I. applies to both teams, meaning that your computer-controlled squadmates will average at least one incompetent move per match, whether it's taking the ball to the far side of your end of the field or blocking your path to the ball.

Rocket League's replay value lies in the draw of constant participation, not in a progressive system of unlockable advanced abilities or shoehorned novelty modes. All the arenas are uniform and consistent in shape, without any bells and whistles like the terraces in its predecessor, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. The only variables are the team sizes, A.I. difficulty, and season lengths. This lack of flexibility adds legitimacy to the sport, mirroring the steadfast traditions within many professional sports, some of which are over a hundred years old.

The only thing better than a car with a Viking helmet and bubble exhausts are detailed blades of grass.
The only thing better than a car with a Viking helmet and bubble exhausts are detailed blades of grass.

This thoughtfulness extends to the studio's crafting of a convincing world where Rocket League is the number one sport. You see it in the multi-tier, sold-out arenas and you hear it from the indistinct chants of allegiance from the fans. The crowd goes 'Oooohhhh!' or 'Aaaaahh!', whether it's a goal or a key ball hit at midfield. These sprinkles of realism aren't strictly necessary but are greatly appreciated; for instance, the pitch itself features blades of grass that all move independently. These manicured fields are best admired during the pre-match camera shots, but you can't be faulted for staring at them in the middle of a game. They are complemented by the myriad customization parts, from wildly swinging antenna flags to neon-blue engine exhaust trails.

The joy of Rocket League rests on the countless plans that are conceived and discarded every other second in any given match. Trying to predict where and how the ball will bounce next is a game within the game. Despite the use of cars, Rocket League emulates the emotional surges typical of The Beautiful Game, such as the rush of an unexpected fast break or a well-timed header into a goal. With Rocket League, the promising concept of combining two wonderful things--cars and soccer--is equally magnificent in execution. You can't say the same thing about, say, combining cake and fruit to make fruitcake, as the comedian Jim Gaffigan observed.

  • View Comments (325)
    Back To Top
    The Good
    Sublime ball play using cars
    Newcomer-friendly gameplay offers countless opportunities to contribute to the team effort
    Much delight in discovering and learning advanced finesse moves and tactics
    Rewards thoughtfulness and patience in the face of the game’s feverish pace
    The Bad
    AI isn't great
    9
    Superb
    About GameSpot's Reviews
    Other Platform Reviews for Rocket League

    About the Author

    It took Miguel one match to get the appeal of Rocket League and about 30 more before he scored a bicycle kick goal that was intentional. As a fan of single player campaigns in sports video games, playing the 36-week season--the longest season allowable--was a no-brainer. He enjoyed scoring against bots from midfield at Rookie level and appreciated the option to increase the difficulty mid-season. He is equally satisfied with his above .500 online win average.

    Rocket League More Info

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  • First Released Jul 7, 2015
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 4 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Rocket League is a visceral, high-octane, physics-based vehicle sports game that lets you choose one of a variety of high-flying cars equipped with huge rocket boosters.
    8.5
    Average Rating353 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Psyonix, Panic Button
    Published by:
    Psyonix, Nintendo, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 505 Games
    Genre(s):
    Arcade, Soccer, Sports, Team-Based
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    Mild Lyrics