The score is 3-3 with 10 seconds left on the clock. I clear the ball upfield. My teammate storms up behind to bounce it across their goal. I begin my run-up from the halfway line, boosting for extra speed. Just as the ball drops below the crossbar, I double-jump to soar over my opponents and nod the ball in, sealing our victory. It’s moments like this that make Rocket League one of the most exciting multiplayer games in years.
The sequel to the relatively unknown PS3 game Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered BattleCars, Rocket League is a physics-based, vehicular football game for PS4 and Windows. For Top Gear fans, think the car football episode on steroids. The controls are simple to pick up, but hide a surprising amount of depth. One tutorial introduces you to the basic car handling, followed by an advanced tutorial which teaches more difficult techniques such as front-flips, side-flips, bicycle kicks and aerial hits. There are also drills to help you practice shooting and goalkeeping. After plenty of training against the competent AI in season mode, you’ll be ready for multiplayer, where the game really shines.
Communication is key to a good Rocket League team, so this is best with a party of friends. If you’re playing without a headset, the developers have included some chat shortcuts – assigned to the directional buttons – which can be used to coordinate with your team or just comment on the match. It’s much more enjoyable in voice chat though – I can’t remember the last game I played that caused so many cries of delight and frustration from my teammates. And frustration is abundant. For every satisfying, perfectly executed moment of skill, there are 10 aggravating near-misses. The game never feels unfair, though; if something goes wrong, it’s probably your own fault. This means you’ll be constantly trying to improve your skills to create more of those awesome moments, which is a big part of what makes the game so addictive.
Another source of addiction is the customisation system. You can fully personalise your paint job, and choose from a number of car models, decals, hats, antenna toppers and rocket trails. At the end of each match, you’re randomly rewarded with a new item. To keep things fair, changes are purely cosmetic, but designing and showing off your car is great fun. While the first game failed to attract a big audience, Rocket League was made free for PlayStation Plus members on its release, which, combined with cross-platform play between PS4 and Windows, has created a thriving community. If you’re only interested in single-player games, you might want to look elsewhere, but for an addictive, challenging and exhilarating multiplayer experience, look no further than Rocket League.