Rocket Arena hands-on preview: Blast off!

First revealed at this year's EA Play, Rocket Arena is a third-person rocket shooter from new developer Final Strike Games. Shacknews goes hands-on.


As a general rule of thumb in most shooters and/or deathmatches, it's a good idea to always go for the rocket launcher. It's powerful, it covers a lot of ground, and it makes your opponents go boom. The team at Final Strike Games thought about this, took a step back, and decided to take out the middle man and just go straight for the rockets. That's the central premise behind Rocket Arena, the debut competitive shooter from Final Strike Games and publisher EA.

Rocket Arena

Revealed during Thursday's EA Play event, yes, this is the same Rocket Arena that Shacknews got to try out at last year's E3 Judges Week. Rocket Arena is described by the Final Strike team as a third-person rockets-only hero shooter. All matches are 3v3 and take place on ten maps across five different game modes. The victory parameters depend on the game mode, but the central idea is the same. You'll look to take out opponents with rockets, though you don't leave them a smoldering pile of ash. No, this operates more on "Super Smash Bros." rules, in the sense that the more damage a player takes, the farther they fly when they get hit. Opponents are eliminated when they are sent flying out of the arena.

Each character has their own rocket design and their own distinct secondary abilities. Jayto, for example, can fire off a chain of smaller rockets and hit for large combos. The pirate Blastbeard has a slower, but much bigger cannon-rocket that causes massive area-of-effect damage. And Amphora can turn into a puddle and quickly move across the map before surprising an opponent by catching them in a swirling vortex out of the blue. The characters all have their own learning curves and lend themselves to multiple play styles.

While Rocket Arena will feature five game modes, Shacknews recently got a chance to try out three of them.

  • Knockout: Knockout is essentially the game's version of Team Deathmatch. Teams play to a set score and the idea is to knock out as many opponents from the arena as possible.
  • Rocketball: A ball will spawn in the center of the map and the idea is to take it to the opponent's goal post. Players can either take the ball in themselves or shoot it from afar. While knockouts don't score points, they will leave the other team shorthanded for a momentary period and give your own team a brief advantage.
  • Treasure Hunt: A treasure chest spawns in the center of the map. Whoever holds the chest will gradually earn more and more coins for their team. In-between periods, coins will spawn throughout the map and teams must scramble to collect them. Teams continue playing until one side collects 250 coins. Knocking out players won't reduce their coin count, but it will massively inconvenience them during the "Collect the Coins" portion of the game.

Two other game modes will also be available at launch.

  • Mega Rocket: A giant rocket will land somewhere in the map. Control the surrounding area, King of the Hill-style, for as long as possible to score points.
  • Rocketbot Attack: This is Rocket Arena's sole PvE game mode. Fight waves of Rocketbots with two other friends for a high score.

One thing to note is that the rockets hit hard, so it's best to practice the game's dodge move. The dodge, however, does have a cooldown timer, as do the various secondary abilities. Whatever happens, make sure you don't get hit that first time. It is very easy to juggle players with repeated rocket blasts once that first hit lands, something that will give PC players a big advantage over their gamepad-using console counterparts.

While characters will all operate on a level playing field, players can earn a multitude of cosmetics over the course of the game. Players can earn free cosmetics across 100 levels of progression for each hero, along with over 350 additional cosmetics over the course of the game. Some will be locked behind the seasonal Blast Pass, Rocket Arena's foray into the battle pass model. That can be purchased with the premium Rocket Fuel currency. The first Blast Pass will kick off with Rocket Arena: Season 1, which is set to begin on July 28. While the Blast Pass will offer premium cosmetics, all new heroes, new maps, and new game modes will be made available to everyone for free.

The Standard Edition of Rocket Arena is set to sell for $29.99, while the Mythic Edition that includes a Mythic outfit for Jayto, additional cosmetics, and enough Rocket Fuel to cover the first Blast Pass will go for $39.99. Rocket Arena will release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One with cross-play enabled for all platforms, a first for an Electronic Arts game. The game will blast off on Tuesday, July 14.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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