On Feb. 2, “Rocket League” introduced a new limited-time football mode, a tie-in to the Super Bowl. The format pits teams of four against each other in a loose approximation of football. Touching the football results in it being mounted on your car’s roof; teammates can go for handoffs, while opponents will endeavor to knock the ball out of your grasp. Jumping twice passes the ball forward, allowing for more complex plays. If you manage to drive the ball into the goal, that will net your team 7 points; players are awarded 3 points for passing it in.
The mode was only meant to run for one week, but I wish it would stay. “Rocket League” already has extra modes that roughly resemble other sports. There’s a hockey mode, in which cars bump around an oversized puck. There’s also a comparatively-more-complicated basketball mode, which tests players’ aerial skills with massive hoops that hover over the pitch. A football mode — especially one with such a clear and unique ruleset would be a welcome longterm addition to the game.
If the mode does go away indefinitely, one of my big regrets will be that we didn’t get to see the mode played to its full potential. “Rocket League” is a rare game that’s fun to play at a very low level — there’s joy to be found in zipping around a soccer pitch bouncing a big ball around — but that also has an extremely high skill ceiling. Professional players regularly uncover new mechanics and exploits within the game’s physics framework. But we haven’t had the chance to see that with the football mode — despite some promising early signs.
On the Rocket League subreddit, one player shared a helpful tutorial for the mode that doubled as an exemplar of a perfect touchdown pass, coordinated by two teammates.
On Twitter, the official “Rocket League” account showed off a beautiful solo play, in which one lime green car intercepts the ball and outplays several opponents that try to stop its brave run toward the end zone.
The mode isn’t without its problems. When you’re winning, the game is a blast. But the balance sometimes feels off. I rarely encountered a close game. For the most part, as soon as one team started losing, players on that team would begin to quit, with AI players taking their position. The churn was self-replicating. The AI players’ general uselessness would compound the loss. New players who entered the server, only to find themselves on the bad end of an increasingly lopsided score, would immediately quit.
But I can’t help but feel that a lot of that has to do with the short window of availability. “Rocket League’s” football mode has legs, and one can only imagine the level of play we’d see in just a month more of play. Make it happen, Psyonix.