The rocket launcher is quite possibly the best weapon in any first person shooter. From Quake to Halo, the joy of either blowing someone up, or blowing yourself up, is something everyone who's played a shooter in the past has felt. Rocket Arena attempts to recapture that joy over and over again by making the whole game all about blowing up your opponents with an entire arsenal of explosives.
We got a taste of the game during its closed beta, and here's what we thought:
Rocket Arena is a first person hero shooter where everybody gets a rocket launcher. The heroes have all gathered together to compete in the Rocket Championship Tour, which is shockingly not nearly as violent as it sounds. Each character has their own different kind of rocket launcher, so not every gun feels the same. Also, considering it's a game that fully revolves around rockets, you better believe that you can rocket jump to your heart's content. In fact, there's even a weird kind of mechanic where you can use the rocket launchers to climb walls by firing at them. Not really sure what the logistics are behind that, but it's pretty neat.
It also is a full-fledged hero shooter, and during the beta there were six different heroes to play as, each with different abilities. Granted there's not really classes, so you can't play tank, or support, or anything like that. Everyone is pretty much just a demolitions expert. Although one of the characters is a pirate, so it's got that going for it.
That being said, the characters do have many different abilities. Amphora is some kind of water princess, and can morph into a pool of water Alex Mack style, and then reform underneath someone to blast them into the sky. Kayi is your sniper character, complete with crossbow and grappling hook. And then there's Plink, who uses homing rockets and a teleporter that can deal damage, and is also a little boy. So if you've ever wanted to blow up a small child with rockets without fear of legal repercussions, Rocket Arena is the game for you.
The game plays out on small maps with teams of 3 each attempting to blow the other team to smithereens. The matches are only 5 minutes long, so they can end pretty quickly, allowing you to jump into another one right away.
You don't really kill each other, in fact, instead of a health bar, there's a meter that builds up each time you get hit. Once it fills up, you get knocked out of the arena. It's kind of similar to the way things work in games like Super Smash Bros.
In the beta, there were 5 maps, and 3 different game modes made available. First, there's Knockout, where every player has three badges, and the goal is to knock everyone on the opposite team out of the arena. Each time you do, they lose a badge. Once the opposing team is out of badges, your team wins. Then there's Megarocket, which is essentially just a capture the point kind of mode, only with giant rockets crashing into the ground acting as the points. Finally, there's possibly the best mode of the bunch, Rocketball (are you sensing a rocket related theme here?). This mode is kind of similar to Halo's Grifball, where you get a ball and have to throw it into the opposing team's goal, while they try to stop you with explosive violence.
These modes are pretty good, although Rocketball was probably the most fun, as goal scoring modes in first person person shooters are usually a pretty good time. The other modes are fine, but they're pretty much just twists on standard FPS modes of the past.
The game plays pretty well, and all of the characters' weapons feel different enough from one another. Although some launchers feel just like normal guns that have just had their bullets swapped with rockets. The game has a lot of mobility options, as beyond your rocket jumping and rocket climbing abilities, you also have a triple jump at your disposal. It feels good to move around, although the overall movement speed could probably stand to be tweaked a bit faster.
Jumping around and blasting people is a lot of fun, and the matches can get pretty chaotic. However, it can get a little hard to tell where all the rockets are coming from. Sometimes it can just feel like an never ending stream of explosions, which can make it hard to tell who's doing what, and what you should be doing.
The graphics are nice, although it's fairly obvious that the game is going for a kid friendly look, which might make it a hit with parents. There's no blood, and everyone is perfectly fine after getting blasted into the sky, and then safely falling back down to Earth without a scratch. Everything is incredibly colourful and cartoonish, it actually kind of looks like something out of Spyro The Dragon.
This also applies to the characters, who all look like they could have anchored a Playstation 2 era 3D platformer of their own. They're all animated well, but they're mostly pretty bland. They lack the style or personality of characters in other hero shooters, like Overwatch or Team Fortress 2.
You can personalize them to give them different looks, although some players may find that part of the game problematic. The game seems to have a lootbox system in place, and it seems like the lootboxes are character specific. You unlock a lootbox each time your character levels up. Inside the lootboxes are new skins, return trails, and other cosmetics. There's also artifacts, which seem to give you buffs like higher rocket jumps or increased damage when your knockout meter is low.
So far, it looks like these lootboxes can only be gained by leveling up the characters. If that's the case, then there's really no problem with the progression system here. However, if First Strike Games decide to make the lootboxes an extra microtransaction on the side, having things like artifacts inside them could be viewed as a kind of pay to win tactic, seeing as how they can boost your character.
Overall, the beta showed that the game has a lot of potential, although it hopefully will have more maps, modes and characters when it fully launches. What's available in the beta is fun, but did get a bit old after a while. You can only blow people up so much before the explosions start to lose all meaning. Still, for a closed beta, what's here is promising, as long as this is just a taste of what's to come, and not the full product. As long as First Strike Games adds in more modes, maps, characters, and other content, the game could have some staying power when it comes out.
Rocket Arena doesn't currently have a release date, but it will undoubtedly launch first on PC sometime in the future.