One of the most beloved fan-forced modes during Quake 3‘s heyday was the rocket-launchers only gentlemen’s agreement, which saw every player only using the admittedly-enjoyable rocker launcher for the duration of a round.
Well, EA’s new 3v3 shooter takes this to heart, building an entire experience around that very idea: level the playing field, but make it as explosive as hell. And that’s the best thing about Rocket Arena – it doesn’t try to be a contender for the battle royale crown or take down the monoliths that are Call of Duty and Fortnite, but rather offers something faster, more straight-forward, and refined.
This simple formula bodes well for Rocket Arena, because instead of having to fine-tune thousands of mechanics (which often end up being unbalanced), what is there is well constructed. The maps are well laid out, controls are responsive, and the matchmaking seems to work quite well. This is truly a multiplayer experience for people who want to dive into fun and fiery action without all the hiccups and distractions.
Contrasting the never-ending pursuit for the best weapon, Rocket Arena requires players to master movement more than anything else, while using their own characters unique rocket launcher and special item set-up. Given the speed of the rocket projectiles, dodging is not only an option, but a necessary skill to master in order to survive. You can dash left, right, and use your own rocket launcher to propel yourself ala old-school Quake 3 in order to get a height advantage or get some much-needed space from a firefight. The special abilities do add some curveballs to the gameplay, and some characters are more attack-oriented while some give you more defensive options, so it really comes down to your own preference.
The modes themselves also mix up things from the standard fare out there. For example, ‘Knockout’ sees you having to try and knock your opponent off the map; however some characters do have unique abilities which seem to trump others, such as a few having jetpacks for some extra airtime to avoid fire. This can feel slightly unfair, but the other characters’ abilities (such as a sniper-rifle type alternate fire with your rocket launcher) can help quell those hovering enemies. It really is all about finding a character whose abilities suit your style of play, and of course having a good grasp of the dodging mechanics.
There’s no denying that Rocket Arena does feel like a ‘smaller’ experience compared to other online shooters, but this is by design, and it comes at a lower cost too. There is a bit of trial and error when it comes to finding your preferred character, and it may not be the next big thing out there, but Rocket Arena does provide a more labour-saving experience that’ll appeal to fans of quick, frantic shooters.
Rocket Arena is available digitally on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.