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Why is Rocket League so bad on Switch?

There was a whole article written in my head, and with each loss the adjectives were getting swearier. Rocket League had gone to the dogs. Was it because it was now free-to-play? Had the community just got bogged down by awful players and bad losers? It was sad to see such a great game in such a sorry state.

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The good news is that Rocket League is still amazing. The bad news is that players on Switch are getting a raw deal.

Rocket League on the Move

This is the kind of game that should be amazing on Switch, but just isn’t. The connection isn’t good enough, the community is trash and the gameplay itself feels sluggish.

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I understand that one of the big selling points of the Switch is that it’s an AAA machine on the go. You can play The Witcher or Doom while on the bus or on a work break, and that’s an incredible thing.

That benefit should stretch to Rocket League, but it doesn’t. I don’t know if it’s a Nintendo issue, a developer issue or a bit of both, but somewhere something went wrong.

I’d gotten the plat on PS4 and more than 1000g on Xbox One, so, after a couple of years gap, Switch felt like a good place to return. It wasn’t. At first I thought maybe I was just really, really bad – stranger things have happened, and I wasn’t too great to begin with. But five minutes search revealed I wasn’t the only one who had been having problems.

Where Everybody Knows Your Game

Rocket League has its characters.

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The guy who has to hit the ball no matter what direction he’s facing, inevitably scoring for the wrong team. He’s one of my faves.

That other guy who is so desperate to steal your goal that he’ll repeatedly and unashamedly knock it off target at the last second. Another undeniable classic.

And, of course, special mention to the hero who stands stock-still at the start of every round and then confusedly races around while the ball goes over his head time and time again. Thanks goalkeeper.

On Switch there’s another type of character: the quitter. You’re just warming up – you’re 20 seconds into a game, and the opposition manage to get a shot on target. Whoops – plenty of time to fix it, right?

The exodus begins. One player leaves and you’re left struggling with the AI on your side.

Things are looking a little hard, so your other colleague leaves. Now you’re really in it, and the opposition score again. You’re 2-0 down.

But don’t fear, connections are coming thick and fast. You have a new teammate, a new ally to he- and they’ve gone. They only want to join teams where they’re winning 8-0, and nothing else.

Repeat for every game you play, no matter the time.

I don’t know if it’s down to the connection issues that the game so blatantly suffers from on Switch or what, but after some 10 or so hours over the last few weeks, I’ve never played a single full game with the same team unless it’s a game we’re undoubtedly winning.

That was the first problem I noticed.

I need a connection

The quitters were so annoying, I didn’t even stop to think why some teams just seemed to be able to dominate. I put my frequent 8-1 losses down to me being rusty (or flat out crap). What I didn’t consider is that I was playing a few millseconds in the past.

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Legend has it that Vsync is forced on the Switch version of the game. In return for protecting you from the evils of screentearing, Rocket League on Switch offers up input lag and mild framerate drops. That means that when you see the ball heading towards you, you already need to have jumped.

With enough practise, you could probably begin to account for this, but paired with poor Wi-fi connections, you may not feel like it’s worth it. I have great internet and have no issues with any of this stuff usually, but Rocket League just hates me. About half the time, a game will have connection issues. That can stretch from the ever-dreaded connection issues logo on the right side of the screen to the sudden loss of control over your car, as though you’ve been booted in the side by some invisible player.

Enough was enough. My fingers were twitching. I had to get my completely justified and not at all pathetic rage down into words…

Until on a whim, I downloaded it for Xbox. The difference was astounding.

It’s easy going green

I don’t need to preach about the difference between a handheld and a wired-in console. The connection issues disappeared. Visually, of course, the 4k and HDR version of Rocket League is a massive improvement as well.

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But what took me by surprise was how hittable the ball was. On Switch, hitting the ball sometimes feels like catching flies with chopsticks. On Xbox it was just what you do. I was topping every team, and I’m not a paticularly great player.

And if that wasn’t enough, suddenly people weren’t quitting. I sometimes lost two or three games in a row with the same people – now that’s a team of dedicated losers.

PlayStation 4 saw similar improvements. It felt lke a tight eSport, not just a handheld knock-off.

Why is Rocket League so bad on Switch? – Conclusion

The community, the input lag and the wi-fi. I didn’t go into the Switch version of Rocket League expecting anything, and still it was a hard pill to swallow.

Listen, Rocket League is a great game, and I’ll fight anybody who disagrees. It’s got potential in the handheld space, but the Switch version is not it. There are too many barriers of entry, and I’d only recommend it to people who absolutely couldn’t play it anywhere else.

The internet is full of people having problems with this version of the game (and just as many who don’t mind its flaws). And I’m not oblivious to the need to lower expectations – the Switch is a great bit of kit, but it’s not an Xbox One X.

But it feels like there’s a huge chunk of the userbase missing out on a great game. Here’s hoping fixes are on their way.

 

Article By

blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

Follow Mat on:
Twitter: @matgrowcott    Google Plus: matgrowcott