Rocket League wins our 2015 award for Best Multiplayer, and there are few on the team who don't have something to say about why. We'll be posting the rest of our awards and personal picks daily as we approach the end of the year, which we're collecting on our main GOTY page.
Samuel Roberts: Simple and brilliant, Rocket League was one of my main obsessions this year, and the first competitive game I truly became absorbed by. I’ve had so much heartache in ranked, but so many wonderful goals, near-misses and epic saves, too. While everyone I know has pretty much stopped playing at this point, the five-minute matches are a perfect break between other games that require a bigger time commitment. A well-deserved success for Psyonix, even though I hate this game (and also love it). And fuck the DeLorean.
James Davenport: I should probably get a chair without wheels. No other game has elicited an involuntary kick from both legs at once. It’s always as I speed up towards the ball after watching a play unfold. I’ll likely miss, kick the floor as if it will somehow correct my virtual car’s velocity, and send myself rolling towards the back of my room, blurting a word or two I shouldn’t. It’s exhilarating. Rocket League is the only sports game with controls that aren’t abstracted by layers and layers of mechanics. You drive fast, jump, and hit the ball. There’s a real sense of precise control over a body, similar to ‘control’ in a real sport, which means behaviors and plays form naturally. Car soccer is the most natural expression of a sports game ever. Who would’ve guessed?
Chris Thursten: The fact that ‘football, but with cars’ doesn’t feel like a novelty is extraordinary. Instead, it feels like a real sport: somewhere between destruction derby, hockey and football, with instantly-intuited rules but a vast skill ceiling. It’s brilliant. My only regret is that real physics will not allow it to become real. The other thing that I love about Rocket League is that, through it, I have had the chance to watch Sam encounter all of the horrible things about serious competitive play: ladder anxiety, rage at matchmaking, utter disappointment, bad-mannered teammates, and so on. I thought his refusal to play Dota 2 ever again would save him from my particular part of this hobby, but it hasn’t—and I’m delighted.
Phil Savage: I live deep in the depths of bronze league—a world where six cars flip towards a stationary ball and all miss. Us bronze leaguers might understand the flow and beauty of the game, but we don't have the technical expertise to translate it into action. We're having fun anyway—except that one guy who sarcastically spams “nice shot” and then leaves if you so much as concede a goal. I treat Rocket League as an enjoyable, knockabout arcade game. It's still tense as I'm barrelling towards the goal mouth, and still amazing when the ball explodes in a shockwave of success, but I also don't feel bad when I lose one of the five-minute matches. Within seconds, I'm loading into another game—ready to suck all over again.
Tim Clark: A deserving winner for the sublime clarity of its controls alone, and also for spawning a genuine competitive scene almost overnight, but for me Rocket League’s greatest achievement is that it eventually prompted Samuel to go on this bravura rant about the Back to the Future Delorean DLC. And you know what? He wasn’t wrong.
Chris Livingston: There are two things that really make it work, I think. Matches are short, so even when you’re getting your teeth kicked in you know you won’t have to suffer for long. And, a score can happen within a few seconds of someone touching the ball mid-court, so even when you’re getting your teeth kicked in you know the match can still be quickly turned around. Short matches, and the ever-present possibility of an insane comeback means even your worst night at Rocket League might still wind up a triumph.
Tyler Wilde: I’ve played over 100 hours of Rocket League, and I love it even when it’s excruciating to play (two own goals in a row will do it). 3D Pong is what it is, brilliant for its distillation of sport. Like Pong, being good at Rocket League starts with knowing the bounces. Once you know exactly what sort of bounce the ball is going to take, you can start to plan your passes, shots, saves and returns. The aerial maneuvering is a skill on top of that, but doesn’t necessarily trump prediction and positioning, and I love how players can be differently good at it. Finesse aerial shots, solid playmaking, heroic saves, determined clearing, and fights along the boards all matter. Team chemistry also matters, as there are no strictly defined player roles, and no programmed structure to a match outside of the physics and the goal lines. Simple rules beget complex skills, and one of the most fun multiplayer games I've ever played. It's up there with Quake 2 for me.