I often find myself steering very clear of sports games or anything too competitive. However, with Rocket League I find myself mashing down on the accelerator and hurling towards a giant hockey puck while wishing for just a little more traction. I heard all of the hype and saw countless let’s plays and live streams, so I was familiar with the concepts of the game before starting. Drive your car into a large ball and hit it into the opposing team’s net. This sounded pretty simple to me and seemed like a cake walk in the training portion, but when you add five other cars, things get to be a bit of a wreck!
I decided to try the new Snow Days maps, which is basically a giant game of hockey. It took several rounds of play before I had even begun to comprehend the flow of a match and how to switch from offense to defense. The matches are five minutes long, which is just long enough, I feel. Surprisingly, it allowed both teams to get a good rhythm without becoming too lopsided one way or the other, which is good because there is definitely some strategy involved while playing this. You have to set up plays and plan out passes while boosting yourself across the field to reach the puck before your rivals.
One of the best strategies is to have one team member fling the puck across the walls and center it while another blasts down the middle and knocks it into the net. After several scoreless rounds, I finally realized where I had gone wrong. There is a camera mode that locks onto the puck, which is pretty cool and useful when things get crazy but made steering almost impossible. As soon as I realized that could be changed, my ability to be of at least a little use for my team grew exponentially. There is something very satisfying about flipping a car through the air into a massive puck just to watch it explode into text saying you scored. After my first goal, I was pretty much hooked.
As far as game mechanics, the cars can be incredibly hard to control but this adds to the challenge. With a little practice you will soon learn how cars react to anything around them and the timing of power slides or flips, which can lead to some pretty awesome shots, blocks, and passes. The customization of the cars is fun. You get a little freedom with colors, though they will always be a shade of blue or orange. There is an option to be a little festive for the holidays with Santa hats and Christmas trees on top of the cars. This adds a bit of humor to the game, as it is hard to be mad at your opponent for scoring when they jingle as they blast past you. There is a very simple chat function for those who choose not use the voice option and allows you to congratulate, plan, and apologize with just a couple of buttons pressed.
You have two options when it comes to controls: the keyboard, or a controller. The game recommends upon start up that you use a controller for best results. I tried both ways to see and agree completely that the cars are difficult to control using the controller, but with the keyboard you are better off just hitting your head on the desk a few times. It will save you time in the long run.
All and all, Rocket League is well worth your investment both in time and money. I enjoyed every second that I played and cannot wait to have time to play again. It is simple and elegant but provides many hours of enjoyment. So get in there, rev those engines, and score some incredible goals!