article Challenging gaming

Wow! Nice Shot! Why is Rocket League so Popular?

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Rocket League’s premise is simple. Take teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4, and pit them against one another in a 5 minute game of ‘who can score the most’. That’s it. There’s no offside rule, no throw-ins and no referee. Ram and smash the opposition and (more importantly) the ball into the goal as often as you can, to win. Now do this over, and over again.

300+ hours and 6 months later (yeah, a casual compared to those of you in the Platinum leagues), I finally feel qualified to write about this game. I’ve played 2164 games and scored 3412 career goals at the time of writing, so it’s safe to say I have at least some experience.

I loved my first couple of matches so much that I immediately bought three extra copies and gifted them to some of my friends. We all jumped on together and formed a team of up and coming try-hards, ready to face our first opposition. The next five minutes consisted of hopeless somersaults, wild spins out of control, and the occasional celebration over voice comms when one of us landed any kind of hit on the ball. Sufficed to say, we lost that first game by humiliating defeat, but no-one cared. We went on to play for several hours; some we won, some we lost. Even in those early, unranked games, we celebrated victories and grumbled over defeats. It quickly brought out the competitiveness in all of us.

Half of our team decided that Rocket League would remain a casual game for them, and the other two of us decided we wanted to try our luck at ranked. We did pretty well at first; the wins started rolling in, as did the points. Then the losses came… and when they did, it unearthed frustration in me that I’d had buried away for decades, since the days of my little brother kicking the shit out of me at the original ISS Pro Evolution Soccer on the Playstation.

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The next six months were to be some of the most enjoyable, frustrating and rewarding in my lifetime as a gamer. Scoring that first, second and third aerial goal made me feel as though I’d just shit gold and other people had witnessed it! Setting up my teammate for that perfect finish is as satisfying as bacon on an empty stomach, and every mistake I made taught me something important.

300 hours of gameplay later, this game still has the ability to bring out the worst in me. It also has the ability to bring on fits of child-like glee on those rare occasions I pull off something extraordinary. It’s very much an emotional ride if you let yourself take it seriously, and I think this is a phenomenal thing. In the last decade of gaming, only one other game has had such an impact on me emotionally, and that’s Dark Souls.

I think what it ultimately comes down to, is that Rocket League is obscenely easy to play. Hand over the controller to a 6 year old and he’ll be able to chase down the ball and maybe even hit it once or twice on his first go. The current  #1 ranked 1v1 player, Scrub Killa is rumoured to be a 13 year old kid who started playing the the prequel, SARPBC (Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars) when he was just 6 years old.  Take the time and spend thousands of hours mastering the controls until you’re blowing your own and other player’s minds, and you’ll still be beaten by those more experienced than you, consistently. It rewards personal skill, quick reflexes, muscle-memory and tactical planning like nothing I have ever played before. The controls are so simple, yet so incredibly complex at the same time. It is this complexity which makes the game an extremely unforgiving but immensely rewarding challenge, and something I can’t help but load up to play every single day.

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The company behind Rocket League, Psyonix, deserves a mention here too. We’re in the age of penny-pinching publishers when it comes to DLC, and Psyonix are going completely against the flow by offering low-cost, cosmetic only DLC packs featuring new (but completely balanced) vehicles, trails, hats and wheels. Don’t want to buy the DLC? Don’t. You lose nothing from the core game by not having it. New maps (errr, pitches), game-modes and the real content are patched into the main game itself for free. This exceptional development team have the midas touch, and I personally thank them with my wallet, by buying every DLC pack as it comes.

If I had to criticise anything about Rocket League, it would be its matchmaking system; specifically, MMR (Matchmaking Ranking). The good news is, this system is being entirely scrapped for Season 2. 

Overall, it’s a truly remarkable game that will provide you with hundreds/thousands of hours of entertainment at a lowly cost. If you haven’t picked it up already, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do so at once. You won’t regret it.

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