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Rocket League (Switch) review

On the go.

For my money, Rocket League is one of the best games of the last twenty years. Its simple design philosophy belies its deep mechanics and addictive gameplay. Stripping sports games of all the fluff and extra mechanics, Rocket League focuses on what truly matters: punting a ball by flipping your rocket-powered RC car into it and letting the engine’s refined physics take its course. It doesn’t just put you in control of players on the field; you are the player on the field, and Rocket League’s mechanical demands are, in my opinion, the closest any video game has come yet to replicating true athleticism. In the year since I’ve been playing it on the Xbox One, I don’t think a single game even comes close in regards to the amount of hours I’ve sunk into Rocket League. If it wasn’t for its loot crate system, which locks certain cars (and their respective hit-boxes) behind a luck-based microtransaction system, Rocket League would arguably be a “perfect” game.

It suffices to say that I was eager to try Rocket League on the Nintendo Switch, and for the most part it doesn’t disappoint. It’s the same game you know and love on other platforms, and its consistent performance means you’re almost never at a disadvantage in cross-platform play. Even if you already own Rocket League on another platform, you might want to consider trying it on the Switch, especially because you will earn a couple of fun, exclusive Mario- and Metroid-themed battle-cars. However, some visual concessions and some odd omissions mean that, while Rocket League plays perfectly well on the Switch, it’s technically not the best version.

Rocket League has grown up a lot in the two-plus years it’s been out, and it shows. Players who are picking up Rocket League on the Switch for the first time will be treated to a refined physics-based experience with a solid online ranking system and only the small remnants of once-prominent server issues. Rocket League’s addictive gameplay is, in many ways, a perfect match for the Switch. Getting into matches is as quick and painless as possible and, with five-minute time limits, you can be in and out in no time. On top of that, cross-platform play with PC and Xbox One players means there’s already a massive roster of competitors to fill online matches, so Rocket League on the Switch won’t live and die by how many people purchase it for Nintendo’s console, which just came out a few months ago and, despite its popularity, doesn’t yet have the numbers of the other platforms.

Rocket League is a game that is the definition of easy to learn and hard to master, so as a social experience, bringing your Switch to a friend’s house and goofing around on the virtual pitch is a no-brainer. And if you’re a more serious Rocket League player, the game runs at a consistent 60 frames per second whether the Switch is in docked or portable modes. In fact, hitting aerials and wall shots with the Switch Pro Controller feels way better than with my comparatively hulking Xbox One controller, to the point where I’ve been finding myself playing the Switch version over Xbox One version.

However, while the Switch’s portability—one of the console’s main selling points—means that you can play Rocket League on the go, at higher levels of play you’re probably going to want to dock the console and play with a monitor. Docked, Rocket League hits a respectable native 720p that, while certainly rougher than its 1080p counterparts, barely makes a difference in competitive play. However, when playing in portable mode, the visuals downgrade even further, making it more difficult to read your opponent’s approach, especially when they’re on the other side of the pitch and you’re sweating in the goal, waiting for them to make their move while their tiny pixelated car does something in the distance. The graphical hit also means that one of Rocket League’s most useful and recent changes—the introduction of transparent goalposts—is noticeably absent from the Switch version, putting Switch players at a slight disadvantage when it comes to their PC or Xbox counterparts. Of course, you can turn off cross-platform play, but I found that matching with only Switch players takes much longer than matching with everyone, even in the rare cases when I I ended up in a match with only Switch players.

Though the lower graphical output is screamingly conspicuous at times, given the choice between smoother graphics and a more consistent frame rate when it comes to Rocket League’s fast-paced action and timing-intensive mechanics, I’d take a smooth 60 fps any day of the week. Especially when it means being able to play Rocket League whenever I want, wherever I want (as long as there’s an internet connection). Even playing with individual Joy-Cons is more than doable, and any complaints I’d have about that would be leveled at the Joy-Cons themselves and not at how Psyonix has utilized them.

That being said, I was slightly disappointed (if not unsurprised) that Psyonix didn’t at least try to introduce motion controls. I usually turn my nose up at motion controls, but as someone who’s put at least several days worth of playtime into Rocket League with standard controls, it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to try motion controls. Tilting the Joy-Cons to perform air rolls or shaking them Super Mario Odyssey-style to flip into the ball would have been, if nothing else, an interesting experiment. That being said, it’s a feat that you can play Rocket League even with a single Joy-Con and have it not feel absolutely terrible, so I have to give Psyonix its due-credit there.

Joy-Cons and portability aren’t the only place where you can tell Rocket Leagueis making the best of the situation. The limitations of Nintendo’s online multiplayer system hinder but don’t completely halt Rocket League’s attempts at functioning as a competitive game on the Switch. You can still create a party in-game and invite teammates from your friends list just as you would on any other platform, and unlike in some first-party multiplayer games I know (looking at you, Splatoon 2), you’re guaranteed to be on the same team. Unfortunately, voice chat is a no-go in-game, so your communication will be limited to the sixteen quick chat responses available via your D-pad. But the fact Rocket League maintains its painless party system and fast queue times on the Switch is a pretty impressive feat.

The ranking system also seems to work really well, at least in my experience. After my first ten matches on both standard and doubles, my Nintendo account ended up at the same rank that I am on my Xbox Live account, which tells me that whatever Psyonix is doing to rank players is working, and the Switch version is at the same level as any other platform.

Rocket League on the Switch performs just as well overall as the other two console versions of the game. There may be some graphical limitations and the Switch itself may throw a wrench into competing at the highest levels of the game’s rank system, but if you’re just looking for some fun “soccer with RC cars” action, this game is a must-play for Switch owners who have yet to try the revolutionary sports title.

★★★★☆

The formula that has kept Rocket League fresh translates exceedingly well to Nintendo’s hybrid system, whether docked or portable. Less polished visuals are a small price to pay to be able to play Rocket League anytime, anywhere, at a performance level that never quits, though the notable jaggies and (through no fault of its own) a hindered party system mean that the Switch version isn’t the most competitive version of the game.

Developer
Psyonix
Publisher
Psyonix
ESRB
E - Everyone
Release Date
11.14.17
Rocket League is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version played was for Switch. Code/hardware was provided by Psyonix for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.

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