Rocket League is no new game. It launched back in July 2015, but its popularity hasn’t waned. In fact, it only seems to continue growing in popularity, likely due to the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) inking a deal with NBC last year and airing the tournament on live television.
Beware, though. The barrier to entry for Rocket League is low, but putting the game down once you start is a struggle. Games are short, fast-paced and addictive. Once you pick it up, you’ll become obsessed with getting better, start humming the beats of the title music in your head and dream of getting vengeance on that one dude last night who wouldn’t stop demoing (Rocket League’s mechanic for blowing up an opponent by boosting into their car with your own) you.
If you wish to get better at Rocket League, the first steps are to stop trying so hard and to not forget to have fun. If you abandon that, what’s the point anyway?
Below are 11 tips to help you climb the ranks of Rocket League.
Customize the camera settings
Before you take to the arena, spend some time in practice mode not only getting familiar with the mechanics of the game, but also setting up your camera. You can change the distance of the camera from your car, your field of view, the angle of the camera and much more. All of these things will affect what you can see in-game. And everyone has a slightly different preference for how it should look. Personally, I say the more I can see, the better.
Learn to rotate
When you’re first starting out, positioning is the most important thing to pay attention to. It may seem like everyone is charging after the ball flat-out all the time — it feels like pure chaos for a time. (To be fair, sometimes it is.)
But once you play the game for a while, you may begin to notice a pattern, aptly called “rotating.”
When you and your teammates are properly rotating — whether playing 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4 — the goal should never be left unattended. When one or two players push up for offense, one should remain back on defense. This gets more tricky when you’re playing 2v2, but you must adapt the same principle to make sure someone is always keeping an eye on your goal.
This image breaks down rotation in 3v3 for both offense and defense. Study it. Become one with it.
Don’t underestimate the handbrake
The handbrake is a tool I use as much as boost and jumping. It allows you to drift and whip your car around quickly to get into position, and it’s helped me score a lot of unexpected goals. Get very familiar with it and use it to your advantage.
Don’t chase the ball
Instinct will tell you to crash the ball anytime it comes near you. It happens, and sometimes instincts just take over. But if you’re following a rotation, you should (very quickly, on the fly) assess who is in a better position to tackle the ball.
In many cases, you will find that it’s your turn to drop back and defend. Even if it’s not, dropping back to defend is generally the safer and better choice.
Even if you’re properly rotating and you’re going after the ball, your teammate may have a better angle. Rather than both crashing the ball (and it inevitably taking a weird bounce all the way downfield, back into your goal) back off and let the teammate with the better angle go for it. Often times, this will let them set up a better pass and maybe even earn you an easy goal.
The art of “leaving the ball” is a valuable lesson to learn.
Pass over shoot
Building on the ball chasing point, you’ll sometimes find yourself in a situation where you have a pretty clear shot at goal. The urge to “break their axles” with a sick goal will be strong. If the other team is back and defending, resist the urge to take a shot. They’ll be ready and waiting for almost anything you can throw at them.
Instead, take the ball wide, to one wall or the other, and get creative there with a pass to one of your teammates. The chances of a weird bounce, passing the ball to where a defender can’t get to it or doing something unexpected are much higher than bumbling an accidental goal in over a few defenders.
Find a teammate
Whether you queue for ranked or casual matches, one of the best things you can do is find someone to play with. Not only will this lower the odds of one of you rage quitting when things get tough, you will learn to anticipate each other’s moves much better than some random teammate.
This alone will increase your odds of winning.
When queueing without a teammate, you risk getting paired with teammates who are still upset from their last loss, in a bad mood or who don’t know how to rotate properly. And it doesn’t just have to be one of those things. Everyone’s play style is different, and being able to read your own teammate and expect their next move will go a long way toward your own improvement.
Conserve precious boost
Boost is a precious resource in Rocket League. Even though it regenerates quickly, you will often find yourself without any, struggling to get back and defend your goal.
Instead of using boost all the time, you can “lunge forward” by holding the joystick forward and double-pressing the jump button. If you do this a few times, you can reach the same top speed as you can with boost (you just can’t sustain that speed as well or maneuver as quickly or easily).
Learn to use both effectively in different situations to reduce the number of times you get stuck without boost.
Stealing boost from opponents is also a good strategy, so long as you’re not going out of your way or breaking rotation to do so.
When in doubt, defend
If it’s a question of rotation or whether or not you should swing wide to grab boost before heading toward your goal, you should almost always err on the side of defending and worrying about boost later.
Your teammate will be much more understanding of you missing a save without boost (and at least having had the chance of stopping it) than if you abandon the goal to grab boost and miss the opportunity to defend.
Don’t be afraid to demo
When you boost (or sometimes flip or shoot) into an opponent, your car will blow theirs up. This is called a demolition and it’s a very divisive tactic in Rocket League. Some people play as enforcers, cruising around just aiming for cars.
If done right, it can open up a lot of holes in the other team’s game. If done poorly, it can open up holes in your own team’s rotation. (It also doesn’t make a lot of friends.)
Other players will usually whine in the quick chat when they get demolished, but there are times where a demo can change the momentum of the game. I recommend using demolitions as a tool. Don’t go out of your way to use it, but if the opportunity presents itself … have at it! And try not to get too upset when it happens to you — some players demo to get under your skin and throw you off your game.
Don’t get too hung up on aerials and air dribbles
As you rank up, you will see people take to the sky to hit the ball. You’ll also see them take the ball up the wall, bounce off and “air dribble” down into the goal. It adds a whole new element to the game as you rank up and begin playing with higher-skilled players.
Both of these are skills that will take a lot of practice and dedication. Being able to boost in the air to hit the ball is something anyone who hopes to advance at Rocket League should learn. But don’t get too caught up on learning these skills early on — just get the basics down first.
After logging over 900 hours in Rocket League to date, I’ve only just now started to get better at aerials. Air dribbling isn’t even in my sights yet.
Don’t feed the toxicity
Toxic players run rampant through Rocket League, both in ranked and unranked matches. There isn’t much you can do about a teammate who enters the game already tilted, short of not engaging them and sticking to the game plan. But if things escalate, you can use the report tool and just hope for a better game next time.
The real tip here is to pay attention to your own actions. A few sarcastic “What a save!” messages in quick chat won’t usually tip the scales. But it’s easy to get sucked into the toxic minefield — even I struggle with it at times. When I notice myself getting heated, it’s usually followed by a few down-ranks and even more terrible play. It’s better to just walk away or disable chat altogether.