Rocket League was one of the year’s surprise hits when it launched as a free PlayStation Plus title back in 2015. Since then, the game has surpassed $110 million in revenue and, as of last year, had over 15 million players across three platforms—not to mention Rocket League is currently one of the most popular eSports titles to date, thanks to Psyonix’s Rocket League Championship Series. How does such a monumental title hold up on Nintendo Switch? The answer: Rocket League on Switch is a competent port that nails mostly everything that made the game such a phenomenal hit.
A follow-up to Psyonix’s Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, the more conservatively named Rocket League’s premise is a simple one: soccer with rocket-powered cars. The player controls their own semi-customizable Battle Car and can drive, jump, flip, and boost—either solo or with one to three other teammates—to try and hit an oversized ball into the other team’s goal to score points. On paper, the idea of Rocket League might sound ridiculous, but in practice, it’s pure fun. Learning to control your Battle Car and how the game’s physics work does take some time, but once you’ve played a few matches, you start getting into the flow of the game. Once you’ve learned your Battle Car’s basic functions, you can then start learning more high-level techniques, such as aerial hits and properly launching off walls. These more difficult techniques take time to master, to be sure, but Rocket League is still fun, no matter one’s skill level.
Though Rocket League’s aptly named “Soccar” mode is the main attraction, it’s not the only game type on offer. There is also a basketball game called Hoops, where you have essentially giant basketball hoops, and you have to try to hit the ball upward for it to then fall into the hoops to score. Techniques like aerial hits are more necessary in Hoops, and it’s definitely a fun alternative game. Another game, Snow Day, trades out the ball for a giant puck and essentially becomes a game of car hockey. The interesting thing about Snow Day is that the physics of the puck vary from that of a ball, so that’s something to be cognizant of when playing. Another mode, Dropshot, is arguably the weakest mode of the bunch, as the rules aren’t apparent if you just jump into it. The idea here is players smash the ball into breakable floor panels, and these floor panels break apart for players to then score through the gaps. The ball itself will break apart as well, and the more damage the ball has taken, the more damage it will do to the floor panels. It’s an interesting concept, but it’s a shame you have to go outside the game to find out how Dropshot works.
The final game type—and my personal favorite, aside from straight Soccar—is Rumble. Think of it as Soccar, only with power-ups. Ten seconds into the game, each player is granted a power-up, ranging from swapping places with an opposing player to punching the ball straight ahead, or even freezing the ball in place, and you get a new power-up every ten seconds after using one. Four-on-four Rumble is Rocket League at its most chaotic, and it’s total nonsensical fun. All of these game types can be played either online or locally, and you can even play against AI characters if you’re on the go. When playing online, the game automatically supports cross-network play with players on PC and Xbox One, but this can be easily turned off in the game’s settings.
In addition to all these game types, one of the most integral parts of Rocket League is its reward system. After every match, whether you play online or locally, you’re rewarded with various items for your Battle Car, such as toppers, rocket trails, and goal explosions. Not every item is compatible with every Battle Car, but before long you’ll have a sizeable collection with which to deck out your Battle Car the way you see fit. In addition, you can unlock different Battle Cars through gameplay, but there are also premium cars to unlock via micro transactions—and yes, they’re all purely cosmetic.
Speaking of cosmetics, the Switch-exclusive Battle Cars—the Mario NSR, Luigi NSR, and Samus’ Gunship—look gorgeous, and the smaller details, like unique rocket trails and the jump sound effect of the Mario and Luigi NSRs, make using these cars uniquely satisfying.
On Switch, Rocket League holds up mostly well. The controls feel tight and frame rate is nearly always consistent. The game’s visuals, though, are where Rocket League on Switch has taken a noticeable hit. While the game looks fine (albeit somewhat dull) when docked, playing in handheld is where you’ll notice the greatest visual disparity. Textures appear jagged and the surrounding environment doesn’t look the greatest, but the game still maintains a smooth frame rate. It seems as though Psyonix and Panic Button! had to dial back the visuals so the game could still run smoothly, and to their credit, that goal was achieved. Though the visuals are noticeably less sharp in handheld mode than while docked, it’s not something you’ll notice much unless you stop to observe your surroundings. Fortunately, Rocket League is such a fast-paced game that the graphical downgrade is mostly a non-issue.
Aside from portability, arguably one of Rocket League’s main selling points on Switch (as well as the Switch itself) is instant multiplayer, even on the go, and this is done by way of single Joy-Con support. Using a single Joy-Con is serviceable, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I find the Switch’s Joy-Cons too cramped for most games, especially when using a single Joy-Con, as I have fairly large hands. The fact that acceleration is tied to the right trigger—and in the Joy-Con’s case, the right shoulder button—makes it particularly difficult to position your hands comfortably using this control method. Of course, buttons can be remapped, but I still find the whole affair more trouble than it’s worth. Single Joy-Con play is a cool addition to Rocket League, but I find its use only serviceable at best.
Rocket League on Switch is a competent port that works as one might expect it to, and it’s still fun despite some visual drawbacks. The additions of Switch-exclusive Battle Cars and features, such as portability and single Joy-Con play, make the Switch an ideal home for the game.
Disclaimer: A review code for Rocket League was provided by the game’s publisher.