My introduction to Rocket League was suitably chaotic. A friend had secured access to the beta, setting up 4v4 matches with six other people on two TVs. We played for hours. Between the unlikely goals, great assists and questionable demolition tactics, I loved every moment of it. There’s no game that better encapsulates the “just one more round” mentality than Rocket League. It’s currently my most played game of all time, each explosive match calling another, and I wasn’t the only one hooked. Psyonix knew it had a hit, teaming up with Sony to make it a “free” PS Plus game at launch, sealing the deal for many. Seven years later, Rocket League remains a winner.
Rocket League divides players into teams and asks them to score goals – using rocket-powered cars instead of feet, and using a ball that absolutely dominates them on the field. Compete to score the most points before time runs out – if you draw after 5 minutes, say hello to overtime and sudden death – you’ve got some tricks at your disposal. The boost pads are evenly distributed on the ground to provide a speed advantage, for example, allowing us to shoot at pace or demolish an opponent’s vehicle if we run into it at maximum speed. If you fancy trying something more technical, jump in and use this boost for aerial shots.
As you may have gathered, Rocket League is primarily multiplayer-focused, with a heavy emphasis on team strategy and player rotation. You won’t find fixed positions like in a football game, although setting up assists from midfield or staying behind as a goalkeeper often feels natural. Coordination with teammates is key and winning always feels better together.
Speaking of winning, scoring goals is a total joy and I maintain that few things in the game are more satisfying than landing that perfect antenna. If there’s one thing that explains Rocket League’s longevity, it’s that. You calculated the jump, judged the angle, hit the ball at the right time and in a short time? Return of the net.
Due to its immediacy and easy fun, the fundamentals of Rocket League remain largely intact since 2015. Make no mistake, though, the last seven years have ensured that it is a competitive game with a high skill ceiling. So it’s no surprise that Psyonix formed the Rocket League Championship Series in 2016. While its esports scene doesn’t compare to, say, League of Legends, RLCS remains strong. Best of all, Rocket League is also a seamlessly accessible experience for newcomers, enhanced by post-launch updates like cross-play and cross-platform progression. It’s busy too. Thanks to its innate friendliness and free Rocket League pass two years ago, I’ve never had trouble finding a match online.
Despite the success, it hasn’t always been the easiest journey. Mac and Linux support was dropped two years ago, but much earlier, in 2016, Psyonix introduced a loot box system called crates. Offering random exclusive items, this was poorly received, and crates were eventually removed, replaced by a blueprint system that tells you exactly what you’re getting. But the prices for using the plans vary. Providing all sorts of cosmetics, costs go down to 50 credits, but with rarer options I’ve seen them go up to 2500 credits. (For context, credits are mostly earned in set bundles, and 3,000 credits cost £18.75. Meanwhile, a Rocket Pass costs 1,000 credits.)
Monetization has become more widespread since it became free, which is both unfortunate and entirely expected. It’s still quite tricky to handle. Purchasing a Rocket Pass provides an EXP boost and items, of course, but Rocket League bypasses any pay-to-win. All those new cosmetic cars, decals, and other items are just that: cosmetics. Nobody gets an edge by using a Batmobile on Octane, and while that might not be the friendliest approach for gamers who bought Rocket League at launch – or those like me, who bought it on PC, Switch, and physically (look, it came with DLC packs) – Psyonix has, to its credit, provided “legacy rewards” to existing owners when switching to free-to-play. He also never encouraged his players to buy these cosmetics.
Beyond Rocket Pass, we’ve seen heavy post-launch updates that introduced new stages and modes, which kept me coming back. Mutators allow us players to play with the finer aspects of Rocket League – like setting unlimited boost or reduced gravity – and there are additional online playlists. Snow Day introduced an ice hockey-inspired variant that replaces the ball with a puck, we’ve got Mario Kart-style shenanigans with the item-filled Rumble Mode, and I can’t forget the basketball-inspired hoops either. ball. There are more, but my favorite is Heatseeker, which is basically Rocket League Pong. It’s a refreshing change because the ball moves automatically, and those times when my team scored without landing a single hit were a lot of fun.
We always get a regular list of new cars. Initially opting for more traditional DLC packs, Rocket League later implemented a revamped Item Shop with rotating vehicles, player banners, goal blasts and more. These are purchased via Credits, which can be earned through the Rocket Pass, but it’s almost never enough without requiring you to spend real money. For the more competitive, you’ll also find a separate esports store, which uses an alternate in-game currency. While the early days saw fun (and more available) crossovers like Back To The Future’s DeLorean, vehicles under Licensed playables still appear between seasons, and I haven’t stopped racing F1 cars since this pack went live – I’m a big fan of the 2021 Alfa Romeo/Williams combo.
My only major complaint is that recent updates haven’t been all that exciting, with Rocket League just feeling a little stagnant at points. I love seeing a shiny new McLaren as much as the next racing fan, but we haven’t seen any new modes in a while, and I can’t remember the last major update that wasn’t the Halloween event or a new season. Cosmetics alone aren’t enough to keep old players coming back. Of course, none of this diminishes the core experience. Just note that this may impact the length of your stay.
That’s not to say Psyonix didn’t try. Gotham City Rumble was a fun, limited-time release of Rumble last March, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S players received improvements via backwards compatibility, including 120Hz support, and we also saw a new mobile entry, Rocket League Sideswipe. But curiously, there’s still no word on native versions of the latest hardware from Sony and Microsoft, nearly two years after their launch, and it’s unclear exactly what the next big step is, which makes me wonder. ask what exactly Psyonix provides. Maybe a Rocket League 2 in a new engine, similar to Activision’s Warzone 2 approach? Who can honestly say.
Either way, I’m excited to see what the future holds for the incredible success of Psyonix. Seven years later, Rocket League is no longer in the spotlight, but it retains everything that made it special in 2015. Plus, with the move to a free-to-play model, there are no longer any barriers. upon entry and Rocket League maintains its large user base, meaning there’s arguably never been a better time to get started. I recommend you try it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Hoops match to inevitably lose.
This piece is part of our State of the Game series, where we check out some of the biggest running service games to see how they fare. You can find many more pieces like this in our State of the Game hub.