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Last week I had to opportunity to participate in a closed beta test for Rocket Arena, a new first person arena shooter with a ton of style. I have to say, I was really impressed with what I played.

Rocket Arena is, as I’ve said, a new first person arena shooter that focuses on just about every type of rocket you can think of. There’s jetpacks, about 100 different types of rocket launchers, and even giant space rockets! The flow of the game works a lot like any hero shooter you’ve played before; you enter matchmaking, you pick a character, and you play one of the three main game types on one of the game’s handful of maps. After each match you get character specific XP and points toward a reward based on an objective like win 100 games. That’s all there was in the way of progression in my limited time with the game.

Visually, Rocket Arena looks great. I love games that go for a cartoon-style aesthetic and actually pull it off. This game actually reminded me a lot of Paladins as I was playing, which is never a bad thing given my love for that game. Still, while the maps themselves and the aesthetic of the characters was more than enough to draw me in initially, the characters themselves didn’t have much in the way of a personality to make them memorable. I only recall them now by what type of weapon they used. I’d love to see some more lore constructed to give the characters more of a personality and bring the game world to life a little more.

Don’t worry though, because what this game lacks in characterization, it makes up for in gameplay. Matches are broken down into three different game types: Knockout, MegaRocket, and Hyper Ball. Knockout is Rocket Arena’s version of Team Deathmatch. Instead of dying when your health reaches zero, you’re instead put in danger of being knocked off the stage like in Smash Brothers. Being hit by a rocket while your health bar is flashing is enough to send you off, and you’ll have to fly back to the stage, granting your opponent a KO point. In Knockout, you race toward the knockout limit to win. It’s simple and fun. In Mega Rocket, you fight over control of massive space rockets that crash into the stage and create a physical obstacle for you to fight over. Standing in its circle with your teammates will fill it with your color. The meter stops when it’s contested. Capturing 5 mega rockets will win your team the game. If time expires before this happens, the team with the most mega rockets captured wins. Finally, there’s hyper ball. This mode plays a lot like basketball. You have a ball that spawns in the middle of the stage. Once you grab it, you can throw it to your teammates or move to try and throw it in the enemies’ goal. Doing so will score your team a point, and cause the ball to spawn on the enemy’s side of the map, giving them a chance to return. The first team to reach the score cap wins.

Each of the modes on offer in Rocket Arena was fun, but my favorite by far was Hyper Ball. It’s incredibly fast paced and creates a lot of high tension moments. Juking people out and shooting a long range goal at the last minute to win a game is just as exhilarating as it would be in any other sports game; maybe even more so because of the rockets.

Speaking of the rockets, they’re incredibly fun to shoot, but even more fun are each of the character’s special secondary shots. To keep things simple, each character has a regular shot, an alternate shot with a cooldown, and a movement ability. This keeps the game from becoming over-complicated and overburdening the player with things to remember. My favorite character to use from those available in this beta test was Amphora, who shoots bouncing homing rockets for her alternate shot. Landing all three of them on a single target was always satisfying, especially if you bounce them off walls to make it happen. Jayto was another standout, though he’s by far the most basic of any of the characters with a simple straight rocket shot pattern and a tri-rocket alternate shot.

Throughout matches you’ll also find powerups like a giant purple bomb that you can throw at enemies for serious damage and knockback. Using these is as simple as picking them up and tapping the E key after you line up your shot. So far I’ve only discovered two, the lightning bolt and the giant bomb, but there’s no reason more couldn’t be added later.

It’s worth noting that this game is still in an early stage of development. As such, there’s no monetization implemented yet, and there’s a very limited roster and map pool to pull from. With that said, what has made it into the game so far has an incredible amount of polish. Maps are easy to navigate and learn the layout of. Once you’ve played on a map once or twice, you’re likely to know all of its secret spots and best routes from one end to the other. This speaks to the game’s core design philosophy, simplicity. That doesn’t mean the maps are boring by any stretch; they all have a great level of detail and are fun to play on, but they’re small. It’s a design choice and it really serves the game well. It’s like making a tiny custom map in Halo and cramming it full of rocket launchers and vehicles. It sounds dumb on paper, but it ends up being really fun.

All in all, I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with Rocket Arena. It’s a small, simple, and most importantly fun game and I can’t wait to see how it grows and evolves. Once the game has been through a few more tests with new features added, we’ll be sure to revisit it and do some updated coverage.

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