Review: Rocket League (PC)

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If stereotypes have taught us anything, it’s that men love cars and men love football. In fact, you could say that they’re man’s two greatest loves, outside of booze and women. But for two such prolific passions, it’s strange that no one has thought to put the two together before. Until now.

Rocket League is, plain and simply, exactly that – football with cars. Two teams of players tear around a pitch, chasing down a ball to take a shot at their opponent’s goal and score points… the only difference is that these aren’t human beings in shorts and studs. These are four-wheeled machines of mayhem in all shapes and sizes – big or small, flash or rusty, they’re all here for one purpose… to come away victorious. It’s a premise that’s as brilliantly bonkers as it sounds.

My own experience with Rocket League is still relatively new compared to many others. The game initially launched on PC and PS4 in July 2015, but it wasn’t until a good friend let me take it for a spin on his Steam account at the very end of last year that I got my first taste of its trademark insanity. Naturally, I’d heard a lot about it, having seen it pop up on a lot of Game of the Year lists – and not forgetting an official crossover with Back to the Future to mark October 21st 2015, either – but I’d never really taken the time to give it a try myself. Needless to say, after just a handful of matches, I was hooked and I made sure to download it on my own account as soon as I got home later that night. Even though I was a complete amateur, I was still able to get stuck into the competition and pull off some incredible physics-defying moves (both intentionally and by complete accident, which made it all the more hilarious). Therein lies the real beauty of Rocket League – it’s hugely accessible and easy to pick up and play, with simple controls and bite-sized time limits that promote an addictive “just one more!” mentality. Yet, there’s plenty of depth there for those who want to get truly competitive and play matches more intensely, as some of the fancier moves require some level of mastery to use effectively. Either way, things never become overly serious – it’s impossible not to get sucked in by the novelty of seeing sports cars and monster trucks pinwheeling through the air to hit an oversized football (which, just for the hell of it, proceeds to explode in everyone’s faces when a goal is scored).

There’s a lot of incentive to keep playing, too. After every single match you unlock a new item to customise your vehicle with – either a new car itself, a paint job, an aerial, or even some comical headgear to wear – in addition to any EXP points you may have earned along the way for scoring goals, pulling off “mad skillz”, being on the winning team… heck, you even get some just for taking part! You start off as a Rookie but slowly you can work your way up to Semi-Pro and Pro ranks, which helps to dictate what level of opponents you’ll be facing off against in the online mode, which is where you’ll be spending most of your time. As well as the traditional matches though, there’s a wealth of other options like Exhibition and Training that you’d expect from a sports game such as this – and for when you’re bored of football, there’s even an ice hockey mode called Snow Day which instead has you sliding around after a hockey puck, subtly yet significantly altering the flow and control of the game. For a £15 digital download, you get a lot of value for money and there’s plenty of mileage in even the bare minimum on offer.

Honestly? I think this is probably my favourite game in recent memory, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that I only downloaded it so close to the end of the year, it would have been my top pick from 2015. It’s so incredibly simple yet so immensely satisfying, and I can see myself playing it for months to come – the online servers certainly aren’t going to be dying down any time soon, that’s for sure. Rocket League’s popularity speaks for itself, having come out of absolutely nowhere to becoming the go-to online game for a quick burst of fun, and it’s even on its way to becoming a fully-fledged e-sport. Whether you become a die-hard addict or only ever try out one match, Rocket League is a must-play gaming experience that you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry. Expect thrills, spills, and a whole lot of good times.

Now, I realise I’m hardly known for being the biggest football or car fan going, but just this once, put aside your preconceptions about me: I’m not the man you think I am at home. Oh no, no, no. I’m a Rocket League man.

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