I’m not a “stereotypical” guy when it comes to sport. The only kind of sport I’m really into is E-Sports (can we count that as a sport yet? Please?). But the more traditional sports just aren’t for me. Take football for example. I can manage to sit through a game with family and friends over a pint or three, but that’s really about it. With this in mind, it was with great reluctance that I purchased Psyonix’s latest release: Rocket League. Little did I know my world was about to change.
I’d heard about Rocket League through a couple of friends who had played it on the Playstation (blasphemy!). Football, but with cars. The weird and alternative games always catch my eye, so after watching a few game-play videos I was convinced enough to give it a go. A few fellow Xbox players had already picked up the game, so I dived right into a team match against some online randoms.
From the offset it was chaos. It was a three vs three standard match, most goals in five minutes wins. I’m pretty sure that neither team had any idea what they were doing. I certainly didn’t. I was constantly rushing at the ball head-on, sending it hurtling towards walls and other players, and very rarely near the goal. That feeling of dread crept over me; “Good god, what have I done? What a waste of my money” kept popping up in my head. We’ve all been there, made an impulse purchase that has turned out to be a disaster of a game.
But then I steeled myself. Mark, you can’t judge the entire game on one match (which ended 1-0 to the opposing team), I thought. So we went straight into the next match. This one went a lot better as I had picked up on what to expect. Then a strange thing happened. Things started to slot into place. I started realising that you could angle the ball in different directions depending on where you hit with your car. Suddenly this two dimensional game had become much more complex, and entertaining. I was hooked.
Hitting the ball around on the ground turned out to be just the beginning. You can jump in the air, in your car. You can do flips, spins, even drive up the side walls to reach high balls. You can drive on to the ceiling of the arena to try and knock the ball away from the other team, while it’s in mid air. There’s even a boost function on your car that, as well as speeding you up drastically, you can use it to fly into the air to save enemy shots.
That’s when it hit me. Rocket League is all about physics. You learn to get a sense of where the ball is going to go after you hit it, how hard to hit and how to position yourself to save shots at your goal. Just like football.
Post game, I looked at the customisation menu, where I found the real treasure. Hundreds of different custom fittings for your car, including completely different car models, paint jobs, wheels, hats (I’m currently sporting a rather fetching pirate captain’s hat), boost trails, and antennae. You unlock new items every few games, so now I had to keep playing for the loot.
This game has been so cleverly crafted that it turns sport-haters like myself into die hard fans, shouting at the screen when things aren’t going their way, or even if they are. Rocket League has the potential to reign in a completely new group of players that may have had no interest in video games before, just for the sheer sportiness feeling it exudes. I’ll be at the front of the queue when Rocket League is added to the E-sports roster. Just let me practise my shooting first.