Learn from your mistakes, trust your gut, and keep pushing until you cross the finish line. This isn't the heartfelt speech at the end of a sports film; it's the lesson to be learned from a new video game that in no flowery terms is just soccer played with super cars.
It's a reboot that makes good on the promise of the original
I never played Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Power Battle-Cars when it was released in 2008. Released on PlayStation 3, SARPBC was shredded by critics at the time. In fact, I hadn't even heard about the car-sports hybrid until today when I learned it's the prequel to Rocket League, the best surprise video game release this summer.
Rocket League is labeled as a sequel, but it's more akin to a reboot. The game finesses the look and design of the original, which you can see for yourself.
And here's Rocket League:
What changed? Rocket League includes a camera that better follows the ball, making the game easier to play. The new game obviously looks better, with stadiums lined in thick, grassy turf and smoke plumes trailing behind its vehicles. Customization options are plentiful, so your ride now can look like the Batmobile or the A-Team van. But what I expect will grab many people's attention is its local multiplayer mode, which unlike in 2008, feels like a rare gift in 2015.
Big budget games like Halo 5 are trimming split-screen multiplayer modes, but after a night lost to Rocket League — which elicits the same rage and joy as traditional sports — the death of split-screen feels all the more tragic.
Developer Psyonix has devoted years to the project, with an announcement in 2011, an update on its status in 2013, word of a new name in 2014, and release last week. That's unflagging commitment for a concept that got dragged through the mud its first time around.
The commitment paid off, at least in terms of the game's quality. The designers have created a game in which playing soccer with rocket-powered, backflipping, ride-walling cars is fun, but also relatively easy to enjoy from the very first round.
Rocket League is free for subscribers to Playstation Plus, otherwise it's $19.99 on PlayStation 4 and PC.