Rocket League Radical Summer Hands-On Impressions: Gnarly New Ways to Play
E3 is mainly a place to try out hot upcoming games, but at this year’s show I also got an opportunity to check out the latest Rocket League content Psyonix will be rolling out over the coming months. For those who haven’t been keeping up, Rocket League is currently in the midst of a three-part event entitled Radical Summer, which focuses on various totally-tubular 80s properties. The first leg of the event, which focuses on big 80s blockbusters like Ghostbusters, E.T., Karate Kid, and The Goonies is already in full swing, but two more phases focusing on general 80s Culture, and 80s TV like Night Rider, Rock ‘n’ Wrestling-era WWE, and Voltron are also on the way.
As a guy in his mid-30s (uh, make that early 30s!) the 80s nostalgia hits me in a happy place, but the real meat of the 80s Culture and 80s TV phases of Radical Summer are two new ways to play – Spike Rush and Beach Ball mode, both of which I got to test out extensively with Psyonix devs and other players at E3. Rocket League is pretty much always a good time, but these two new modes definitely amp up the action in fun and unique new ways.
We’ll start with Spike Rush, which is a 3v3 mode that automatically equips all cars with the Spike powerup up from Rumble mode right from the get-go. For those unfamiliar, the spikes cause the ball to stick to the player’s car, allowing you to run it up field like a wide receiver. The big twist in Spike Rush, is that a mere touch from another car will cause you to explode, turning the game into a deadly game of demolition derby. The new rules change the feel of the match significantly – rather than the usual mad scramble, Spike Rush is an exhilarating game of tag. This is a great mode for newcomers, as it doesn’t require as much shooting skill and even newbies can contribute with some well-placed explosive tackles. I’m not a super serious Rocket League fan, but I was having a blast playing with Psyonix devs and a few guys with some pretty serious car soccer skills.
Beach Ball mode is pretty much the exact opposite of Spike Rush (an intentional contrast according to Rocket League director Scott Rudi). While Spike Rush is about staying quick on your feet (er, wheels) while carrying the ball, Beach Ball mode is all about the bouncy-wouncy fun. Gravity has been turned down on the beach ball, so every small bump really sends it flying. Heavy curve has been applied to the ball’s flight trajectory making every shot unpredictable (more than once I witnessed a seemingly-sure-thing shot veer away from the goal at the last second). Beach Ball mode is basically just a more exaggerated, unpredictable version of the Rocket League’s base mode, which means it didn’t stand out as much as Spike Rush. That said, it was still a good time, and may be the new mode of choice for more hardcore players.
I can honestly say, my time with Rocket League’s two new Radical Summer modes was some of the most fun I had at E3 2019, which is saying something considering some of the other stuff I got to try out. That speaks to the great game Rocket League is in general, but I really do think Psyonix has come up with something special with these modes, especially Spike Rush. Interestingly, I asked Scott Rudi whether Psyonix might be planning any more nostalgia-heavy events, and while he couldn’t confirm anything, he did indicate it’s something the studio would be interested in. Here’s hoping for some stylin’ 90s or funky 70s goodness in the future!
Psyonix’s ability to tweak, reinvent, and expand Rocket League just enough to keep things fresh and fun continues to impress. The Radical Summer event’s combination of neon-soaked nostalgia and clever new modes is a great reason to jump back into Rocket League. Spike Rush is a nice option for beginners, or those just looking for something a little different, while Beach Ball mode is a fun new challenge for core players. And hey, you’ll be able to dress your car up like Macho Man Randy Savage – what’s not to like? Car soccer fans are in for a cool (not cruel) summer.
Rocket League is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. The 80s Blockbuster leg of the Radical Summer event is currently ongoing, 80s Culture and Spike Rush kick off on July 1, and 80s TV and Beach Ball mode arrive on July 22. The base Radical Summer modes and content are free, with some cosmetics available to purchase separately.