Rocket Arena hands-on preview: Smash-inspired FPS arena combat

Shacknews recently got our hands on Rocket Arena at E3 Judges Week. Check out our preview of the 3v3 FPS arena game.


Rocket Arena is a 3v3 arena shooter that takes inspiration from fighting games like the Smash Bros. series while paying homage to old-school FPS games. We got our hands on a preview build of the game at pre-E3 Judges Week.

Rocket Jump

While the name Rocket Arena might not sit well with some Shackers, the game was definitely inspired by good old Quake.
While the name Rocket Arena might not sit well with some Shackers, the game was definitely inspired by good old Quake.

Shackers love a good rocket jump, from Overwatch with Pharah mains all the way back to 1996 and Quake. Shacknews has quite a bit of rocket jump experience. Rocket Arena brings a unique take to verticality in the FPS genre by combining rocket jumping with the ability to triple jump. Players can get serious air in the game, and the level design complements that core gameplay element.

Players have unlimited ammo in the game and self-inflicted rocket shots do not do any damage. The concept of health in Rocket Arena draws a ton of inspiration from the Super Smash Bros. fighting game series. The more damage players take in Rocket Arena, the further they will get knocked back by rockets. Players don't die in Rocket Arena, but are instead blasted out of the playable area and slowly float down to the playable area to rejoin the fight. The game allows for players to keep their opponents airborne and in pain with a barrage of well placed rockets, adding yet another element of verticality in the game. Get your opponent's Blast Meter up high enough and you will be able to land a Megablast instant knockout.

I’m Blastbeard!

Rocket Arena is definitely bringing some inspiration from hero shooters alongside the fighting game influence. This resulted in six playable characters at the E3 Judges Week demo. I instantly gravitated to Blastbeard as his name reminded me of a great Marc Rebillet song. Each playable character has their own special powers and Blastbeard had an extra powerful rocket blast that came in handy when playing the game's different modes. 

The playable characters in Rocket Arena are definitely inspired by the fighting game scene, and while the game doesn't have the insanely huge cast of characters that Smash Ultimate features, each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Team composition will be interesting to watch as the game's meta solidifies following its release. 

Rocketball’s electronic sport potential

Rocketball is one of three game modes in Rocket Arena.
Rocketball is one of three game modes in Rocket Arena.

The E3 Judges Week Rocket Arena preview build featured three modes: Knockout, Megarocket, and Rocketball. Knockout is a traditional TDM-style mode with two teams of three players squaring off to secure the most badges. Each player starts out with three badges, and the first team to take all of their opponents badges wins. Megarocket is a territory control mode that is similar to many other objective game modes from other FPS titles, but the real key differentiator in Rocket Arena is Rocketball. 

Rocketball is one part American Gladiators, one part Rocket League, a dash of Overwatch, and a sprinkle of Quake CTF mode. Players fight to take a ball from the middle of the map to their opponent's spawn. There is a podium that represents the goal, and all you have to do is walk into it while holding the ball. Rocketball is incredibly easy to pick up and play, but very difficult to master. This is definitely one key to creating an esport, and Rocketball is also fun to watch. 

After a goal is scored, the ball is reset closer to the team who just got scored on. There is a time limit, but also a goal limit that will trigger the end of the game. Players can still shoot while carrying the ball. They can also toss and shoot the ball if they find themselves in a sticky situation. There were times during the demo when my Blast Meter was so full that I couldn't get back to the ground, so I threw the ball at my team mate as he made a run at the goal. Communication is key in Rocketball and the game is a blast to play for casual or super serious players.

It's not that Rocket Arena

That's right, not the Rocket Arena from the Quake days.
That's right, not the Rocket Arena from the Quake days.

Yes, Shacknews. This is not your beloved Rocket Arena from the good old Quake days, and that is fine. Rocket Arena is a truly fun game that might have been better off just calling itself Rocketball. That mode is simply that much fun. The game draws inspiration from some classic games across multiple genres, and it somehow works great. I was pleasantly surprised during my preview session at E3 Judges Week, and look forward to the game's release. Nexon confirmed that the game will support cross-platform play across consoles and PC. No word on a Nintendo Switch port, yet. 


Asif Khan is the CEO, EIC, and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

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