If I were uncharitable, I could churlishly describe Axiom Soccer as free-to-play Rocket League with guns. Fortunately, developers Earthbound Games seems to have some clever ideas of their own, plus it reminds me a lot of old Quake 2 mod QPong. Launching into early access today, it supports 3v3 online play, up to 2v2 local play, and matches against bots. Players zip about an arena in little hover-tanks, trying to bump a ball into the opponent's goal using your chassis or a variety of weaponry, making for a twitchier but more precise, grounded game. See the launch trailer below.
The act of adding guns to the Rocket League formula (let's just pretend QPong never existed for now) is increased ball control at all ranges. While there's some skill involved in leading the ball (shots have travel time) and releasing charged shots at the right moment to let your shell fly straight and true, hitting a specific part of the ball is easy. It's easy for both teams, even, so the ball will often be caught up in a swirl of conflicting bullets in mid-field, but you can only recharge ammo when you're sitting near your own goal. Also, every player on your team is sharing the role of goalie.
One of Axiom Soccer's best ideas is that each goal has a robot arm in it, holding a shield that protects a small part of the goal. The arm can be moved by any member of your team at any time by just pointing your reticule at where you want it to be and clicking the (default) middle mouse button. This results in a lower-scoring game than Rocket League, but no less skilled, further amplified by each tank having a basic charged shot plus four alt-fires, making for surprisingly technical shooting. And that's not even getting into the deployable arena hazards and corner bumpers.
Axiom Soccer is feels nicely self-contained at present, and will be in early access for another 3-4 months, per the developer's estimate, tweaking, tuning and adding new play-modes. The plan is for the game to remain free-to-play, but offer additional cosmetic goodies for the paying crowd, similar to Rocket League. Perhaps it's my Quake mod nostalgia talking, but I really like the feel of this game so far, and hope that it's able to carve out its own niche with enough players to make finding a match easy. Rocket League built a massive international pitch - there's room for more players.
Axiom Soccer is out now, in early access and free-to-play. Snag it here on Steam.