The power of rocket boosted soccer in the palm of my hand.
Pushing a soccer ball with a motor vehicle is not a new concept in gaming. Prior to Rocket League, my favorite rendition of that type of soccer appeared in Excitebike 64 way back in the year 2000. The framerate was a mess, and the controls were far from optimized, but there was a special appeal to racing full speed at a gigantic soccer ball and knocking it into a net. Rocket League not only brings back those feelings of joy from years ago, but excels at creating one of the most addictive multiplayer experiences in all of gaming.
While there are multiple modes in Rocket League, the main one is of course an insane variation of soccer. Each player is equipped with a rocket-powered car and can drive or jump into the soccer ball to move it around the arena. A typical match lasts five minutes and will extend into a next goal wins overtime if there’s a tie. Scattered around each arena are special items, which will fill the player’s boost gauge. Using boost, players can temporarily increase their speed across the arena or use a combination of boost and jump to perform an aerial attack.
Part of the reason Rocket League works so well is the precise controls and physics system. Each arena is surrounded by a force field that extends high into the air. Balls will bounce all over and skilled players will learn how to anticipate shots from all angles. While in the air, players can easily manipulate their vehicle’s orientation and can also utilize their double jump ability to flip their car in different directions. It may take many hours to get a strong handle on the game’s controls, but once you’ve learned them a player can perform some seriously impressive maneuvers.
The best way to play Rocket League is against other humans. However, the game does provide bots for offline matches and a extensive training mode. When competing online, you have the choice of playing casually or competitively in ranked matches. In addition to the classic soccer mode, casual play features other game modes such as Snow Day where the soccer ball is replaced with a hockey puck and Hoops, a basketball-style mode where the ball must be bounced into a large force field surrounded hoop. Ranked matches are the best way to face foes of a similar skill level. There’s a slew of competitive tiers that range from bronze all the way up to grand champion. Ranked play is very addictive and you’ll find that teamwork is extremely important when playing modes like 2-on-2 and 3-on-3.
The Switch version of Rocket League is content wise the exact same game you’ll find on Xbox One and PC. In fact, Rocket League is one of the first Switch games featuring cross-platform play with those devices (Sony does not allow cross-platform play with other consoles). The one important area where the Switch version pales in comparison to the others is in the graphics. Developer Panic Button who also ported Doom to Switch, had to make a number of concessions to get the game running at 60fps. Level and car geometry and textures are noticeably reduced in all parts of the game. The largest reduction is the resolution, which is dynamic and will change depending on the complexity of the action on-screen. Certain arenas like Beckwith Arena run at a relatively legible resolution of 1024x576 in undocked play, while others will drop below that number and make far off objects a bit difficult to see. It’s also worth noting that the game will at times briefly drop below 60fps like when too many cars are bunched together.
Rocket League is one of my favorite releases of the last few years. Having a portable version that lets me easily jump online at any Wi-Fi hotspot is amazing to me. I’ve been playing quick matches while waiting for the NYC subway and during my lunch break at work. The one major negative is the resolution in undocked mode. I personally haven’t felt like it’s hindered a match for me, but it’s still pretty annoying. Nonetheless, there’s endless amounts of fun to be had with Rocket League and even with some graphical shortcomings it’s still a must buy on the Switch.