Beta Preview: Rocket League

Everyone loves football. It’s the most popular sport in the world, the World Cup the most watched event. The game remains basically unchanged for years so we must surely be on the cusp of a change. Well if Rocket League is a glimpse of the future then football is about to get even better – with the players replaced by rocket powered stunt cars.

Ok so I don’t particularly like football but I don’t mind football video games. Let’s get this out of the way early then – I flipping love Rocket League.

Closed beta testing is underway at present (although you can grab an invite from the Rocket League website) and offers a single arena with a choice of 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 playlists. Games are five minute of ‘who scores the most wins’ with sudden death overtime in event of a tie. At first it feels like just driving around hoping to push the ball into the net but quickly you realise there’s a lot of skill involved.

Sequel to what many regard as one of the best Playstation 3 games (Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars), Rocket League offers simplistic controls on top of the expected move and stop; a boost which is limited but you can collect power ups and a jump. Hitting the air and combining with boost opens up the ability for quick spins and flips which with some practice offers precise and skilled positioning and shots of the ball.

The video below demonstrates some of the fun I’ve had with the beta so far (and you can be impressed by/wince at my skills or lack of). The first few minutes are some successful 1v1 plays I’ve had which illustrate the sort of control and interaction with the ball. Skip to 4.40 in the video to see uncut a final minute of gametime and a few minutes of overtime. At this point you’ll notice a few things…

Firstly the match kicks off with a ‘demolition’ score for me. This is awarded by boosting fast into an opponent to make them explode and cause a slight delay before responding giving you an advantage. Points are awarded for such plays along with clearing the ball, scoring and defending. Presumably these will count towards some XP based progression applying to upgrades and customisation in he full game. You will also notice the ball camera which is enabled by pushing Triangle. This focuses the action on the ball helping you to locate it and position yourself appropriately on the field. There’s also some flipping and barrel rolling which help with skill shots and an icon which appears on the field when the ball is in the air. The size of this helps judge the distance to the floor if you’re planning on attempting a mid air… umm… ‘header’.

I’ve had some classic goal defences and some epic goals, and I’ve witnessed some fantastic teamwork from those who I expect have dabbled in the previous title. With the full game promising customisation options, more arenas and league style play it could well be a big little hit for PS4 this summer. I am lacing up my tires in anticipation.

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