My primary gamer confession, were I ever to feel guilt about such a thing, is that I very rarely play competitively. Not since the days of getting my face blown off by the blue shell in Mario Kart Wii have I ventured online or even against friends.
But before even realising I had the chance to practice offline, I took my first tentative steps into online gaming for years, by firing up Rocket League for Playstation 4 – and I’m hooked.
The gist of Rocket League is caught somewhere between ice hockey, football and Wipeout – lead your team to glory by blasting an oversized ball into the opposition’s goal using one of a range of tricked-out supercharged cars and vans. Defend your goal with your life before zooming out into the field, using gravity-defying flips and jumps to help set up your own attacks.
The gameplay is simplicity itself, though learning to master control of both your car and the ball is the real challenge – as is fending off attempts on goal by the opposition.
It never occurred to me that the game was set up for practice with and against bot opposition, including Exhibition and Season settings, the latter of which allows you to take control of an American-style league team aiming to make the playoffs and latterly the final, to win the glory.
Such is my inexperience with online gaming – nay, my newly-coined n00bosity – that I’d rarely played any games which allowed you to take the action to players around the world, but something about Rocket League made me want to make the jump before I’d even really got used to the playing experience.
And judging by the amount of empty lobbies I’ve found myself in this weekend after a game ends, a lot of people could easily tell.
That attitude of abandonment began to grate after a while, as a typical game put me in mind of my brace of appearances for my primary school football team – a flock of aimless children running after the ball, no matter what position up the field they were dragging themselves out from and leaving vulnerable.
Didn’t stop me from joining in chasing the ball all around the field, though – but it annoyed me immensely after a while to be smashed off the ball by my own team-mates. Without the benefit of team radio, I didn’t know if they were innocently ploughing through the field or actually trying to selfishly muscle me off the ball – a lot of the time from much worse positions such as facing the wrong way.
Assuming that nobody really was being that much of a dick in taking it seriously – but you never know – playing Rocket League has become one of my favourite recent gaming experiences. And hey, I’m actually pretty good at it, as the clumsily-edited PS4 share video below will attest.
A last-second equalising goal followed by an immediate overtime winner. I’ll take it.
Free with June’s batch of PS Plus games, Rocket League has gone a long way to justifying that monthly subscription for me. If you do own it yourself, just one tip: don’t take it too seriously. It really is just a game, but a hell of a lot of fun.