Disclaimer: All views presented here are of my own.
Rocket League to me has always been one of those games that looked easy and insanely fun, but in actuality was far from it. Which is why I tried playing Rocket League on PC, I was made painfully aware of how bad I was and humbled. After which I never went back to the game, mostly because I
Well now we have Rocket League Sideswipe, a mobile version of the game that looks every bit as easy and fun. But is it still deceivingly as difficult as the PC version? and how well does it work as a mobile F2P title? These were some of the questions I wanted to answer when I picked up the game. So here is an early review and deconstruction(maybe?)!
Core Game Experience
For a game that is as skill dependent as Rocket League, controls is pretty much the decider on if this game will work on this platform or not. And Psyonix has made some great decisions adapting the game to the platform.
In Rocket League Sideswipe, the biggest deviation from the PC port in my opinion would be restricting the gameplay to 2D.
I can understand why this decision was made. For one, reducing the environment to 2 dimensions reduces the cognitive load on the player when it comes to environmental awareness and secondly, it simplifies the gameplay enough to potentially appeal to a broader player base.
Additionally, the game currently only allows a maximum of 2v2 games compared to the standard 3v3 because of the said reduced playing space, having more than 3 players per team would have been too messy visually.
Movement and Skill Controls
Movement is handled via a virtual joystick where dragging the joystick in a particular direction moves the car in said direction, and it works perfectly fine even while keeping in mind there is vertical movement which is not common for driving/racing games.
The game also constantly reminds the player the direction they are facing with various UI cues.
There are also other cues that nudge the player towards making right decisions. Like for example, pointing the car downwards drops the car faster than if the car is facing elsewhere during the drop.
The two primary skill controls that the game starts you with, is the boost and jump button. But, unbeknownst to me, there was a third boosted jump button which can be activated from the Control settings in the game. Which I assume was kept hidden to keep the screen cleaner for newer players.
The game also has some hidden control schemes to enable nifty tricks in-game like double dragging a specific direction to trigger air rolls, which assist in aerial manoeuvres.
Finally there is a button dedicated to emojis and quick chat phrases that we all know and love. Because what is Rocket League if not prime meme material.
Psyonix has also added other options for players to customise the game to their specifications with options like configurable input widgets, fixed goalpost locations, fixed or free moving joystick all of which are great additions to a game where input plays such a big part of the game.
If there’s something that Rocket League’s PC version does particularly well, it’s achieving depth through the various in-game mechanics available. The ability to be able to truly understand the game mechanics and perform moves like dribbling, passing, rebound shots, ceiling shots and not to mention the magic that is aerials, is what makes Rocket League such a high skill ceiling game.
Though a lot of the more complex aspects of the game were naturally eliminated in Rocket League Sideswipe considering the fact that it is 2D, I think the game still has a reasonably high skill ceiling which can be both demanding and very satisfying to pull off and watch. Some of which are,
Flip and Boosted Flip shots – This is a staple in Rocket League and works really nicely in Sideswipe also.
Positional Skillshots – Something new in Sideswipe (AFAIK) are position based skill shots, which is unique the the platform considering how position works in the 2D, touch based environment. The game has specific UX cues like color highlights, shine and sound effects in place to give you adequate feedback.
Ceiling Shots and Flip Resets – In Rocket League, the ability to flip is restricted based on if you’re on the ground or on the air. After a flip, the car is allowed to flip again only after the wheels touch the ground, ceiling or even the ball. Which may not seem important, but in high skill games can lead to some incredible game turning moments.
Aerials – I was honestly surprised at how much of the aerial skills from PC still translated to mobile. Boost management and aerial manoeuvres like dribbling, air rolls and boost management are all relevant in a very meaningful way.
Game Modes and MatchMaking
There are 3 game modes available. 1v1 (Duels), 2v2’s and Hoops (Also 2v2).
Besides the minor differences between the 1v1 and 2v2 modes like shorter goalposts in 1v1. The rules of the game and how it is played is the same, which is score as many goals as possible.
Hoops is an alternative 2v2 mode akin to Basketball, where players try to shoot hoops and score. In this game mode, there are other elements that come to play like a jump ball start, a different way to score and a more aerial focussed gameplay.
Each of the game modes have their own ranking system. Where a player climbs up the ranks by winning 3 matches in their current rank. The approach to a separate ranking based on mode is very beneficial to the player, where they get to identify and excel at the mode they enjoy the most.
Metagame and Social
RocketLeague’s content has always been around cosmetics like car bodies, boost effects, goal explosions, decals, toppers, BGM, avatars, banners, titles and quick chat stickers, without being pay-to-win. And Sideswipe is no different.
The game also has Rocket Pass, where players can complete challenges, play matches to earn XP, coins and progress. Currently, there is no paid track available, it might potentially be added in the second season.
Coins are the only currency in game, which are used to purchase all the various cosmetics in the game.
Sideswipe currently has no means of monetisation. My assumption being that Psyonix is testing the waters with the game. However I assume even when monetisation is brought to the game in the future, it will be driven by cosmetics similar to how it is currently done in PC.
Rocket League PC has a thriving trading system in place where there is an entire player-based marketplace for trading items. I am very curious to see if Psyonix will try to integrate this system in some capacity to Sideswipe. Only time will tell!
Besides these features, the game is missing some of the bells and whistles expected from a traditional F2P mobile title, like leaderboards, clubs, live events among other things.
Currently, the extent of social features is restricted to adding friends and forming 2 man teams for matches. Which I may argue is essential to the core experience since Rocket League is inherently a team game. Again, it should be safe to assume the team is hard at work bringing all sorts of amazing features if or when they decide to.
What I Like So Far
Visual Polish – It is an undeniable fact that the game is gorgeous to look at and play. Everything ranging from the cars, environment, UI, Audio have managed to maintain AAA standards and game preserves the spirit of Rocket League unequivocally.
Meaningful Adaptation to Platform – I have to admit that the game controls, mechanics has been so well designed for mobile, that I genuinely felt I was half decent at this game and it wasn’t nearly as off-putting or intimidating as the original PC version. So, kudos to the team at Psyonix team for the amazing work!
Preservation of Depth and Skill Ceiling (To a point) – Though some of the compromises that were made for the platform lost out on some depth via mechanics. The game still has a high skill ceiling and has all the opportunities for player mastery and growth that should keep them occupied and playing for long. Not to mention, the possibility of Rocket League mobile potentially entering the esports scene.
In essence, Sideswipe is the perfect mobile companion to its PC counterpart. But is that enough?
What I’d Like To See – Completing the Package
Considering the fact that the game is still very new, and the team is most likely working on bringing more content in the game and fixing the obvious bugs (Matchmaking and latency issues mostly), the game is missing certain elements to complete the package in my opinion. They are,
1. Moar Multiplayer Features!- This could be through rank exclusive stadiums, game modes, viewing other profiles, spectating among other things. Currently ranking only serves the purpose of Matchmaking and leaderboards, which is great! But it is missing potential highlights and acknowledgement of the players skill or taste in customisation!
2. Moar Social Loops! – Currently, all we can do now is add friends and play with them when they are online. I’d like to think building additional compulsive social loop through clubs and club related events, challenges will really bring out the collaborative aspect of the game.
3. Casual Modes – Currently the only way to play is ranked. Which makes the game more difficult the more you play. After you’ve reached your plateau of skill, then it’s all downhill from there. Which means games could become frustrating from the constant downgrade of ranks. Which is where a casual mode might come to the rescue with some stress free playing options.
4. More Visibility For Advanced Mechanics – I wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the hidden gems in the game if not for helpful videos on YT. The current tutorial barely covers the basics. I’d have loved it if there were other advanced tutorials in the the training area that taught me more complex moves.
All in all I can say without a doubt that Rocket League Sideswipe is a well thought out, polished and not to mention masterfully adapted game that is every bit as fun and gratifying as its PC counterpart!