You may have read my previous post, Rocket League in 2022. If you did, you might understandably wonder what justification I have for writing another review so soon. Has the game changed in some significant way? Have I found a secret level or a hidden asset to enhance my competitiveness or experience? Well, no on all counts.
My flimsy excuse for this update is based purely on a free 7-day trial online pass my daughter obtained to play games on the Nintendo Switch. She used this to mainly play Rocket League online, with and against hardened players, plus me.
As with many games, you may start by playing against the bots or a few friends. You perhaps begin to feel a bit smug as you improve and gain the occasional success and even more smug when the success becomes more regular. Then at some point, you get brave and enter the online world. This is when reality kicks in and you realise that when you thought you were quite good, you were actually still quite rubbish! On any game, it tends to be a ‘dog eat dog’ and ‘sink or swim’ environment. Let’s just say in this recent experience I generally got chewed up and spat out, before drowning.
I’m going to get my defence in early before I lay bare my generally disappointing performances on Rocket League. It had been over a year since I’d last played, I was on a different device/controller and hadn’t played online before, to my memory. I did no practice training and isn’t it remarkable what little skill and knowledge you’d developed previously so soon gets forgotten?
To start with, we both used her Switch and later I was on the Switch while she played on her PC at uni, with audio contact. We always played on the same team, either 3×3 or 4×4. The thinking was the more players in the game, the less significance my performance would carry. Fortunately, my daughter is very good to compensate for my lack of ability so our team was always competitive.
A few years ago she would have got really irritated with my failings but she has a different outlook now. I think she appreciates that I give it my all and probably realises she’s short on alternative options. I always tried to stay engaged and enthusiastic despite her laughing at me. Yes, now I’m generally a source of entertainment to her for my mishaps and over-celebrating each time I hit the ball. She also seemed to find it funny when I occasionally asked during a match ‘Are we the orange or blue team?’ I like to be certain!
Anyway, back to my defence. I was given virtually no help in reminding me how the game was played or what any of the buttons did on my left and right-hand controllers. My daughter also failed to tell me that we were playing in ‘ball cam’ and not ‘car cam’. Apparently, this is the more difficult option, especially for beginners but it’s the option that most serious players choose. I blamed this on the reason that at times I involuntarily steered the wrong way, driving up the sides and falling off the roof in a crumpled heap. My excuse may not have been justified! I later learned you can toggle between the two camera modes during games but it’s probably just as well I didn’t know this at the time. If I’ve totally confused you on whether or when to choose Ball Cam or No Ball Cam read here for a more informed opinion.
The downside of playing with a large number of players is its utter chaos! Players rarely get more than one touch before being taken out. With the high number of collisions, the ball is in the air much of the time. To counter this, you have to flip your car to strike the ball or it tends to bounce over you. To me, this just felt like self crashing but it’s vital to perfect the timing to make good contact, or in my case, any contact.
You may be getting the impression I didn’t enjoy playing Rocket League but actually, that’s not true. Yes, I admit there was a lot of frustration on my part but occasionally I would make a save, assist a goal or even score. Unfortunately, in most matches, I did none of those things and would have to endure the after-game inquest where the detailed stats are revealed and an overall score is displayed. Sometimes, my score would be in single figures and even a bot sometimes beat me, they are only drafted in after a human player exits during the match. Thankfully, my daughter usually gives me words of encouragement at this point, such as ‘Dad you’re rubbish!’
However, during one match, all the planets aligned and I briefly excelled. To begin with, it looked like it was going to be just another 5 minutes of underachieving but then I got a goal assist and then another. I have to admit I knew little about either. Then I followed up a rebound and did the car flip thingy and GOOOAAAALLLL! I was punching the air! Just moments later I had another chance, this time further out on the angle. I flipped again and it flew into the far corner. BOOM! YEESSSSSS! I was dancing around the living room while shouting mild profanities towards the screen at the opposing team! Not that they could hear me of course.
We’d won, but that was of less importance to me. Two goals, two assists and 340 points amassed. I really felt I should have been awarded the MVP, but wasn’t, although I did score more points than my daughter. It felt like redemption for all those missed opportunities and calamitous moments. So if you’re pretty hopeless at Rocket League, like me, stick with it and your moment in the sun will come!