Sunday, 3 September 2017

Review No. 132 Rocket League - PS4 (7+)

Strong Points:
Original gameplay idea
Lots of collectables
Microtransactions aren't needed to play the game...
Movement feels good
Skill based instead of power-up based gameplay
The AI is usually competent
Crisp graphics
Variety of game modes
Two camera types
Good music...

Weak Points:
Some difficulty spikes
Difficult to find some game modes
Still, a huge amount of content locked behind paying
Season mode lacks replayability
No local split-screen multiplayer
...If a little repetitive
The handbrake turns can get some getting used to...
...As can aerial shots
Rocket Labs is only available online

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: July 7th, 2015

Left Analogue Stick: move car
Right Analogue Stick: move camera
Triangle: change camera type
O (hold): boost
X: jump/(press twice) double jump
R2: accelerate
L2: brake/reverse
Square: handbrake
D-Pad: quick chat responses
Touchpad: text responses
L1 (hold): display scoreboard
R1: voice chat

Rocket League is my favourite football game. There I said it. It beats the likes of Fifa and PES hands down. Why? Because instead of people, you control cars which can fly and hit a giant ball like that one Top Gear episode everyone keeps referring too. It's a football game for people who don't really like football. It's for people who would much rather bicycle kick a ball into a goal from the other side of the field than carefully organise a roster of 'overpriced' players who will then run around a bit and feign an injury. It's for people who want to have fun. And boy, is it fun.

The general idea of a match is to get the ball into the opponent's goal more times than they do to yours. So far, so good. You can be in teams ranging from 1-4 people and have to dribble the ball using your car's body to hit it. To shoot you can either run with the ball or launch it by powering into it/jumping. Basically, it's not the case of pressing a button to shoot/pass, it's all real-time movement.

Your car's physics aren't the most robust (floaty is the word that comes to mind) but movement feels great, be it charging forward with a boost or transitioning to the walls. The two camera types really help to keep track of the action as well, as you can follow the ball or the car at any given time, with the cars handling feeling less floaty when focussed on the car but it being more difficult to keep track of the ball. I did feel that the handbrake turns and aerial shots do take some getting used to but you can win without them. Which brings me to my next point.

The game can be as easy or as difficult as you want. Do you want to play with two AI helpers against rookie AI? You can do that. Do you want an unfair match where two all-star AI players attack you on your own? You can do that. Mutations have also been added which allows you to customise your game modes further, adding goal maximums, changing gravity/ball shape etc. This allows you to hone your skills offline, believing (like in many other sports games), that you're actually pretty good. You go online and... You get beaten by someone else who has mastered that aerial shot. If you want a purely casual experience then I'd recommend offline with split-screen instead of online, as the matchmaking is sometimes a tad rusty.

Offline mode consists of exhibition matches, where you can change the rules to suit you, and a season mode. Season mode is basically the championship, where you have to win so many matches to get crowned the champion. And that's basically it. Out of all the modes, Season seems the most tacked on, not really allowing you to go anywhere. I'm not saying that a My Journey style game mode would be appropriate for Rocket League but maybe something a bit more substantial. I mean, you can make your own Season using Exhibition matches anyway.

Since release Rocket League has introduced a handful of more modes to compliment the Football main stay. These include Snow Day (hockey), Hoops (basketball), Dropshot (a sort of netball game) and Rumble (Soccar, but with power-ups). All of these are fun in their own ways and really show how much depth Rocket League can have, as well as adding variety to the game. There's also Rocket Labs which allow custom maps to be played which change the rules slightly, although this can only be found online (at least to my knowledge) which is a bit of shame.

The graphics are your standard Unreal Engine 4 fair. Bright, crisp and polished. The cars are nicely modelled and all the cosmetics work well with the cars  - driving about with a Fez and a cake is always great fun. If you want more cosmetics besides the randomised drops, you can buy new cars -either original/classic cars from Psyonix's previous game or sponsored versions of cars from movies such as the Batmobile (I found myself picking up the Delorean from Back to the Future for about £1). I found that the balance between free and DLC was fine in terms of cosmetics, although having to purchase new maps on an already paid game is a bit of a pain.

Music wise the game is also pretty good, with plenty of electronic tracks to listen to. After a while, however, I did find myself craving some variety - maybe with the new-found success Psyonix have they could invest in new licences for music. The entire feel of the stadiums is pretty much dead on as well, with a distinct Hercules Coliseum vibe with some of the maps (maybe I've been playing too much Kingdom Hearts).

Quickly jumping back to the graphics, however, as while it's nice that they've taken the time to model background cities in the stadiums, it would have been nice to have had some more reactive grass. This might seem like an odd criticism but when you spend most of the game driving around on the grass, only to see it not react in pretty much anyway to your cars, it does get annoying, especially as the rest of the physics are so much better done.

Conclusion: overall, whether you're looking for a viable e-sports option or a game to bring out in parties, Rocket League is a game you should probably try out. 

Rating: 92%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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