For all the online experiences in the world, there is nothing better than hunkering down with a few mates on the sofa, controllers in hand and bragging rights up for grabs. It’s that draw of being victorious that has seen the local party scene flourish over many years.
Now though, there’s a new kid on the block and on the face of it Rocket Wars has all the necessary ingredients included for it to be a success. It caters for up to 4 players, and it comes with several game modes, a multitude of ship types, even more power ups and a ton of crazy weapons.
That should mean it’s a nailed on success then doesn’t it? Well unfortunately, for all the variety in the world, Rocket Wars instead comes over as something that is very repetitive.
There is no story behind Rocket Wars, and nor does there need to be, because this is straight up party battling in the most simple of forms. Taking charge of your own little spaceship, you’ll need to swiftly boost and navigate your way around a circular arena, being drawn in by the pull of the centred sun, all whilst dodging enemy bullets and attempting to take down those same foes. It’s a super simple premise, runs at a decent pace and is smooth in its action, and that’s what makes Rocket Wars a brilliant game to just pick up and play when you’ve got a few mates around.
To hold this action together there are five different game modes – Deathmatch, Survivor, Nuke King, Space Ball and Free Play. Now, if you’re reading this, then you will no doubt know all about the first of the options on that table, as the Deathmatch mode plays out exactly as you would expect; first to 10 kills wins. Survivor sees the exact same game, just with each of the competitors starting with 5 lives and the winner being the last man standing.
Nuke King is ever so slightly different, as this sees one player taking on the role of a super tough Nuke King, constantly gaining points. In order for you to take the crown and see yourself moving up the small leaderboard, you’ll need to mow them down in a flurry of bullets, working together with others to drain their energy enough to see the player with the last shot becoming the new King. Thankfully though, Space Ball changes the Rocket Wars formula up a bit more; it’s an intriguing proposition in amongst the other options. This sees each player given a coloured goal around the circumference of the playing arena, with them needing to defend it. Should the ‘ball’ – which is constantly bouncing around the arena – be shot or moved into that area, a section is destroyed. Get it hit too many times and you’ll be left to watch the rest of the match from the sidelines. If I’m honest, this is possibly the most exciting mode in the entire game, bringing something different other than just trying to frantically kill any opponents as quickly as possible.
And then we have Free Play. Now, Rocket Wars is all about death and destruction as you circle the sun, try to take down enemies and prove to one and all that you are the greatest pilot the universe has ever known. But Free Play? Other than being in place as filler at best and a complete and utter waste of time at worst, it sees you flying solo, picking up weapons, shooting at nothing and doing little else until you get bored enough to head back to the main menu. I’m not sure why it has been included, but I sure as hell know it’s a worthless addition.
These modes can also be played in team form, with just the Free Play option replaced by an Entangled game mode. This actually brings a bit of tactical nous to Rocket Wars as those on the same team are linked – the nearer they get to one another, the stronger they become. Get separated though and you’ll do well to last just a few seconds. With the boost system and gravitational pull from the sun all playing their part, it’s not as easy as you may think to keep in touch with any team mate.
No matter what mode you play though, when you do get in to a decent battle, the fast, fairly frantic action is rather delightful. Numerous ship types all with varying stats are present – some have higher health, others are faster, more still come equipped with a powerful gun – and there are a few unlockable skins to mess around with, all of which add a small degree of customisation to Rocket Wars. There are also a decent number of rather awesome weapon pickups available when in-game, and you’ll want to hunt these down the second they spawn too, because if your opponent gets that big nuke, there is little anyone can do about it. A close combat shotgun style attack, a fairly considerable long range sniper, spinning cogs of destruction and more are all available to grab, giving a little respite from needing to hold the A button to fire your usual measly weaponry.
Boosting around the arena, pointing your ship in the right direction with either the standard ‘direct’ or ‘tank’ controls, shooting at foes and actioning a shield occasionally really is the entire premise of Rocket Wars. Should you not manage to have any friends to hand though then all is not lost because Rocket Wars allows you to drop in up to three AI combatants, with you deciding their skill level depending on if you want an easy match, or an utterly ridiculous, totally over-the-top bullet hell. But unless you’re planning on spending days and weeks with Rocket Wars, you’ll probably find that any AI difficulty above ‘easy’ sees your opponents coming across as too masterful. But then you won’t ever be buying this game on the back of the solo experience it delivers, so it’s not really too much to worry about.
What is to worry about though is the fact that you probably won’t be spending days and weeks with Rocket Wars at all, because with those hugely similar game types the only form of action, it all very quickly begins to tire. Achievement collecting aside, once you’ve played a few games, you’ve pretty much seen the entirety of Archon Interactive’s mind, but then, I guess the low price that it comes in with takes all that into account.
By all means grab a few mates and drop a quid or two into the pot for a night or two of hectic space shooting, but you’ll do well to still be playing Rocket Wars further down the line.