Rocket League is all about timing.
Beginners rush in like nine-year-olds on the soccer field, chasing the ball without thought for position. Experts wait, they evaluate, they choose the precise moment to strike and bam! Back of the net.
Funny that — Rocket League’s success too, was all about timing. The precision of it. Releasing at a time where we had little to talk about, little to get excited about. Releasing for free on PlayStation Plus. It felt like providence. Rocket League was one of the most talked about and played games of 2015, but you get the sense that — released at the wrong time, on the wrong platform — Rocket League could have been a spectacular failure instead of what it was: a spectacular success.
But none of that has to do with the quality of the game itself.
Rocket League is, basically, a great video game. It’s a cool high concept — soccer with cars — executed in such a way that it’s almost unbelievable just how good it is. In a strange sense, it’s probably the best soccer game ever made. It’s NBA Jam for a new generation, except there’s a skill cap there and it’s tremendously high.
The polish, the visual style. The details of it. The simplicity. The control system — easy to play, difficult to master.
My process with Rocket League was hilarious. When I started I played with wild abandon, with a kind of youthful verve. I wanted to win, but losing was hardly an issue. Games were short and winning wasn’t a life or death scenario. Rocket League was a rare commodity: an online multiplayer game where it was fun to lose.
That’s how it was in the beginning.
Cut to a week later. Me, with my feet under me and an understanding of how Rocket League worked, shouting at random people who couldn’t actually hear me. Getting legitimately angry at people who don’t defend, people who rushed the ball at kick-off. Getting angry at people who were terrible at Rocket League, angry at people who were too good at Rocket League. Just angry all the time.
But still somehow enjoying myself. I remember thinking to myself. Is this what it feels like… to play a MOBA?
People did move away from Rocket League quickly, which is strange. I remember thinking, ‘this is the future of eSports’ but people seemed to leave as quickly as they arrived. Distracted by Metal Gear Solid V and, eventually, Fallout 4. It’s not that the game lacked depth or nuance, it’s wasn’t even necessarily a stop-gap until the big guns came out to play. It’s difficult to explain really, people loved Rocket League, they talked about it and then they just moved on to the next thing.
But a strong core group continue to play and I suspect that won’t change. Rocket League is now very much a thing. It might not be the thing, but it’s a thing. I still play once in a while, with friends. I, for one, am very glad it exists.