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Rocket League (2015) ★★

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Rocket League (2015) ★★

Review by Lowell-San
Published on May 15, 2016

Developed by: Psyonix
Platform of Record: Personal Computer, PlayStation 4
Distribution: Optical Disc, Digital
Genre: Sports > Soccer, Vehicle Combat


Rocket League is like that episode of The Simpsons where Milhouse loses his shit over the cup-and-ball, and when he screams that "You never know which way this crazy ball's gonna go!", we laughed, because only a pathetic child with no taste or imagination could have found any excitement in that.  And the joke's on us, because we are now a nation of Milhouses and Rocket League is a "Game of the Year candidate".

Yes, the world is actually ENJOYING Rocket League, with its emphasis on "easy to learn and difficult to master" -- curse Nolan Bushnell for ever uttering the phrase -- but the concept should bore the hell out of anyone who has experienced the Twisted Metals and the Mario Karts, for the simple reason that arena and vehicle combat games should, you know...have combat?  Or environmental hazards?  Or arena-altering events?  Or more than a handful of similarly-themed, simplistic arenas?  Rocket League is a car combat game with no car combat!  Psyonix is replacing the combat with a ball and arguing that the ball can carry the game, when the body of comparable games has shown us that it's everything SURROUNDING the ball that completes the contract.

I mean, did we forget the lessons of Unreal Tournament?  Because the genius of "sport of the future" is that you can go completely off the wall, creating "sports" that would be completely impossible in a more grounded setting while inheriting the advantages of digital rulesets.  You can create huge, immersive fantasy worlds and place the sports IN THEM, and use the flexibility of the digital so that you can create hundreds of different arenas with their own flavor and backstory, instead of sticking to one.  (You listening, dota fans?)  Whereas Rocket League is using soccer as the base for fantasy and then...asking you to play soccer, with the same scoring system as soccer, the same playing field as soccer, the same general principles as soccer, only with fewer participants and fewer moving parts.

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And Rocket League tries to get away with it by peddling the same scam that the e-Sports have been pushing for years, whether it's Dota, or StarCraft, or whatever: If your game cannot compete against the complexity, scope, and ambition of other games, then you throw up tedious input barriers and convince players your game is about "skill" and "depth".  It doesn't matter if the things that lead to the depth are boring, because dammit, depth is depth!  And here we have Rocket League, the game where you play soccer by DRIVING A CAR into the ball, and look at how much skill it takes, and you never know which way that crazy ball's going to go, and what a motherfucking yawn.

So here's another champion contender in the pile of stupid-simple games that ruse the masses with "elegance", a game with just enough craft and originality to convince the people who would never touch a FIFA or a Winning Eleven that it's not just another boring-ass soccer videogame like all boring-ass soccer videogames.  There are so many obvious routes for improvement that you can't help but compare Rocket League with the more mature racing, driving, and sports games that already exist, because it's doing its best Donkey Kong impression when those genres have seen their Marios and Castlevanias and beyond.  No amount of LOLESPORTS will change that, and if you want to be blunt, that's all Rocket League is: A sick parody of e-Sports.

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Review by Lowell-San
Published on May 15, 2016

Developed by: Psyonix
Platform of Record: Personal Computer, PlayStation 4
Distribution: Optical Disc, Digital
Genre: Sports > Soccer, Vehicle Combat

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