After more than 20 hours played, “Rocket League” has proven that fast-paced, frantic action has staying power. Bite-sized bursts of play are rationed to players in 5-minute matches and the “just one more game” lure has never been stronger—some 70,000 players are consistently on PSN at all times and the game was released on July 7, 2015; arguably a lifetime for less-exciting multiplayer games. In my opinion, “Rocket League” brings something that has been sorely lacking in the modern video game pantheon, fun!
Childlike Awe and Annoyance
At first glance, “Rocket League” is a simple and joyful toy. The cars zip on the ground and fly through the air as you use limited yet retrievable boost to knock a ball into a goal. It seems easy enough and feels as if your little sister or grandmother could pick up a controller and compete with the best of them. That initial feeling dissipates, however, when you watch an opponent complete a backwards bicycle kick in midair and score a goal from midfield—your feeling of joy is suddenly compounded with awe and anticipation to nail that same trick.
To be blunt, flying is not an easy endeavor due to the unique physics and gravity of the “Rocket League” universe. As you and your opposition progress, the use of flying is so prevalent that it becomes the make or break factor for your team. Can your goalie soar to reach that ball approaching the goal? Perhaps, but it all depends upon experience, determination, and acceptance that failure is more common than success.
A Competition of Errors
The fun of “Rocket League” is borne of this desire to improve, to impress, and to win. It is difficult to remember a time where my palms have been so sweaty as a 5-minute match devolves into a 10-minute overtime game of desperate shots and slipping focus. The ease of hitting a ground ball then becomes a competition of errors. If you miss the ball even once, that could spell game over for you and your team.
DLC Grease Monkey
Additionally, some fun can be had off the field. The Garage allows for cosmetic customization of the battle cars, from the frame of the car to cute Antennae and Toppers, such as smiley faces or iconic symbols in video game history. The aesthetic changes to boosts are perhaps most impressive—ranging from holiday-themed varieties to fire and rainbows, customization freely allows players to express their individuality on the field. It is worth noting that, as of yet, all paid DLC revolves around car customization. So, you don’t need to pay for DLC to get that cool, new map, but who wouldn’t want to play “Rocket League” in the DeLorean from “Back to The Future?” These little winks and nods also express the developer’s, Psyonix, attention to detail and respect for their ever-growing audience.
And, for a game that initially seems so player friendly, “Rocket League” houses some intense passive aggression within its quick text chat options. For example, when you let a ball slip through the goal, expect to see “What a save!” pop up in the top left corner of your screen—most often sent by your opponents or, sometimes, even your teammates. This aggression might push more nonchalant gamers away, but for me, it drives my desire to win and enhances the thrill of victory or, conversely, the sting of defeat.
Combining this sense of competition with an ingenious ranking system creates the sense that “Rocket League” is just that, a League. Ranked players can climb the ranks from Unranked all the way up to Platinum. For me, the climb to surpass the Gold tier is proving to be a difficult task, but it keeps me coming back for more.
“Rocket League” is the definition of easy to play, difficult to master. Because of this, numerous players have joined in the fun action to test their mettle in this new “sport.” Combined with free and affordably-priced DLC from developer Psyonix every month, it seems that the fun of “Rocket League” will likely never run out of gas.