From developer Archon Interactive and publisher Rooftop Panda, Rocket Wars is a multiplayer arena shooter for Nintendo Switch. Be it to kill some time, jam with friends, play solo, cooperatively, or even competitively, Rocket Wars has a few things to offer a few players.
Without further ado, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt: this included. So let’s review Rocket Wars through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters & story, content & length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was evaluated on a launch model Nintendo Switch using a provided copy of the game. I went into this experience fresh, never having played Rocket Wars on any other platform previously.
First up with regards to Rocket Wars, let’s talk about visuals and performance. As is to be expected with a less demanding title such as this, Rocket Wars runs delectably smooth. I didn’t experience a single performance issue or crash in my testing, no screen tearing or ugly artefacts, so, credit where credit is due. Even when multiple players were involved in the chaos unfolding, framerates held steady. Bravo. There are no graphical settings to speak of, though there rarely are on console. Now that being said, unit models aren’t highly complex, though they get the job done and are effective in being unique enough to identify. With that in mind, I found some of the unlockable skins a bit bland. But I’m not sure what more could be expected given the simplicity of its art style. Points for inclusion?
The little-to-large shots/bullets & abilities are quite satisfying, though lacking colour, in my opinion. Lasers are crisp, missile arcs make you grin, and machine guns are spitty. But when it all comes together, it’s oftentimes just a bit…much.
I used the word “chaos” quite selectively earlier. While I do enjoy the fast-paced nature of Rocket Wars, I wish it gave players enough time to process what’s going on at any given moment. Instead, what happens in all likelihood is you’ll end up flying around like a maniac shooting any moving target that your eye isn’t tracking. Unfortunately, most of us can’t split our attention enough to keep track of all the commotion while piloting our ship effectively. But we can merely chalk this up to, “I just suck” and move on.
Characters & Story
Being primarily a multiplayer (or solo?) arena game, Rocket Wars has no story on offer, not necessarily to its detriment when considering the style of game. There are, however, tidbits of lore in the ship descriptions found in the hanger section of the menu – but we’ll get more into that in our next section.
Content & Length
Rocket Wars contains/offers 12 different ship models to play with, each with unique modifiers such as (remaining relatively spoiler-free): a higher rate of fire for lower health, better handling for worse health regeneration, and so forth. You get the picture.
There are also a variety of game modes (In Team or free-for-all types) from Deathmatch, Survivor, Nuke King, Space Ball, Entangled, and Free Play. Most are fairly standard – eliminate enemies with limited lives, kill caps, etc. However, Space Ball was a unique spin on space-football (soccer), and Entangled was an interesting co-op mode. Rocket Wars also contains a much welcome bot system for solo players in Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulties.
Controls & Gameplay
Players have the choice of standard or ‘tank’ controls. The difference being that standard will point in whichever direction you aim the thumbstick. There is no implementation of the touch screen, which I found ironic because it’s available on mobile. ‘Tank’ controls turn at a set speed/radius-per-second for a more “old-school”, familiar feel. I found the original controls to feel far more intuitive, though not without their faults. I often found my ship difficult to steer, however, I understand coming to grips with how the game handles is part of the learning curve. The ZL button gives your ship thrust in the direction it is pointing, pressing B shoots, A is a shield/melee, while Y uses a ‘special’ (we’ll get into that later). Simple enough, right?
Well, yes, but actually, no because the principle is always easier than practice. Especially when every match is accompanied by a central sun which exerts a gravitational pull on your ship. Initially, I thought this was a really cool twist to the standard arena-zoomie shooter formula. While it’s not necessarily bad, you’ll spend more time just trying to go in the direction you want (as opposed to drifting off your momentum) than aiming for and chasing your foe – which is where the fun is.
Overall, something about the ‘size’ of the battlefield feels too claustrophobic and cramped. It also offers little variety and this magnifies the control difficulties. For a space game to feel this tight is particularly odd. Although, when it works, it works well and there’s definitely some fun to be had here in an easy to learn, hard to master kind of way. As a final note for this section, I did notice that the controller vibrations are almost violent in their intensities. Moving on.
Sound Design & Cinematics
Ships and guns have plenty of “pew-pew” sounds accompanying little booms & explosions. It’s all quite fitting given what it is and it gets the job done adequately.
Similarly to Characters & Story, this segment contains no cinematics as Rocket Wars is oriented towards multiplayer arena gameplay.
Generally speaking, I actually quite liked what Archon Interactive was aiming at here. I know I sound surprised, but there’s something conceptually compelling here as a cute little party game with friends. The execution, however, feels cluttered and could use a bit more space to spread its wings. Maybe brighten, enlarge, or highlight ship models? Possibly expand the play area? I’m not certain exactly what the solution is. Regardless If you’re looking for something to play with a friend or kill some time on a road trip, this might do the job for you. 6.5/10
Fancy being social? We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Or if videos and/or podcasts are more your thing, why not subscribe to our YouTube and Twitch channels and track us down on Spotify. And if you wanna show your allegiance to ABG, you’ll be happy to know we have our own merch! All proceeds go to helping fund the site.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and join us about our Discord!
It's Tight, But It's Space... It's Complicated
- Score - 6.5/106.5/10
+ Dazzling Visuals + Variety of Game Modes – Hard to Control
Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.