Three exciting new maps are coming to Rocket League in February, to kick off Psyonix’s new “Rocket Labs” initiative. Taking a page from its predecessor, each of Rocket League’s new arenas will have a unique shape, promising to mix up the basic strategy and gameplay that has remained (mostly) unchanged since launch.
Outside of the Wasteland map, which is a slightly bowl-shaped version of the original arenas, and Mutators, which allow players to alter various mechanics like ball physics, Rocket League plays the same now as it did when it released back in July 2015. This isn’t really a problem; as mentioned in my game-of-the-year post, by keeping things consistent, players have a chance to really learn the game, without having to battle the environment during a match. Not to mention, the core Rocket League experience is already tons of fun. But, after playing hundreds of matches of the same style, even great games start to feel repetitive. Recognizing this, Psyonix is adding three new arenas, each one differentiated enough that they almost classify as their own game types.
First, Underpass adds a lip to the sides of the basic arenas, creating an extra layer of verticality to the gameplay. Next, as an update from a circular map from Super Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars, Utopia Retro allows players to drive through the goals to form a continuous circuit. Lastly, Double Goal is as its name suggests: each team has two goals to defend and in which to score. Gameplay from each can be seen in the video above.
All of these maps feature placeholder VR-esque art in their current forms, to allow Psyonix to prototype new ideas without having to postpone releasing them due to time-consuming design work (hence the Rocket Labs name). By going this route, Psyonix can get player feedback on which maps are worth fully realizing and adding to ranked play and which ones aren’t, in effect creating a beta-testing platform for new DLC to keep the community happy.
Of the three, Utopia Retro is the biggest change and is also the one I look forward to most. Learning how to play the ball off the curved walls and mastering the new goaltending will be welcome challenges, plus the small size looks to keep matches unpredictable and action-packed. Underpass seems like it will favor more skilled players who have good aerial control, which I don’t yet, so I’m curious to see how that one plays. Double Goal seems like the most normal of the three, which as mentioned above isn’t a bad thing, but I’m wondering if adding a second goal will be an improvement or just an annoyance.
But regardless of how these three turn out, it’s great to see Psyonix experimenting with Rocket League. And by creating a framework for further innovation, it’s clear that Rocket League’s popularity will carry through 2016.
Cover Image source: YouTube