It's a multiplayer FPS filled with rocket launchers and bombs, but in an odd twist no one actually dies. Rather than blasting an enemy into chunks of flesh and gouts of blood, the rockets and bombs knock simply players around, launch them into the air, and blast them out of the arena. It's about as non-violent as you can imagine a game called Rocket Arena to be. I played it a few rounds at an event in Los Angeles this week, and it's a lot of fun.
Rocket Arena is a 3v3 FPS from Final Strike Games, and a closed beta on PC kicks off on May 23 and lasts until May 29 (sign up here). The beta will feature six heroes with different weapons and abilities, and there are several different game modes, all with quick, frantic, five minute rounds.
Each of Rocket Arena's characters has a primary weapon, a secondary attack, and a special ability that takes a short time to recharge, refreshing since ultimates in most games take quite a while to cool down. Amphora's theme is water: her rocket launcher fires torpedoes, and she can actually turn into a pool of water, slither around the arena, and then launch players into the air as a water spout. Blastbeard is a pirate, armed with a literal cannon that hurls arced cannonballs with a secondary attack that flings a heavy anchor at people. Izell is like an Aztec warrior, firing spear rockets and armed with a bola that can ensnare enemies. She also has a targeted lunge than can propel her across the arena rapidly and causing heavy knockback to enemy players. I played as Izell a lot: the default character movement speed felt a bit slow to me, so having that lunge was useful to get around more quickly.
As you'd imagine for six-player game with rocket launchers that have unlimited ammo, the arena can get pretty spammy at times. Bombs, rockets, and other powers get you bounced high into the air and pummel you completely out of the arena. If you're facing someone with great aim or or if you're double- or triple-teamed, you can sometimes find yourself completely helpless to escape the bombardment as you get blasted further and further into the sky. But it's all fair, and I did my own share of mercilessly blasting people off the ground and out of the dome. Once you're knocked out, it's only a few seconds until you've descended back into the arena again.
The game mode called Knockout is a pretty standard team deathmatch, where each player begins the match with three rocket badges. If you're knocked out of the arena, you lose a badge. The first team to knock each player on the other team out three times (thus removing all nine of the team's badges) wins. Interestingly, even if you've lost all your badges, you don't get sidelined. You're still in the match and can help your team win. It's like the opposite of battle royale because everyone gets to play until the end.
Mega Rocket is point capture mode: huge rockets periodically land inside the arena and act as control points for teams to battle over. The really enjoyable mode is Rocketball, which is sort of like basketball. Players race to grab a huge bouncy ball from the arena floor and fling it into the opponent's goal. With such short rounds, it's a fast-paced scramble to grab the ball and score quickly, and hunt down opposing ballcarriers as they head toward your own goal.
Not only do you have rocket launchers and the ability to rocket jump, but you can also triple-jump. With that kind of mobility, and the other team's rockets constantly knocking you around, there's very little time actually spent on the ground. Which makes the map design feel a little lackluster: the portions of the arena we played in (it takes place on an island called Crater) weren't particularly vertical. There are obstacles to jump over and ledges to get on top of, but it didn't really feel like a map designed for six players who are almost constantly airborne.
The warm, cartoony art style and the fact that you can't die or kill other players, merely knock them briefly from the arena, means this could be a parent-friendly alternative to Fortnite and other, more violent shooter games. And unlike Apex Legends there's nothing stopping you from choosing your favorite character even if someone else on your team picked them. In one match I saw my two teammates had both picked Blastbeard, so I did too, and we went on to dominate the round as three pirates spamming cannonballs everywhere.