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Rocket League

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Psyonix Studios
Release Date: July 7, 2015


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PS4 Preview - 'Rocket League'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 19, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Rocket League is a fast-paced action-sports game featuring amazing physics, crazy aerial action, and compelling multiplayer combat.

Rocket League can be summed up simply: soccer (or football, if you prefer) with cars. The idea may sound ridiculous, but it's also quite fun.  We recently had a chance to participate in the closed beta, and we had a ball (ba-dum-tsh!).

The standard game mode involves two teams of three cars. Each car drives around a large stadium attempting to knock a giant physics-controlled ball into the opponent's goal. The cars are only semi-realistic. They drive like cars, but they turn on a dime and can jump (and double-jump) into the air. You can even drive up walls or briefly on the ceiling. Double-jumping allows you to gain air and perform car-themed versions of classic tricks, like the bicycle kick that you can use to manipulate the ball's momentum. Performing drift turns, wall-jumps and other techniques is essential for knocking the ball around and keeping it from your enemy's grasp.

Rocket League's only resource is boost, which you collect by driving over colored circles on the playfield. Some give small amounts of boost while others can fill up your boost meter. Press the boost button and you go really darn fast. Boost is absolutely essential to overcoming the other team. The most obvious thing is that it allows you to get to the ball faster than your opponent and hit it harder. You can use boost for a lot of things, almost all of them can be game-changing. Boost can be used on the ground or in the air. Using boost in the air allows you to rocket forward and fly for a brief period of time, so you can hit the ball in places that you normally couldn't; it's an essential move to keep the ball away from your goal.

Boost also lets you slam into the enemy and knock them off-balance. Rocket League is a full-contact sport, and it shows. Knocking enemies out of the way or blocking them from scoring goals is a must. Hit an enemy hard enough, and you can even demolish them and temporarily take them out of play. The demolish time is only a few seconds, but a few seconds matter a lot when it takes it from a 3v3 match to a 3v2 match during a critical moment. Even without demolishing your opponents, it can be important to knock them out of the way or distract them as they go for a critical goal.

Rocket League offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to play style. For example, the first team I played on went all-in, with all three players focusing on getting the ball into the opponent's goal — and so did the opponents. The result was a frantic rush back and forth for the ball. However, the second team decided to have two players function as strikers while the third played goalkeeper and remained close to the net to knock away balls. This more defensive style worked well against uncoordinated opponents, since they have to be more focused to get past the keeper. On the other hand, aggressive styles also work well, as I discovered when I went up against a team who seemed to save its boost meter primarily for smashing their opponents. It only gave them a few seconds of leeway, but that was all they needed to score.

The best part about the flexibility is that it feels fair. It never feels like there is a single winning strategy that everyone needs to follow. Of course, there are also alternate game modes where you can change things up, such as a 2v2 mode, a 1v1 mode, or a Chaos mode with four players all struggling against one another. The standard 3v3 mode seems to be the one that will hold the most attention, and even in the beta, it was the mode that everyone seemed to be playing. Having a full team can open up a lot of options that aren't available in the other game modes. The game also supports split-screen multiplayer for both online and single player for those who'd rather have a friend at their back.

The beta contains only the four basic game modes, but we know that there is more to the game in the final version. There will be a single-player Season mode, which is inspired by the similar modes found in other sports games. Players will be able to create a team and take it through a single-player season against a variety of opponents. There will also be car customization, which appears to be cosmetic. You can alter the look and shape of your car, but there won't be any RPG-style statistics. You'll be able to make your car look cool without worrying about its balance, which seems to be a key factor.

Rocket League may sound simple, but don't confuse simplicity for boring. The core gameplay in the beta was incredibly fun and had a lot of depth to it. The gameplay is simple to learn but difficult to master, and the difference between bouncing a ball around and performing complex mid-air tricks is the difference between losing and winning. There's a lot of fun and excitement in Rocket League's demo, and if the full version can live up to the beta, then it can be one of the must-have titles for the PS4. Even those who aren't normally into soccer will want to give Rocket League a try. It turns out that having superpowered cars and gravity-defying antics can make a game feel quite different indeed. Rocket League will hit the PlayStation 4 this summer.

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