Rocket League Review (XONE)

Rocket League screen
Rocket League. Psyonix

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Rocket League is a game that I knew I would love from the first moment I saw it.  In fact, I almost bought a PlayStation 4 just to play it, but held out because I knew it would come to Xbox eventually.  My patience was rewarded and now it has released on Xbox One and it is everything I had hoped it would be.  I love soccer.  I love cars.  I really love competitive multiplayer that isn't just another shooter.

  Rocket League delivers in all of these areas and is just a joy to play.  If you missed it on other platforms, Rocket League is a must-own title on Xbox One.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Psyonix
  • Developer: Psyonix
  • ESRB Rating: “E10" for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Soccer
  • Pros:  Amazing gameplay; satisfying difficulty curve; nice presentation; solo content; fun multiplayer
  • Cons:  More team options online would be nice

Features

Rocket League is basically soccer with cars.  You can have 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 matches and, as you can guess, different numbers of players change the dynamic of the game pretty significantly.  More players means more options for attack and defense, but also more people getting in the way.  Less players means less chaos, but more opportunities for individual players to shine since there is more room for skill rather than luck to dominate.  There are a ton of unlockable cars - each handles a little differently - as well as cosmetic options to make them look however you want.

  There are a ton of items to unlock - including cars from Gears of War and Halo or trinkets from Portal or Sunset Overdrive -, so you'll be busy for quite a while if you want to see it all.

While Rocket League is best known as an online multiplayer game, there is single-player and local splitscreen multiplayer content here as well.

  There is a training mode and exhibition matches against A.I., as well as an offline season mode where you play against teams of A.I. players.  There are multiple difficulty levels too, and I was actually pretty impressed with the difficulty curve as you bumped up to the next level.  You can really learn a lot by playing against the A.I., and on the upper difficulties they'll challenge even veteran players.  If you don't want to play online for whatever reason, I really think you'll still be more than satisfied playing against the A.I., so don't skip Rocket League if you're a solo player.  It is also a ton of fun in local splitscreen and makes for a great party game.

Online play will be the focus for a lot of people, of course, and Rocket League does a lot of really smart things to keep the game balanced.  You can play with any of the player counts mentioned above and form parties so your friends can all play together, but you can also choose to play matches specifically with teams made up of solo players.  This means you won't run into teams of friends all playing together who know how to coordinate and will instead be playing with and against teams of strangers.  This really balances things out so you don't run into some super team of besties when you just want to hop online and have fun.

 

Online play is also very smart in how it handles who you get matched up with.  You start out by playing ten matches to determine your skill level, and then you get assigned to a league of other similarly skilled players.  You can be promoted or relegated based on your performance, so the idea is that you should always be playing against people of similar skill.  A lot of games promise things like this, but it actually seems to work in Rocket League.  The only negative about online play is that even if you form a team with friends, your stats are only tracked as individuals, not as a team.  It would be nice if skilled teams could be more easily recognized as a unit, but that isn't the case yet.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Rocket League is truly something to behold.  The games take place in large soccer arenas with rounded corners everywhere, which means you can drive up on walls or whip around the corners rather than ever really slowing down.  Your car has the ability to turbo boost as well as jump and flip in the air.  Turbo boost is gathered by driving over pads scattered around the arena, and always having at least some boost in reserve is vital to your success.  From there, it is really up to your imagination on how you use the tools at your disposal to try and score goals.  Highlight reel bicycle kicks and flipping goals and boosted power shots and bank shots off of defenders are pretty much the norm here.  It's freaking amazing.

The best part is that the game is really shockingly intuitive to play.  It definitely does take a few matches to get used to the speed of the ball, the speed of your car, and the physics of how the ball flies through the air so you can line up your aerial strikes, but you can learn the basics almost immediately.  A friend came over to play multiplayer while I was reviewing it, and while I had 50+ matches under my belt and he had none, he was competitive almost from the start.  And then as we continued to play - and even bumped up the A.I. difficulty along the way - we both kept learning how to play better and the games only got increasingly more fun the longer we played.  That is the beauty of Rocket League.  It is easy to learn, but hard to master.  And you'll want to master it because it is fun as heck every step of the way but you always know that your timing could be just a bit better or your aerials could be more precise.  So you keep playing and getting better and think you're pretty good and then you play really skilled people who blow you out of the water, which compels you to keep practicing.  Rocket League is a heck of a drug.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is fantastic as well and, despite the high speed and crazy stuff going on onscreen all the time, it looks phenomenal and maintains a decently solid frame rate.  The cars look great, but the arenas you play in are really stunning.  There are lots of them with different themes and even weather effects, and they look very cool.  The game is bright and colorful and full of special effects that really make it a joy to watch.

The sound is also very well done.  The various cars all sound different, and all of the turbo boost effects are very different from each other, which gives each match a neat sort of music of its own.  I also really like how the crowd reacts to the play on the field, just like real sports.

Bottom Line

All in all, Rocket League is an amazing all around experience that no Xbox One owner should pass by.  It plays amazingly well, is incredibly addictive, and offers plenty of content to keep you busy whether you're playing online or local multiplayer or even solo.  The $20 price tag is also just about perfect as you'll definitely get your money's worth.  I can't recommend Rocket League enough.  Buy it.

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