The smash hit indie game finds a new home on Switch, from the same team behind the recent port of Doom.
When we first reviewed Rocket League on the PlayStation 4 we compared it to the episode of Top Gear where they were playing football with cars. But in the two years since then the game has become such a phenomenal success that in many people’s eyes it must now seem as if Top Gear are copying Rocket League, not the other way around. The game deserves every ounce of its success though, including on Nintendo Switch.
There have been a few attempts over the years to make arcade style football games, such as the Mario Strikers games, but they never properly compensated for the lack of realism with equally nuanced gameplay of their own creation. Rocket League is patently impossible in real life, since whatever Clarkson and co. got up to it didn’t involve jumping their car into the air whenever they want or using a turbo boost to fly across the pitch. But in Rocket League that’s made to seem perfectly reasonable.
Your cars can even perform a forward roll through the air, which as silly as it sounds is actually one of the most versatile abilities. If you’ve temporarily run out of boost power then it’ll speed you up, but you can also roll in any other direction, allowing you to quickly reposition your car for a desperate last minute save. Or line yourself up before punting the ball at the opponent’s goal.
The controls are expertly balanced, and despite the basic visuals there’s an impressive attention to detail. The controller rumbles subtly as you dribble, and the screen shakes whenever you touch the ball – with a strike proceeded by a fighting game style pause to drive home the power of the shot. The cars do feel extremely light, but you quickly get used to the game’s peculiar stance on the laws of physics.
It can be a little tricky to actually keep track of the ball at times, but there’s an optional ball cam that tries to compensate for this. Although the real countermeasure is simply practice, and making sure you take the game seriously. Because it takes real skill to do well at Rocket League and as simple as the controls are, mastering them is another thing entirely. Which is why it’s become such a hit on the esports circuit.
To its credit the game provides a detailed tutorial for the three fundamentals of shooting, defence, and flying. But we haven’t even mentioned the absolute best feature of the game: four-player splitscreen mode. At a time when offline multiplayer is under more attack than ever Rocket League is at its absolute best when played by four jeering players all crowded around the same TV.
If you don’t have quite enough friends to go around, either offline or on, then places are filled in automatically by bots, which is something most triple-A multiplayer games don’t even bother to do. In fact, you can add as many of them as you want in private matches, as the game does its best to let you play however you want.
Just as it sounds, this is all absolutely perfect for the Switch. Especially as it means you can play two-player anywhere with just the one console, with the loss of camera control being the only negative in using just a single Joy-Con. Four-player is only available when docked, but that’s a limitation of the screen size as much as anything else.
But if you don’t have anyone to play with nearby all the game’s original online features are available on Switch, including cross-network play with Xbox One and PC (Sony still won’t allow the PlayStation 4 to play with other formats).
The port has been carried out by Panic Button, the same team behind the surprisingly good Switch version of Doom. As with that game there are compromises in the performance, with a dynamic resolution in handheld mode that changes depending on the stadium (docked the game runs at a locked 720p) and lots of jaggies. These are not noticeable problems when you’re playing though and, unlike Doom, the game maintains an all-important 60fps at all times.
The only brand-new features for the Switch version are exclusive Super Mario World and Metroid cars, plus some other Nintendo customisation options. But that’s a nice touch even so, after the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version got their own format specific-extras. And if you don’t want to race around with a Mario hat on your roof the game still boasts 100 billion possible customisation combinations.
There’s always been a very old school feel about Rocket League, from the emphasis on local multiplayer to the inherent simplicity of the whole concept. And in that sense it feels like a perfect match for the Switch, and Nintendo’s general philosophy. You don’t need to like football, cars, or even video games to enjoy Rocket League; you just need to like having fun.
In Short: An excellent new version of the smash hit multiplayer game, that takes a simple premise and turns it into one of the best competitive arcade games of the generation.
Pros: The controls and moveset are near perfect for what the game’s trying to do, and the range of options and modes impressively complete. Multiplayer is great online and off.
Cons: The physics can seem a little too floaty at times, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of the ball in a particularly frantic match. Minor visual compromises on Switch.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Developer: Panic Button and Psyonix
Release Date: 14th November 2017
Age Rating: 3