The game’s aesthetic is crisp and elegant. It’s easy to tell the difference between friend and foe but a variety of unlockable cosmetics allow you to personalise your car. The cosmetics also track a variety of different stats, this isn’t in any way essential, just a nice bonus for those chasing prestige. While the sound-effects largely consist of the crunch of the ball against your car, or your car against every other car, it’s simple and does the job well. You’re not there to listen to the boost engage and the crowd roar, but all these little details are there.
As I’m writing this, the servers are struggling to keep up with the games popularity. I haven’t encountered much personally but the anecdotal evidence is all over twitter, and the company are working on a fix. It’s been more popular than expected and it looks like they've got it under control but it would be remiss not the mention potential server issues in a game that’s so heavily weighted on the multiplayer component.
For all of the hours of fun I’ve had tearing around the arena with friends (and even random players, with voice chat turned off) single player is different. I’ve guided the Bit-Tech Bandits through match after match, but there’s none of the soul that makes the multiplayer so compelling.
It may sound odd to describe a game with rocket-powered bumper cars playing football as soulless, but the single player feels almost mechanical. The AI isn’t fantastic, scoring as many goals against themselves as they do against you. Bad pathfinding becomes even worse at 100mph; often your teammates will smash you away from the ball moments before you shoot. I’ve tried to play through a season of Rocket League’s single player mode and I can’t. I’ve hollered and cheered as I’ve scored goals only to be met by the silence of AI players and the disdainful expression of my cat.
At its best, Rocket League’s tense 5 minute matches rival even the immortal Speedball 2. But only with an internet connection. Much like sport in real life, Rocket League is only really fun if you’ve got people to play with. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, but it just doesn’t grip me the same way offline. Psyonix have produced a masterclass in multiplayer, but it falls flat solo.