Rocket League. Oh, Rocket League. Football, with cars. It’s a game people can’t stop playing, but it’s also a game a lot of people suck at. So here are some beginner’s tips which might help you suck a little less.
They key to getting better at Rocket League (at least until you get real good, and can master walls and flying) is to realise that, yes, even though there are cars, this is still at its heart a game of football. The Beautiful Game. If you know the fundamentals of actual football, you’ll be in a better position to master the fundamentals of Rocket League, because they’re often the same. If you don’t, or want to see how they apply to Rocket League, read on!
The game includes two tutorials, a basic and advanced. Play them both, then master them both. It’s not much to ask. You’re going to need to be pulling these moves off at breakneck speed and at a split second’s notice, especially the difference between a regular forward flip (for shooting) and a sidewards flip (for “headers” or tackles).
I see this almost every game, and every game, it makes me laugh/cry: all six (or whatever) cars all chasing the ball around like angry chickens. This isn’t how you play real football, and it isn’t how you play Rocket League. The pitch is big, so make the most of it! If you see 2-3 other cars contesting the ball, there’s no need for you to get in there and make a further mess of it; instead, drive away into open space and wait. Charge up your boost. The ball is soon going to go flying away from that pack, and if you’ve got full boost and a good angle on it, you’re in prime position to take a shot (or make a clearance!).
Know why the game rewards you with points for a “center ball”? Because crossing is an integral part of football, and can also be an integral part of Rocket League. If you’ve got the ball against the wall near the goal, don’t try and turn around or do something fancy. Whack it into the middle off the fence, and hope a teammate is there to put it in. Even if they’re not, the ball will be hanging around the front of the opposition’s goal, and that’s when this game is at its crazy best.
Teamwork is vital. If you’re playing with friends this is easy, but if you’re playing with strangers, there are still ways you can work together silently. When you “spawn”, generally one player will be further back towards their own goal than the others. That player should volunteer to be the “goalie”, someone who hangs back and can tidy up long shots or make a last-second tackle. Instead of speeding in trying to get the first touch, just reverse a little and get ready. I’ve seen (and scored) goals off the kick-off that wouldn’t have gone in if someone had been goalkeeping.
This is related to above, but there’s no shame in defending! Everyone wants to get the goals and the 100 points and the glory, but games are made up of both attack and defence, and if you play without the latter, you’re going to lose. I’ve found defending to be pretty fun; there’s a cruel joy in depriving people of goals they thought they’d score, and once you get good at clearing the ball (which you get points for) you can quickly turn defence into attack. Try not to be a traditional “goalkeeper”, though; sitting still in the middle of the goals will be almost useless. Instead, wait around your own goals, then as soon as you get a good angle on an approaching shot/ball, race out and get it. If you’re trying to get a touch only a few feet from the goal, you’ve left it too late.
One of the things that makes this such a bonkers game is the size and speed of the ball. The way it floats makes keeping track of the ball (and controlling it) difficult, but it’s never harder than when you’re in close quarters with other cars trying to get a touch. One thing I’ve noticed is that 90% of players are driving around in the ball’s shadow, which is a fruitless pursuit; the smarter thing to do is to pull back (or pause) and see where the ball is actually going to land, then make sure your car is in the right position to get it when it does. Kinda like dogfighting in a plane/space game.
I used to play American Football, and my coach had a very simple rule for new recruits: “If you’re ever lost and don’t know what to do, hit someone. Anyone”. It was sound advice then, and it’s sound advice for this very different type of football. If you suck but are having fun, or just want to vent, or have a spare moment, or the other team has one player in particular who is just whupping you, destroy them. Get enough speed up and hit them cleanly and you can “kill” them, their car exploding and forcing a respawn away from the action. It feels good and you’ll even get some points for doing it.
The game gives you a choice of two camera views. One follows your car directly, like a traditional driving game, the other links your car’s view to that of the ball, so that both are always in view. The latter is a little harder to come to grips with, but you really need to master it: you simply can’t play Rocket League well with the default “behind car” view, because you don’t have enough information as to what’s going on with the rest of the game.
The game is at its most chaotic when the ball is bobbling around a goal but not actually going in. Every attacker wants their goal, every defender wants the ball gone. It’s tempting for every player in the game to get in there, but hold up; defenders can often accidentally put it into their own goal, or attackers knock away a ball that was already going in, all because they get within six feet of the goal and lose their fucking minds. If you don’t have a clear shot or angle on the ball in this situation, get out of there and leave it alone before you make things worse.
I know you can drive up the walls, and sometimes you have to, and sometimes it looks cool, but try not to. Unless you are an A++++ superstar at this game who can flip and fly and stuff (and if you are, you aren’t reading this), driving up walls slows you down, gets you out of the action and screws up the camera, making it hard to orient yourself.
Don’t just rely on the game’s boost mechanic for bursts of speed. Those are good for covering short distances, but if you need to leg it to the other end of the pitch in a hurry, use the forward flip (forwards on stick + double jump button) instead; it’s just as fast and you can use it as often as you like.
That about does it! Like I said, a lot of these are common to actual football, not just Rocket League, and that’s a big part of why I love this game. It’s also something I find fascinating: everywhere I look are Americans getting really into this game, and the reasons they love it aren’t necessarily for car violence reasons, but football reasons: the agony and the ecstasy of goal-line clearances and last-minute winners, the joy of scoring, the pain of not scoring.
For all the billions FIFA and MLS and US Soccer and TV networks have spent trying to get the game to stick in the US, it’s weird that so many people I know online are only understanding football now, through a game about cars, but whatever, so long as we get there in the end!
If you’ve got any other good tips, leave them below and I’ll add them to the post!