Last week Psyonix announced Rocket League Sideswipe, an upcoming mobile adaptation of the wildly popular competitive car-based soccer game. It's currently available as a limited alpha in Australia and New Zealand, but I've managed to get my hands on a working install, and so I've taken the game for a spin to report on my findings.
A brief tutorial it is, thankfully
The onboarding for Rocket League Sideswipe is extremely short, which is nice to see. You'll quickly be introduced to the touch controls one at a time, and since there are only three controls, there isn't much to cover. This allows you to jump into the action pretty quick, but it may leave a few people scratching their heads on how to best go about controlling their car. Luckily the tutorial can be revisited at any time, and you can even jump into a Freeplay or Exhibition mode if you'd like to practice further on your own.
A few of the tutorial steps and the solo practice modes
Thumb stick on the left, boost and jump on the right
Rocket League Sideswipe is wholly built around touch controls, which allows for an even playing field as far as online matches are concerned, but these controls are not going to be as precise as a gamepad, so everyone will have to deal with that. Personally, I find that the controls work well, though when things get heated, sweaty hands may have a more challenging time. Still, I never felt like I was disadvantaged, though I did pine for the PC and console versions' precision whenever I missed a shot.
So even though there are only a few buttons on the screen, there are settings to adjust their position and size, so you're free to tweak them to your heart's content to find what works best for you.
Control layout options
What's nice about the simple layout for the Sideswipe's controls is that there isn't much to micromanage. Just like the real version of Rocket League, you can boost, jump, and double jump, allowing players to pull off slick maneuvers like aerials, flicks, and power shots, all on a 2D plane. You can use the thumbstick to change your direction quickly, and there is a built-in arrow that displays at all times so you can quickly boost into the air while retaining the ability to change directions at any time. So it would appear Psyonix has actually built a mobile interpretation of Rocket League that still offers something close to the high skill ceiling available in the core game. I would imagine this is thanks to the title's spot-on physics and how the controls tie into them.
As an avid Rocket League player with almost 1k hours under my belt, I thought for sure that I would hate the touchscreen controls in Sideswipe, and I'm delighted that I was wrong. So don't dismiss the game because it's a mobile title. The controls hold their own.
Really, it's not like Rocket League is known for its graphics, but Sideswipe looks pretty good in action. The ball is detailed, the cars look sharp, and the effects are colorful without getting in the way. At no point in my testing did I notice dropped frames, and I played the entire time on the game's High settings at 60 FPS.
Doubles 2v2 in action
You can adjust these settings to eke out better performance, and so you can cap the game at 30 FPS. You can also choose from three graphical presets, such as Low, Medium, and High. Heck, there's even a built-in frame counter, so you easily adjust your game's settings to ensure you see the best framerate possible. So no matter your device of choice, you can dial in the graphical settings to your preference.
22 minutes of gameplay, didn't lose a single match
I was actually surprised to see the amount of content that's already available in Rocket League Sideswipe despite it being an alpha limited to Australia and New Zealand. You can choose to play 1v1 or 2v2 matches in the standard soccer mode, and you can also jump into a 2v2 mode that plays like a game of basketball. Three modes total, and they all work great. While I would have loved to see the inclusion of a hockey mode, perhaps that will come at a later date.
As it stands, I was able to jump into online matches with ease, never waiting more than a minute. I didn't noticed any lag or freezing, so the net code appears to be pretty solid. Really, the only thing I'm trepidatious about is how evenly matched players are, which is going to be skewed by the small testing region. What I do know is that I won every match in the video above and that those playing with and against me did not always appear to be of even skill, but this problem could smooth out the more everyone plays, so I can't really knock an alpha for slightly uneven matchmaking.
More or less, Sideswipe plays like a 2D version of Rocket League, and while I'm unsure if my many hours spent in the core game provided me with an advantage, I sure felt at home as I trounced those I was matched against. And that's what it all comes down to, whether or not the game feels good to play. To my surprise, it does.
Mystery items on the left, some sort of pass system on the right
Since it's still early days with Sideswipe only in alpha, it does not appear that the monetization system is active yet. You can see the bones for a pass system, as well as support for mystery items you pay in-game currency to unlock. These items range from new cars to cosmetics like toppers and boosts, so it's all fairly similar to the core game, just a bit more bite-sized when it comes to the options available. Over the years, Psyonix has done an okay job monetizing Rocket League on PC and consoles, so it's my hope the studio's cosmetic-only approach holds true for the mobile version once it's released.
When Rocket League Sideswipe was announced last week, I was caught off guard, and so I really didn't know what to think. I've put a lot of time into the PC version, probably more than I should, so this is a game that is dear to me since it is something I play every single day. But mobile games have a terrible reputation for a reason, so the worry that Psyonix or Epic Games might be looking to cash in was a concern. But now that I've spent a few hours playing Sideswipe, many of my fears have been assuaged. The physics feel spot-on, the controls are plenty good enough, and the matchmaking is reasonably quick. As far as alphas go, Sideswipe is already really polished. I'm actually looking forward to seeing where the development of Rocket League Sideswipe goes, so I'm definitely eager to see what Psyonix brings to the table when the game is officially released later this year.