At first glance, it’s easy to take Rocket League at face value as a version of soccer using Hot Wheels toy cars, but anyone who has spent time playing it will tell you it’s much more complicated.
Like all great games, Rocket League is simple to pick up and complex to master. And if you’re anything like me, who can do little but watch on as players fly past me and nail goal after goal, improving your gameplay can be pretty intimidating.
There are cars to master, defensive strategies to digest and a whole litany of special moves to learn. And with terms like Wave Dashing and Half Flipping it can be pretty difficult to understand what’s going on, let alone pull off a Kuxir Twist.
Before you get too overwhelmed and admit defeat in the face of the dire odds, let me remind you of one thing. Psyonix released Rocket League for free as part of Sony’s PS+ service. They never expected it to be a huge success.
Now, Rocket League has over 29 million registered players and has become one of the biggest esports on the planet, giving away a whopping A$4.5 million.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 10 pro tips to help you take your Rocket League game to the next level.
1. Adjust your camera perspective
While it’s going to be tempting to play with the lock-on camera view, your first step should be to force yourself to play with the Ball Cam. The game is all about controlling your car to your best ability, and adjusting the camera, while jarring at first, is your best shot at doing so.
You also want to turn off camera shake, which adds a bit of visual flair to the game but distracts from your precision and speed. There’s a boggling amount of camera settings and it mostly comes down to personal preference. A good place to start is something like this:
- FOV: 110
- DISTANCE: 280
- HEIGHT: 110
- ANGLE: -3
- STIFFNESS: 0.45
- SWIVEL SPEED: 3
2. Master the kick-off
Making the right decision at the start of the game is crucial to setting up a win. When you first play, it’s going to be tempting just to charge at the ball head-on like a bull at a matador, but that’s not going to be the best strategy.
A good rule to follow is to boost forward and flip into the ball. Hitting the ball with the back end of your car limits the chances of the ball flying somewhere unexpected and tends to keep it on the ground. Flipping into the ball will also manage to you save around 20% of your boost.
If you find yourself not getting results from attacking on the kick-off, another great option is to stay back and defend. This is particularly effective if you’re playing with a team online. Stay back, watch the others fight it out, and get ready to capitalise when the ball comes your way.
Most people don’t like to acknowledge it, but good defence is what wins almost every team game in existence. Everyone wants to be Kobe, but if Shaq isn’t back on defence, then the Lakers don’t win the NBA championship. The same applies here.
There are a few ways you can do this. In a standard 3v3 game, the most popular way is to keep one player in your half while allowing the other two teammates to constantly attack. This means that if the enemy team gets a good clearance, you’ll be there, and if you’re able to get one, then your teammates will be waiting up front.
While defending, do not just sit in the corner and stare at the game. Defend from in front of your goal. It’s the centre of the field, meaning that you’re able to move to both sides easily, rather than zooming across the goal from one side. If you’re the one hanging back on defence, make sure you’re keeping topped up on boost too.
When you first start playing you’re going to have the first touch of Hagrid in steel cap boots. A huge first step to improving your game is improving your first touch. It sets the tone for your attacking raid. Ideally, you want to dribble the ball so it doesn’t bounce too far in front of you. To do this, you want to hit the ball with the middle section of the front of your car.
If you’re lucky enough to make a bit of a break down the field, don’t just zoom straight ahead with full boost every time. It’s obvious and easy for your opponent to counter. You’re much better off going a bit slower and cutting left and right to keep your opponent guessing.
This is helped by another key strategy – go light on the boost! Pretend you’re Goldilocks playing Rocket League. You don’t want it too fast, or too slow, you want it juuuuust right. This will mean that the ball won’t be too far ahead and you won’t zoom past it because you’re going too far.
5. Find your favourite car
Would Rambo just use any knife? Would Darth Vader just use any old lightsaber? Hell no. Then you – the next Rocket League pro gamer – can’t just use any crappy ol’ car. Each car has different hitboxes, stats and other attributes that will either help or hinder your play style.
By far the most used cars are Dominus and Octane and they’re good vehicles to start with. The Octane is an awesome all-round option; its square hitbox allows you to get used to your shooting sweet spot and gives you better accuracy at the expense of power. On the other end of the spectrum, Dominus gives you a longer flipper-like shape that gives you more power, but less accuracy.
Admittedly though, you’re not going to feel much difference between cars when you first play. Like the camera angles, it’s best to try what works best for you. You might feel that the Batmobile gives you superhuman powers, or like me, use the Werewolf because it looks badass.
There’s inevitably going to come a time when you need to be the goalkeeper. One of the biggest tips I can give, especially if you are serious about climbing from Bronze up to Champion, is to be the one who is happy to be in goal. As with basic defending, most players you find online in the lower leagues just want to attack, attack, attack. That means most will play with two or even three attackers. Playing goalie will help you rack up easy wins.
The back post is always the best position for a goalie. Always. That means if someone is coming on the left side, you want to be at the right post. If your opponent decides to cross it (which they probably will) then you’re in the perfect position to either go for the ball or defend it, and if they decide to take you on with a shot, you can cover the entire goal.
7. Aerial attacks
We’ve all entered an online game and stared on in shock as cars fly over our heads, flipping, twisting and turning like fighter jets. There’s a bunch of moves to learn and it can be very intimidating, but it’s a foolproof way to step your game up to the next level.
Aerials not only help you make some awesome moves, but they also ensure you’ll beat your enemy to the ball nine times out of ten. A great way to significantly improve your aerial moves is in-game training. In free play, practice flying around the arena using the boost pads. Just concentrate on hitting the ball, it doesn’t matter about scoring.
When you feel that you’ve got the fundamentals down, jump into the game and just do it. A good rule of thumb is to go for aerials any time you feel that you’re closer in proximity to the ball than your opponent. Aerials get better with time, and just be prepared for the fact that you’re going to stuff up many before you hit one. But when you rocket one into the back of the net off a sweet aerial, it’ll all be worth it. Side note: a good counter move to this is to fake an aerial. Your opponent will hesitate and back up to defend it, leaving you open to push toward goal.
8. The wall pinch is a cinch!
As I mentioned earlier, there’s an unending list of trick shots to learn in Rocket League, but there’s one that’s going to help dramatically early on: the wall pinch. This move can be used offensively for a perfectly angled power shot or in defence for a quick clearance and to build counter-pressure.
All you need is boost and some decent timing. Essentially, when you’re driving with the ball towards the wall, if you position your vehicle so that the ball hits the wall and the front of your car at the same time, the ball will zoom downfield. The wall pinch is a win-win. Even if you mistime it, you still hit the ball away from your goal and put pressure on the opposition, and once you master it, you’ll start scoring some Ronaldo-esque long-range stunners.
9. Know when to do nothing
Yep, that’s right. Sometimes you shouldn’t be wall pinching or trying aerials or dribbling, you should just be watching and waiting like a stalker in a horror movie. Watching other players and relying on pure instinct will make you feel like you have to charge into every ball, contest every shot and fly around the arena like a lunatic, but you really don’t.
In most cases, assessing the field and entering the fray when necessary will put you in the best possible position to come up with a big play. By watching the play carefully, you’ll come to recognise when it’s time to push forward and go for goal, or when you should drop back and defend. Even when you’re flying around in attack and defence, you need to be able to recognise when your teammates have better angles than you do. Sometimes competing for the ball, rather than helping, is hindering the play.
Doing the right thing in rotation also includes knowing when to use boost. If the ball is slowly rolling towards you with no teammates around, then perhaps it’s not the best time. But if you’re charging down the centre with no one around and your teammate is crossing it towards you, then boost away, my friend.
10. Find some good teammates
A player is only as good as his team. Yes, if you’re really a star then you’re going to be able to carry bad teams for a while, but when you get to those high-level games, no amount of individual skill will replace a great team. While Rocket League has space for occasional solo brilliance, it is a game that rewards solid positioning and rotations. For this to come about, you need to find a few players you work well with.
Whether you’re queuing for ranked or casual matches, just finding someone that you click with will help you exponentially. It means you don’t have to put up with the matchmaking roulette, which inevitability matches you with some toxic nuisance who tanks the game after an early goal. You want someone who revs their engine and hits a new gear when the going gets tough, not a stranger who rage quits.
Plus, finding a great teammate is rewarding. You’ll adjust to one another’s play styles, learn from each other, and be able to grow as players together. It doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met in real life, either. Send a message to someone after a great match, or have a look at the official Rocket League Forum.
Bonus tip: watch pro players!
Nothing improves your gameplay like watching the best players in the world in action. There are plenty of big streamers who post tutorial videos and talk you through their every move. Another great way to learn is by watching the crazy strategies, play styles and gravity-defying action of tournaments from around the world.
Season 2 of the Gfinity Elite Series Australia is on now and features some of the best Rocket League players in the world. It’s a great place to start, and runs from the start of November to December 17.