Everything was fine. My Rocket League partner and I had scored three times early on, and though the other team was scraping together a comeback with back-to-back goals, we were still ahead. But for some reason, my buddy decided to leave mid-match. Now, I was alone.

2-on-2 is my favorite way to play Rocket League right now. There’s just the right amount of chaos, while allowing for plenty of interesting strategies between two players.

If you’re playing in unranked matches, the game will fill empty spots on the playing field with bots. If you’re playing in ranked matches, however, those empty spots will stay empty, so if a player drops out—or their Internet connection boots them off—the match becomes lopsided.

(Right now, there’s zero penalty for quitting matches, but that’s getting addressed in a patch.)

I’m not sure what happened to this player. Maybe they decided to quit after our opponents scored another goal, figuring the momentum was swinging the other way. Or, perhaps, they lost faith in me. Either way, I was confronted with two scenarios:

Advertisement

  • Join the quitters club and look for another match
  • Suck it up and become a hero

I chose the latter, and went off to war.

Advertisement

I’m an overly conservative player, preferring to let others duke it out with one another, while I patiently wait for the ball to bounce just right, creating an opening. In order to have any chance against these two, I’d need to choose my battles carefully—any mistake could be fatal.

My general strategy? Let the other team mess up; I needed to take the easy shots. But since I was currently in the lead, I wanted to focus on wasting time. When you’re ahead, it’s usually easier to prevent the other team from getting a shot off than actually lining one up yourself.

Three minutes may not seem like much time, but in Rocket League, it can feel like an eternity.

Advertisement

I knocked more than a minute off the clock before screwing up a defensive turnaround, handing them an incredibly easy goal.

Argh. If my partner had been around, maybe they’d have stopped that, but this is all on me.

Advertisement

My approach had to change, as I no longer held the upper hand. Now, I desperately needed to score a goal, which meant waiting for an opportunity. When you’re playing with multiple people, you can take some chances and go for a sexy trick shot, but that probably wouldn’t work here. A missed shot could mean I’m on the wrong side of the map.

Thankfully, opportunity came knocking 30 seconds later, after sweating bullets and trying to avoid situations like this too often:

Advertisement

Can’t do much good when your car is on the ground, but I quickly turned lemons into lemonade because the other team couldn’t figure out who should be the one to deflect a fortuitous bounce.

(This happens all the time in Rocket League, since voice chat isn’t common with strangers. You have to read the location, velocity, and movement of other players to figure out whether you should be the aggressor or back off and hope the other player is ready to command the ball.)

Advertisement

Fortunately for me, they screwed that up! With a little over a minute to go, I was ahead again.

This would not last, though. A botched attempt to send the ball towards the other side of the arena gave someone a chance to tap the ball, and there was nothing I could do.

Advertisement

This one was a heartbreaker. 40 seconds is plenty of time for something to happen in Rocket League, but as the seconds tick down, the more anxious you become about the next shot. The more anxious you are about the next shot, the more likely you are to completely screw it up.

What gave me hope, however, was knowing I’d kept the team on their heels. With a few exceptions, they were chasing me, not the other way around. So if I’d taken advantage of that before, maybe I could do it again.

The next goal—the one that assured my victory—initially perplexed me. I managed to send the ball sailing in the right direction, and set up a relatively straightforward shot. But how come no one even tried to stop me from pulling this off?

Advertisement

Why is one player hopping around like they’re on a pogo stick? And where is the other one?

While putting this together, I loaded up the replay, went searching for answers, and found this:

Advertisement

Basically, they knew I’d landed the perfect shot, and did their best to flip and flop to the other end of the arena, hoping I’d mess up the finish. That was not meant to be, and I was in the lead.

After another 21 seconds of sending the ball flying into the air, the match was over. I’d won.

Against all odds, I’d saved the day. Playing without a partner isn’t how I want to play Rocket League on a regular basis, but I’ve had few greater thrills than finishing this match on top.

Advertisement

Onto the next one.

You can reach the author of this post at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.