Review: Rocket League (PS4)

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Title: Rocket League
Format: PlayStation Network Download (5.22 GB)
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Psyonix
Developer: Psyonix
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Rocket League is also available on Xbox One, PC, Mac (TBD), and Linux (TBD).
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2015
– Best Sports (PS4)
– Best Multiplayer (PS4)

As a fan of the underdog that was Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (SARPBC), my personal level of anticipation was at an all-time high for this spiritual successor. In a rare occurrence, that anticipation was exceeded in every possible way.

Gameplay:
It’s Soccer (Futbol) with cars! (Can I just stop there?)

Ok, it’s obviously more than just that, and more than likely you’ve either played or at least have seen someone else play it. The action is fast and unrelenting, the possibilities resulting from the physics are endless, and the curse words coming out of your mouth when a teammate screws your perfect shot up are numerous. It’s one of those games that’s easy to learn but gives you the opportunity to learn with every match, and it’s damned fun.

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You don’t merely push the oversized ball around with your vehicle though, as you can jump, boost in all directions while you’re in the air, or when you really start grasping the possibilities, you’ll fly through the air within the confines of the numerous arenas. Since you’re using rocket-boosted vehicles, the action is fast and frenetic, with only the time between goals to catch your breath.

In almost every match, you’ll have that seemingly impossible goal or save happen that makes you save the replay so you can show it to all of your friends. It’s sports that even the uber-nerds who scoff at anything even remotely involving a ball scoff at in nasally sarcasm.

… a new fan is awakened …
It’s tough to expand on what really is a simple game of Soccer with cars. Even though I rarely if ever even watch a traditional Soccer match, this is the game that I still play four to five times a week. It’s that instance where lightning has struck and try as you might to describe why it’s so good, instead you just shove the controller into someone’s hands to let them experience it for themselves. Almost every time, a new fan is awakened.

In terms of modes and options, there’s plenty available to satisfy almost anyone’s needs. You can join matches ranging from one-on-one up to Chaos Mode which pits two teams of four. Chaos Mode definitely lives up to the name. It’s a mode that I didn’t think I’d enjoy, simply from the standpoint of my play style, but I couldn’t have been more wrong about it.

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It’s not the mode I play all the time, but when I do, it’s such a hit to my senses that I need to take a break occasionally. Personally, I normally play in two-on-two or three-on-three, but more times than not I usually end up having to set up a private match of four-on-four because my PSN Party inevitably fills up with new joiners asking “You got room for one more?”

Both Unranked and Ranked matches are available with the biggest difference being (beside your actual rank earned) that you can’t vote on a rematch in Ranked. Also available is a varying playlist that rotates semi-regularly.

… a good way to get some practice …
The playlist offers alternative modifiers such as lowered or heightened gravity, no jumping, or the current and very popular variant Snow Day, which has you playing on ice with a Hockey Puck in place of the standard ball. This alternate playlist is completely controlled by Psyonix, and is a great way to get something different out of the game when you need a change of pace.

There’s also a Season Mode, which pits you and your AI teammates against different teams of AI opponents. If you want all of the trophies, you’re going to need to go through a season or two. It’s also a good way to get some practice and to help develop your individual play style.

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As you continue to play the game, new items and vehicles will be unlocked for your use. The vehicles all have the same performance, but I guarantee you’ll still develop a favorite no matter what.

There’s a huge variety of customization items that can be earned, including Decals, Paint, Wheels, Rocket Trails, Toppers, Antennae, and titles. It’s fun to see all of the combinations that people come up with, and hey, you can even apply the PS Nation flag that’s in the Community Flags folder!

… a great upgrade from how SARPBC looked on PS3 …
Visuals:
Using the Unreal Engine, the game looks fantastic and runs at a smooth and consistent 60FPS. Effects are numerous with real-time lighting everywhere, and the explosions are pretty fantastic. Vehicles are rendered with a great amount of detail and include a good number of moving parts.

The arenas are all unique in their own way with huge cityscapes and grandstands off in the distance and most have both a day and night variant. Even the way the moonlight shines through the different obstructions is a treat to see when you’re watching someone else play, because you have no time to look while you’re concentrating on that ball! It really is a great upgrade from how SARPBC looked on PS3, but it’s also nice that it still feels familiar at the same time.

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Audio:
First, the soundtrack that plays in the menu is a pretty masterful curation on the part of Psyonix. I sometimes just leave the game on the front menu when I’m doing other things, because I’m pretty fond of the music they’ve included.

Game audio is pretty great and has more layers than I think people would expect. On the surface, you get all of the engine and rocket sounds, and the explosions are quite satisfying as well. What you’ll start noticing though are the environmental sounds in the distance, like the crowds chanting “One More Time” at the end of the match, or a train screaming by when you’re in the city. It’s a pretty great compliment to the overall experience, and it’s appreciated.

… no two matches will ever be alike …
Online/Multiplayer:
Well, this is really the heart of the game, and it’s SO good! First, yes, Rocket League supports four-player split screen locally and you can even play split screen as part of an online match too. We actually did two players in horizontal split screen online and it’s just this crazy-wide aspect ratio. It was like playing Rocket League in Panavision.

Online play is almost always great, with the occasional laggy experience, usually because of PC Players. Oh yeah, on the PS4 version you can actually play cross-platform with PC players which is pretty badass. You can set an option to disable that if you choose though.

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The biggest issues in multiplayer really can’t be attributed to the game though, since it usually involves randoms on the Internet. These are the ones that rage quit way too soon or troll you by either playing as a ball hog, or at the other end of the spectrum simply sit in a spot and don’t help at all.

If someone drops, that player will be replaced in real-time by an AI teammate, which is pretty variable in terms of their effectiveness. Little things like this can become an annoyance, which is why I almost always play with friends. That way I can at least blame someone I know for stealing my goal.

The greatest thing about Rocket League though, is that no two matches will ever be alike. It’s great to get a few matches in, resulting inevitably in the “one more match” syndrome, but that’s normal. The fact that it works so well online is really at the core of why this game is so good. Finally having an effective way to utilize voice chat gets the game past the biggest hurdle that its predecessor struggled with on the PS3.

… I sincerely love Rocket League …
Conclusion:
If you can’t tell already, I sincerely love Rocket League, and even six months or so after release, I still play it almost daily. Sure, the Internet randoms I get teamed with can occasionally frustrate me, but that’s why I’ve got a deep pool of friends to play with.

I’m continually dying for new content, but what’s there never gets old. It’s my personal Game of the Year for 2015, and it’s still in contention for 2016 so far.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • purist

    Just played this with a new PS4 Pro after picking it up on Plus a while back. Split screen 2×2 local matches were the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Loved watching the replays with cars flying off ball explosions. Lots of variety to the formula kept it fresh.