Rocket Arena looks and feels like it desperately wants to be Overwatch. Its colourful and playful design, mixed with its hero-esque characters, and wacky weaponry all veer towards those Overwatch tropes that Blizzard’s FPS has given way to in recent years. And for all intents and purposes, the game manages to capture a lot of what makes Overwatch fun to play in terms of mechanics but it fires blanks when it comes to making Rocket Arena feel in any way unique, coming across as a lethally generic game because of this.
Rocket Arena is your run-of-the-mill online shooter, pitting players against one another in 3v3 online matches or offering a co-op mode if competition isn’t quite your thing. The PvP modes are prone to falling a little flat; I think a lot of this was down the objective-focused modes that I was stuck playing in Rocket Arena, with classics like the territory capturing “Mega Rocket,” showing up a little too often during my time with the beta, only succeeding in making me grateful each match only lasts seven minutes. Thankfully, there is your basic deathmatch mode though even that has a minor twist attached to it, with one of your three tokens being lost every time you’re knocked out of the ring. There’s also the co-op mode I mentioned before, pitting you and two other players against a ceaseless horde of bouncing robots with the objective of murdering a certain number of them before they shoot off your three tokens.
There was one game mode that sunk its hooks into me though and that was Rocket Arena’s deathsport, Rocketball. It plays out as a near identical Capture the Flag but, have you guessed? With a ball instead of a flag. Though, thanks to the tiny play areas of Rocket Arena, the murdersport plays out as delightfully nip and tuck affairs, with the allure of the ball creating chaotic vacuums of shooting that actually make scoring a goal a rare but wonderfully satisfying result. Being a sport, you’re able to heave the ball upfield if you’ve jumped on a loose ball that’s a little close to your goal, launching it away in the hopes that a teammate will be conveniently placed to turn that clumsy punt into a masterful pass. It’s the ceaseless action of Rocketball, mixed with its objective-led gameplay that almost takes a backseat at times, where Rocket Arena shines brightest.
It is, however, the only saving grace the game has. Maps are these abrasively vibrant environments, that pop with colour as you jump around pirate ships, dinosaur bones, and through a hulking relic of an ancient city but they offer up little more than a nice backdrop to a match. The beta only had six maps on offer and developer Final Strike Games might have something up its sleeve come full release but as it stands, maps don’t offer much in the way of surprises.
The same goes for Rocket Arena’s cast of heroes. Again, the beta only gave us a look at a handful of Rocket Arena’s roster and it veers towards looking at a collection of rejected cereal mascots. There’s the friendly-looking pirate, Blastbeard, who shoots rockets from his cannon in what seems to be the Tank of the game; he’s joined by wild-looking Izel who carries around a spear that shoots rockets (it’s not really what a spear is supposed to do) before charging at opponents, and a few other fairly unremarkable characters. It’s worth pointing out that along with each of their individual abilities, the whole cast are able to perform triple jumps, which makes getting around the tight-knit maps a breeze if, like me, you enjoy being the player who constantly dies during a match. And while the characters are pretty forgettable, the mechanics of Rocket Arena are realised very well; shooting is pretty satisfying if not a little whacky, thanks to the sickly coloured rockets that burst out of weapons, and none of the characters feel like they’re leagues ahead of any other character. Blastbeard is the most powerful character but he’s the slowest, Izel is pretty nippy but only really useful in close combat, and Jayto is a generic arsehole. And if that isn’t balance, I don’t know what is.
Like I said, Rocket Arena looks and feels like it wants to be Overwatch and, frankly, it suffers because of that desire. It could be the case that it’s a very different game when it launches but at the moment, it feels like it’s going to be a fairly unremarkable game.