All hail Rocket League, true king of battle sports


Let me tell you my favorite thing about Rocket League.

You’ve got all your RC cars, and they’re zipping around, boosting and bunnyhopping all over the place, trying to gain and keep possession of an extra-bouncy soccer ball. There’s some really frenetic back-and-forth passing and shooting going on, but the opposing team is defending their goal like some sort of radio-controlled hivemind. One of your teammates nudges the ball just so, like perfectly so, sort of grinding with it toward the goal before he gets taken out as one of those orange bastards plows right into him—but it’s too late, everything’s lined up, like, triangulated for effectiveness, and you boost real fast in a sloppy zigzap past one car and hop over another, then spinkick (yes, with a car) the ball straight past the goalie for the point.

And when you do that (get this) the ball detonates, sending shockwaves out through the field so that any nearby cars rocket and tumble, end over end, away from the goal. It’s wonderful. It’s the best thing.


Rocket League is just so good. It makes me remember the good old days, before sports games become bloated, monolithic franchises, incrementally and lazily updated from year to year. The NES and Genesis days, when players could pick up something like Arch Rivals or Mutant League Hockey and immediately have fun without worrying about all the stupid clutter. You know, the days of pick yer dudes and you’re good to go.

This is gaming at its most impactful. This is gaming at its most fun. Even when you’re just starting out and learning to jump and aim your shots, the playability is so tuned that it’s never boring or frustrating. The premise is so ludicrous that it can’t possibly work—and yet it does, perfectly. It’s completely intuitive, and every goal, every save, every hustle feels like a major feat.

And another thing: It’s absolutely embarrassing how feature-rich Rocket League is. In a generation when developers constantly nickel-and-dime players, when even a major franchise like Halo is seeing its local and online splitscreen gutted, Rocket League is player-oriented on every level: Great graphics and visual design, perfect controls, immediate load times, 4-player local and online splitscreen, optional bots (with names!), tons of cosmetic customization options including wacky boost trails and party hats, exhibition and season modes, PC and PS4 cross-platform play, dedicated servers, multiple arenas, and the promise of free download content in the future.


So yeah, Rocket League brings me back. It brings me back to those days when people who didn’t care about sports could still love sports games. It brings me back to those days, so long ago, playing Arch Rivals with friends and laughing at how much fun we were having. Said my girlfriend while we were destroying each other in Rocket League: “I don’t know what just happened, but it was AWESOME.”

I don’t know what happened, either. To arcade games, to sports games, to racing games. How is Rocket League so damned good? When playing, I whoop and I holler. I get into it with my whole body. I enjoy every second, the feeling of play, of being totally present. There’s something here, something special that’s been missing from games for a very long time.


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