It’s been a few days since Rocket League was stealthily released by Sony on the European PlayStation Store. Initially, when I turned it on, I didn’t expect much. I thought that it would be another clumsy adaptation of football, which would be nothing more than a second-grade indie game. However, the single online match that I expected to play before going to sleep turned into seven hours of relentless fun. And this is mainly because Rocket League is not trying to be a AAA title unlike other indie games. It doesn’t pretend to have an elaborate story mode like Destiny, it’s simply a 21st century embodiment of 1990’s arcade games.
Rocket League is a competitive multiplayer-only title in its core, however, unlike other titles of the genre, like Sportsfriends, it allows you to compete against both artificial and human elements. The game’s artificial intelligence, which is featured within the Season Mode and Exhibition Matches may not be perfect, but it’s competent and consistent enough to simulate the behavior of real opponents. And thanks to game’s elaborate catalogue of maneuvers, it excels above all expectations, especially when in need of support. All AI controlled vehicles, whether they’re on your team or not, are capable of executing breath-taking maneuvers. AI makes use of all accessible terrain, including walls, ceilings, and at times even inside of the goal especially when frantically trying to save a top corner shot. And while doing so, it doesn’t forget to make use of its acrobatic abilities. Jumps, boosts, doges, barrel-rolls, and last but not least dives are all in AI’s repertoire and make the game much more engaging, especially when on higher difficulty settings as computer controlled cars can match you every move and take advantage of your mistakes.
However, while challenging you throughout the match, AI is still not perfect and has loopholes which can be easily exploited. During the kick off, computer-controlled vehicles, for a reason unknown to me, always start with a minor delay and never take advantage of the available boost, allowing you to score a goal straight from a kick off nine out of 10 times. On one occasion, while playing on hard difficulty, I scored seven goals within the first 20 seconds of the match, simply because I was always first to hit the ball. Also, at times, AI insists on taking a touch of the ball even when such is right in front its own goal. This results with you or the opposition conceding your own goal at least once every couple of matches. But the rush which you get when scoring a screamer, or saving your goal with an acrobatic maneuver puts all the negatives surrounding the AI aside, especially when you’re constantly being rewarded with new vehicles, parts, and experience points which are all exceptional incentives and will keep you playing for a long time.
Rocket League features numerous vehicles which are mostly locked at the beginning, but as you progress through your game mode of choice, you’ll unlock all of them one by one. No two in-game vehicles look alike because of their distinctive bodywork and visual features, however, if you want to create something truly unique, you can alter nearly every part of your RC car of choice. You can repaint your car with whichever color you want, and add decals, which allow you to paint the car with two different colors. And once you’re done with painting, you can attach a new set of wheels, an ornamented antenna, and a hat–yes, a hat. You can place a piece of head ware on the roof of your RC car.
I know, its ridiculous, but the game looks so graphically enticing that even a wizard hat placed on top of a pink RC minivan looks good. In fact Rocket League is graphically sublime in its entirety. Everything including the cars and the arenas is polished to the highest standard. Every detail on each car is visible from meters away, and the field on which all matches take place feature a three-dimensional grass just like in FIFA. However, in this case you can truly experience the detail in which it’s executed, as each strand bends underneath your wheels as you fight your opponents for the ultimate victory. But unfortunately pitch wear is pre-determined and does not deteriorate as the game goes on. Also, if you were to take a short break between scoring goals and demolishing your opponents to have a look at the scenery surrounding the area, you’ll be able to notice that all the fans who occupy the stands are in fact colored bouncing balls. And I’ve found this personally quiet disturbing, as the game is possibly taking place in a dystopian world where human race has succumbed to the tyranny of villainous beach balls.
However, beyond its fantastical setting Rocket League is a much more realistic and compelling football game than most. And it even shares some features with games such as FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer, as it allows you to carry out maneuvers such as dribbling, (handbrake) fainting, and rainbow flicking. As you can easily hit the ball with the back of your car to have it fly over your opponent straight into the goal. And all this makes the game a truly exceptional title which excels above and beyond majority of today’s games.