Apart from the obvious titles like Quantum Break, Gears 4, the game I've been waiting for most on Xbox One is Rocket League. So much so I purposely held off numerous times buying it on Steam sales so as to go in fresh when it made its Xbox debut.
It's something of a phenomenon. But one thing was always pretty apparent: Rocket League is exciting, action-packed, and above all else, fun. PS4 and PC gamers have been enjoying motorized kick arounds for a while, but now it's finally on the Xbox.
Has it lived up to the hype? In a word, yes.
Disclosure: This review was conducted on Xbox One using a copy provided by Microsoft.
If you're not familiar, Rocket League is an ID@Xbox release from Psyonix and throws you into the fastest game of football (or soccer, depending on your outlook) you'll ever play. In place of men in shorts are four-wheeled weapons of various styles, entered into five-minute contests to score more goals than your opponents.
After all... that's what football is all about.
It'd be easy to sum Rocket League's gameplay up as easy to pick up, difficult to master. There is a basic tutorial level and a bunch of training regimes of varying difficulty, but the premise is mostly pretty straightforward. You go forwards and backwards, and you steer, occasionally you'll jump or flip through the air and mostly you'll be hammering the turbo boost button. Because we all want to go faster, right?
Mastering the physics led action though is far from simple. It sounds easy. After all, you just drive your car around and 'kick' the ball. Except it's anything but. And while there are going to be some rage inducing moments when you time your run and launch yourself only to wildly miss what you thought you were going to do, you'll keep coming back for more. It takes only a matter of minutes to become hooked.
Action is incredibly fast paced, whether you're in a 1v1, a 4v4 or anything in between. Rocket League does boast a fairly robust single-player mode by way of exhibition matches or a full season, but the most fun is had when you either go split-screen locally or online to play with friends, family, complete strangers, robots, whoever may be on the other end.
Season mode follows the sort of structure any sports title would. You create a team; you play other teams, you progress (hopefully) in the league, win the playoffs and take the prize. A little generic, perhaps, but it's a great place to pick up some quick experience, level up and chase down some of the achievements with relative ease. There is a learning curve, though, so if you crank the difficulty right up be prepared to get it handed to you in the beginning.
Playing Rocket League is a joy. It's not the most graphically intense game ever, which is fine. It looks perfect for what it's set out to be, the arenas are well designed and vibrant, and there are bundles and bundles of vehicles and customizations. The DeLorean from Back to the Future is an additional DLC, but worth it. Why wouldn't you want the DeLorean?!
When you get into the meat and potatoes, though, that is actually playing the game, there's virtually nothing to complain about. Everything is silky smooth, which is of vital importance in a game as frenetic as this. I haven't noticed any jankyness or drops in frame rate, leaving the focus firmly where it should be. It's a pretty perfect example of how a great game should be.
Online play has so far been a largely trouble-free experience. There have been scheduled server downtime periods, but aside from that, there haven't been any major issues. Matchmaking is fast, keeping in the spirit of the game, and it's only a brief wait before the carnage can begin.
One slight annoyance I've found with regards the online play is that if you leave the game open and walk away from your Xbox for any length of time, it can throw you off the servers and not let you back on without relaunching the entire thing. Not a huge dealbreaker, but given the slick, speedy nature of everything else Rocket League has to offer, having to relaunch the game is frustrating. Psyonix are working hard to fix a few outstanding bugs, already shipping patches to rectify some of the worse ones. They've also brought in entire new game modes like ice hockey in free updates, which should help to keep the game fresh down the line.
To wrap up, it's immediately and obviously clear why Rocket League has enjoyed the success it has on PC and PS4. It's just a fun game. Even though tournaments are commonplace, it doesn't ever feel like it's taking itself too seriously. Enjoying yourself is front and center, and it's a refreshing change of pace to many other titles available today.
- Addictive and accessible gameplay
- Very stable online play
- Lots of fun for a relatively low price
- Rage quitters paradise, due to lack of punishment
We may have been a little late to the party, but this is the first must-buy title of 2016 for the Xbox One. You won't regret it.
Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine