When Rocket League's popularity soared soon after release, the servers couldn't quite keep up. While some certainly just wanted to play a quick few games of rocket-powered vehicular soccer, some wanted to be the best. If you can't make a living kicking a ball around a field, why not make one bashing it around in a rocket-propelled bat-mobile?
With the dedicated Rocket League Championship Series (and assorted other tournaments) in place, it's now prime time for any budding drivers - or pilots - to try their hand at carrying a team to victory. And while the basics of Rocket League are simple enough to grasp, you know you're in over your head when you witness the opposing team rarely touching the ground while scoring goal after goal.
So how to do train for the big leagues? Well, like any other skill - physical or not - gaming at a professional level takes dedication and time. With enough resolve, you could see yourself being cheered on by your adoring fans, coaching others or making it big on Twitch as a streamer. The easiest way to go about this is pure practice; but there's a good few life lessons and key mechanics to understand. Let's take a look;
The Right Mentality
It's impossible to think straight when you're getting riled up by the thought of someone hacking the game to specifically ruin your chances of success. Sure, we can blame server lag on one or two instances where the ball looked like it shouldn't have gone so far with such a light touch, but we have to understand that there's no point crying over spilled milk - so to speak. Keeping level-headed in a competitive space is bound to be difficult when you're still learning.
We're all still learning. There's always going to be someone better than you, and you'd be naive to think otherwise. But letting your nerves take hold and charging in with steam exhausting from your ears isn't going to help your chances. You'll often lose focus, abandon your sense of judgement, make a bad call and just work yourself up even more.
So if you're practicing hours on end each day, it's best to learn how to better control your own emotions. Identify a time of day you seem to perform at your best and stick to planning your playtime around then. If you've started a session with 5 straight wins before accumulating a streak of losses, know when to take a break. Freshen up. Dwell on your performance and learn from your mistakes by watching replays. Take a walk, grab a snack and stay hydrated.
Take3 might not have won their way to the Grand Finals of last month's Season 2 Rocket League Championship Series, but the casters couldn't help but comment on their admiration for the game. Getting trampled by FlipSide3 Tactics in the first round of the upper bracket - the team that would later win the whole show - didn't dishearten them.
They kept their cool and smiled the whole way, playing their way back into the semi-finals of the lower bracket before being bested by Flipside3 Tactics yet again. It's proof that with the right mentality, you can crawl back from the brink of defeat and show your true skill.but by keeping your cool and remembering to enjoy the game you love, you'll keep yourself from dragging your heels and just making things worse.
Learning The Moves
Make the most of the Z-axis. Unlike traditional sports, Rocket League isn't confined to the limits of human physics. These cars can thrust themselves high into the sky, and learning how to strike from above is a big deal. You'll dabble in the attempts from time to time, but there's plenty of ways to accelerate your understanding of the fantastic feat.
While there are a million and one guides or YouTube shows you could watch to grasp a general idea of how gain complete control over your vehicle, nothing can compare to first-hand experience. Having a sandbox-style playground to practice your flight in one thing, but subscribing to Thanrek's 'Aerial Training' custom regime offers up a good little refresher course to run through when you have a little spare time on your hands.
Though some of the challenges are a little impractical, mixing dished-out missions alongside your own self-set targets in Skrat's offline practice map should give you a decent understanding of the slight differences in an individual vehicle's behavior in the air.
And while you're at it, make sure you're know how to tilt your car. While most have, by now, learned the importance of gaining a quick burst of momentum by pushing forward and executing your double just to fling yourself forward at high speeds without the need of a boost, getting used to the idea of using the X button to gently alter your car's angle for a well-placed shot is just as important.
Bashing the ball with your nose, roof or backside is all well and good, but with full 360-degree objecting looking to be tamed, it makes sense to have as many rivaling angles at your disposal to properly control the game. It makes getting a good off-the-wall strike that much easier, too. And we all know how much lower-tier players struggle with the wall.
Knowing Your Role
If you're heading into ranked play, you're likely going for 3v3. If you're not partying up with friends, it can be difficult to lay the groundwork of a good strategy in the heat of the moment. And with so much at stake through even a single loss in Rocket League's rough rankings, you'll sometimes need to scale back your offensive to heighten you chances of success.
But why is that? Well, just take a look at most of the matches you've likely come across in Rocket League. The ball starts in the middle, and you'll usually see no less than 4 people rush for it at the same time. Whichever side of the field the ball teeters more to, the more aggressively the opposing team will play from the get-go.
In a random 3v3 matchup, you're more likely to see your allies play just as hot-headed. For that reason alone, it's usually best for you to take up the role of defense from the start. Until you climb the ladder enough to find some more serious players, at least.
Stay back ready to keep the ball from your goal and push forward more as it lands further away from your net. With a good position in place, you'll often find a golden opportunity to surprise your opponent with a quick strike from the center of the field if after a half-decent center-ball from the opponent's backboard or wall flank. It might be a little boring at first - after all, it's only natural to want to control the ball yourself; but that's precisely why your defensive position will give you an advantage early on.
Let your allies play cat and mouse with the ball while you ready up for the deciding strike. And if it doesn't quite land in the net, grab some boosts on your way back and be ready to bash a few cars along the way. Just keep your opponents on their toes and you'll be able to identify enough openings to really push each early game in your favor - whether you've mastered the art of aerial striking or not.
Don't Overthink The Game
Rocket League was seemingly designed with a simple 'pick up and play' philosophy. There's no real rules to the game other than having fun. You can't cause a stink with a foul. You can't throw a game with a penalty shot. You can't get an off-side ruling and question what one even is. You bash a ball around however you feel and hope it lands in your opponents net over your own. So just as the game isn't gated behind complicated rules, neither are the main attraction - the cars.
Aiming to keep everything balanced in the easiest way possible, the vehicles in Rocket League are all more or less the same outside of their physical aesthetics. Sure, the hitboxes on each vary to match their shape, but there's little in the difference of stats between one and the other. There's no real viable situation where one car bests another, so stop worrying about whether your choice of wheels lost you a promotion.
We've gone into this is greater detail with our last major Rocket League post, and although it mostly focused on the controversial role of the Champion Crate looting system, it went on to explain why there's little reason to question your preferences.
Don't worry about having to abandon your Merc for a Venom - they're not going to make any noticeable difference in the long run. Just stick to what you know, what you enjoy and make it look however you want. Rocket League is much more focused on skill over equipment, so concentrate on what really matters.
The only notable difference might be to tweak the in-game options on camera control. Making use of the Follow Ball camera function is great and all, but most professional Rocket League players haven't settled on the default. Steam user 34MER has compiled a list of specific camera settings used by both professionals and YouTubers that could help you feel a little more comfortable with the game.
Take Position, Take Boost, Take Control
Rocket League, like most other ball-centric sports - is all about control. There's a lot to it other than simply hitting the ball around the field. For one, the field plays a massive role in the flow of the game, as do the other players. But unlike traditional sports, Rocket League has the caveat of the Boost system and a Bumper Cars mentality that encourages continued control over more than just the ball.
2v2 doesn't rid the role of a second offensive. Instead, it's one where both players have to effectively take up both roles - staying on the offensive as a group and learning when to break off to keep things safe. Because of that, it's imperative to use other methods to keep in control of the game.
Boost plays a major part in that. Boost is your car's primary means of rapid acceleration and your key to hitting the ball wherever it may be. Plot dribbling routes to maximize the up-time of your boost keeps your mobility in top shape - whether that'll be used to quickly switch to a defensive position, strike a goal from above or simply to ram into an opponent to take them out of their spot.
So when you're plotting a course of attack - or a route back to your defensive line - pick up and spend as much Boost as you possibly can. Each small or major grab is one less top up for your opponent, and having rapid access to an accelerant while your opponent spits out fumes can easily be the deciding factor if you successfully intercept the ball further toward the end of your own side.
And if you're finding them particularly annoying, make sure to use that boost to just invade their personal space. Assuming you trust your teammates to get the job done, assign yourself the temporary job of just turning the enemy gaze unto you. Leave your friends to take possession of the ball while you boost and bash your way into oncoming traffic, ensuring the plans of your enemies are quickly uprooted - hopefully opening up a chance for an all-out attack.