Rocket Arena review: A rocket knockout ruckus

Rocket Arena is Electronic Arts and Final Strike's rocket-slinging 3v3 team shooter. Does this rocket pack a punch or fizzle out on launch? Our review

4

In an increasingly packed world of competitive shooters, it’s getting more and more tricky to stand out among the bunch, especially with staples like Call of Duty and Overwatch in play. That said, Electronic Arts and Final Strike Games’ Rocket Arena has quite an angle to it. Rocket launchers aren’t just a fun pick-up in this 3v3 competitive team PVP and PVE shooter. The game is chock full of characters packed to the gills with rocket-powered ordnance with the intent of sending your foes flying into the stratosphere with explosive momentum rather than fragging them outright. With a grand number of game modes, maps, and interesting characters with unique abilities alongside their personalized explosives, Rocket Arena certainly has more than enough personality to set itself from the pack.

The Rocket Arena Championship Tour

The basis of Rocket Arena is a number of team-based battle modes in which groups take on different challenges throughout the game. Much of the game is player-vs-player, but there’s a player-vs-enemy game mode too if you want to play lower stakes. In the PVP arenas, each game consists of 3v3 competition. There’s your standard Knockouts Mode, which would be considered the game’s Team Deathmatch, but there are also a number of other interesting modes like Mega Rockets, in which each team fights to capture and defend a specific area for a certain time period (essentially a Control game). There's also Rocket Ball, in which each team aims to get a hold of a center-placed ball and throw it into the enemy team’s goal.

That last one was easily my favorite because you can throw the ball around to either shoot for a goal or pass to teammates, but holding it also limits your character’s mobile abilities, making it a dangerous role to be the ball carrier. Each of the modes feel like there are some cool strategies in play that appeal to different strengths of the characters in the game. What’s even more fun is that Rocket Arena has already confirmed there will be limited-time events featuring rewards and different, unique modes that will come and go throughout the game’s life, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store to keep the gameplay refreshed and fun.

Game modes like Rocket Ball force players to deploy very different strategies with the various characters if they want to win.
Game modes like Rocket Ball force players to deploy very different strategies with the various characters if they want to win.

Another fun wrinkle of Rocket Arena is the way in which you battle and defeat opponents. You don’t simply frag them and there is no typical life meter or HP count. Instead, by pelting enemies with rockets and offensive abilities, you drive what’s called a blast meter up. The more you fill an opponent’s blast meter, the harder you can launch them with a big attack. In order to KO them, you have to knock them towards the boundaries surrounding the battlefield like a cube. If they touch the boundaries, it counts as a Knockout and forces them to take a few seconds to jetpack back into a safe respawn point on the field. In this way, there is even more strategy afoot with the option to try to angle your opponents toward the boundaries when attacking them. With a solid angle, you could score a knockout without even filling their blast meter all the way if you do it right. I get the feeling that the best players in this scene will really work the angles to defeat their opponents in the most efficient ways possible.

I did mention there was a PVE mode in the game, and it’s called RocketBots. This mode allows a single team of three to do a timed challenge to defeat over 30 AI-controlled RocketBots. You and each of your teammates gets three lives and if you all get knocked out three times, it’s gameover, but if you survive the thirty bots, you win. This one is an interesting and fun gauntlet, but I did feel it was a bit limited. The bots will have difficulty levels, but they all play like one particular character of the roster. Rocket Arena is primarily a PVP game, but I hope the PVE options get a touch more variety to keep it fun and keep PVE players from being left out in the cold. Making different RocketBots that play like different characters or maybe even a powerful RocketBot boss would be a fun and cool way to change it up.

A rocket-fueled roster of competitors

As mentioned before, Rocket Arena features unique charactres like a hero shooter. Each character packs a rocket launcher of some kind, a single special ability, dodge feature, and a mobility skill, but they play drastically different. For instance, Kayto is kind of your standard rocket slinger with a blaster that can fire regular rockets or a volley of several at once. His mobility skill also allows him to move and fire his regular and volley rockets faster. Meanwhile, Amphora has a charging shot that can hit light or very hard, a set of homing bombs, and a mobility skill in which she turns into a water creature and then reappears with a watery geyser to launch foes into the air. There’s even a shotgun/sniper character in Boone who will fire a close-range burst or can zoom in to launch a precise, hard-hitting rocket at range. Each character also has a dodge button that allows them to avoid the collision of rockets and damage for the window of the dodge, which good players will learn to utilize with timely efficiency in their offensive and defensive play.

Each of the characters is cool and unique and their specialties lend them impressive advantages in certain game modes. Moreover, there’s a good selection of characters with accessible and steep learning curves. I found Topnotch to be easy to use with his grenade launcher, lock-on rocket drop, and line bombardment ability. Meanwhile, Plink was tough to use with his rapid-fire, low-damage scrap rockets and hard-hitting single-shot boomerang, but once I started to understand his combo mechanism, he felt rewarding to play.

Discovering your favorite character and learning which Artifact sets work the best is all a part of the fun in finding your personal playstyle in Rocket Arena.
Discovering your favorite character and learning which Artifact sets work the best is all a part of the fun in finding your personal playstyle in Rocket Arena.

Finding a character that suits you is just part of the fun in Rocket Arena. As you play the game and level up, you’ll unlock special items called Artifacts. Each character has three different slots featuring different arrays of artifacts per slot that aid in their abilities. For instance, in the second slot, you could equip the Supercavitator which will give you better ground movement speed or the Unstable Canister to allow you to do more damage when your own blast meter damage is high. That means that as players level up, they’ll further be able to personalize their playstyle with these fun artifacts and find what works best for them.

Further aiding this fact is the presence of the vastly different levels, many of which are themed around one competitor or another. Amphora’s Crystal Reef features an underwater array of coral reefs and cliffs with a huge water geyser launching out of a certain area. Meanwhile Topnotch’s Golden Zephyr features a massive aerial battleship with vast drops on all sides and a cabin the middle in which to take temporary refuge from the fight. Understanding these maps and how character’s abilities worked best within them was rather fun with some being tougher than others. The only thing that might throw players off is how tightly packed many of the maps are. Combat is only ever a few steps away in Rocket Arena and so it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by how constantly chaotic a match is.

A riveting round of rockets and revelry

Final Strike Games and Electronic Arts have a wealth of seasonal content planned for Rocket Arena running all the way into 2021.
Final Strike Games and Electronic Arts have a wealth of seasonal content planned for Rocket Arena running all the way into 2021.

Rocket Arena is a chaotic fun time with a lot to offer and a wealth of content on the way as can be seen above. The game will feature a Blast Pass with plenty of earnable season goodies (character skins, cosmetics, and other fun non-game affecting goods) throughout a number of planned seasons and more heroes, maps, and game modes are slated for the future. Rocket Arena doesn’t seem to have any esports plans in the works for the time being, as confirmed by Final Strike Games, but that’s not a bad thing. The team is focused on making the game as good as possible and offering a solid experience to its players and Rocket Arena looks set to do just that. With the game running at $30 for a standard edition or $40 for a Mythic Edition with exclusive skins, and enough in-game currency for a Blast Pass, it’s not asking much out of the gate either. And with crossplay confirmed on launch between PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, there’s little to keep you from getting together with friends and having an explosive good time with everything Rocket Arena has to offer.


This review is based on a Steam Mythical Edition digital copy provided by the publisher. Rocket Arena is set to release in the US for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam and EA Origin on July 14, 2020.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

Review for
Rocket Arena
9
Pros
  • Solid array of characters
  • Good customization and progression
  • Fun and varied competitive modes
  • Colorful and strategically vibrant maps
  • Interesting combat mechanics
  • Solid roadmap of new content to keep things refreshing
Cons
  • PVE is existent, but limited
  • Most maps are very close-quarters and chaotic
From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 13, 2020 7:00 AM

    TJ Denzer posted a new article, Rocket Arena review: A rocket knockout ruckus

    • reply
      July 13, 2020 7:21 AM

      Is Rocket Ball the new Bombing Run?

      Sounds like it could be better, as the maps are probably a lot smaller with 3v3, more like Rocket League in a way?

      The Smash Bros style damage and knockout goal of the normal game sounds like it could be fun as well, but it still bums me out that this game is called Rocket Arena when it has very little in common with the real thing.

    • reply
      July 13, 2020 7:39 AM

      The aesthetic is pretty meh.

    • reply
      July 13, 2020 10:03 AM

      I played for a few days in a beta a while back, and the smash meter mechanic was fun, and the movement through the maps was okay.

      Diabotical was much more arena shootery than this, this is way more of a Brawler with guns.

    • reply
      July 13, 2020 1:53 PM

      This game's name remains a travesty.

    • reply
      July 13, 2020 9:09 PM

      Wow, a higher review score than Doom Eternal?

      • reply
        July 13, 2020 9:11 PM

        and it came out 5 months ago?

        "Rocket Arena is set to release in the US for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam and EA Origin on February 14, 2020."

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