Way back in the days of Forza Motorsport 3 Online, one of the alternative modes of play was Car Football, which is exactly what it sounds like. Based on the Top Gear segment where a flock of hatchbacks descended on a mock pitch, the mode was meant as a lighthearted distraction to the otherwise serious world of GT and Endurance racing that Forza tries to replicate. Going back through the years, even Monster Truck Madness 64, developed by Rockstar Games, included a rudimentary Ice Hockey mode designed specifically to induce fistfights among siblings.
Rocket League, available on steam for $20, turns these lighthearted mini-games into a fully-featured title. And a damn good one at that.
It’s as much of a driving game as Grand Theft Auto V is a vintage Trans-Am racing simulator, but if it has vehicles you can drive, you bet your ass PRC.net will cover it in some form. The game takes an E-Sport like approach to automotive football, with 3-on-3 matches lasting a total of five minutes, plus a sudden death overtime period if required. Not only does the game feature a solid online component, but a full offline single player mode is available as well, including support for a full season. Experience points and unlocks apply to both online and offline modes, meaning there’s very little, if any grinding.
If I’m not playing driving games, I’m on Madden or NHL, so this is right up my alley. What surprised me the most about Rocket League is how tight the controls are, and how latency issues are almost non-existent. The game’s tutorial can be completed in about two minutes, and using a PS3 controller, the cars are quick, agile, and respond with the precision you’d see from the beginner cars in the classic RC game Re-Volt. Lag has been completely eradicated, and almost 30 games in, I’ve yet to play a match that had any noticeable issues – it was as if I’d been playing against AI cars the whole time. Even better, during peak hours last night where there were warnings about the game’s servers being overloaded, it took all of fifteen seconds to go from the main menu, to playing in a match. We’re talking Nintendo 64-length load times for an online game. I’ve also seen something about cross platform play with the Playstation 4, but I’m not sure if that’s already implemented, or a feature that’ll be added in a future update. Screenshots also don’t do the game justice – it looks pretty damn good for a budget title.
The game has a rudimentary unlock system, where XP earned in each match opens up new visual customization options for your ride, and thankfully none of them change the performance of you car. You don’t arrive on the scene only to get dominated by Mommy’s MasterCard Motorsports or NEET’s who’ve been playing for hours on end – everything’s purely for looks. Most of the options are kind of retarded, and the inclusion of hats for your car is an obvious nod to Team Fortress 2, but it’s something that people will inevitably find some charm in.
I don’t think there’s a better modern game you can find for $20. Rocket League somehow makes automotive football into more than just a gimmick. This is going to be everyone’s favorite time waster in the near future. It’s easy to learn, handles well, and the online portion is virtually flawless. After Codemasters and Slightly Mad Studios released simultaneous disasters with F1 2015 and Project CARS, seeing an Indie dev come out swinging with a nearly perfect title based around a simple concept is really refreshing.