There's more to pro Rocket League today than punting giant balls into goals, as Season 9 opens up four previously 'casual' playmodes for ranked competitive play. More serious players will have to add cyber-volleyball (Dropshot), rocket basketball (Hoops), motorised ice hockey (Snow Day) and power-up filled anarchy (Rumble) to their car-to-ball resume.
On top of this, season 9 brings the usual slew of cosmetic goodies, more music, a bunch of Hot Wheels toy-themed DLC and a new stadium. Below, a DLC trailer plus a peek at the now-competitive extra modes. You can see the full patch notes for Season 9 here.
Being a crumbly old man by internet standards, I'm surprised to see that Hot Wheels is still both a thing, and relevant branding to attach to a modern esports mega-hit like Rocket League. I guess the oldies never go out of style, and kids will always like toy cars that drive around loops. As is standard for Rocket League, the Hot Wheels Triple Threat pack is entirely cosmetic, with its three new cars and handful of daft car-hats (see above) costing $6 together. The Hot Wheels Rivals' Arena is a free update for all.
As for the modes that have made the hop to competitive play, we've got Dropshot:
Part volleyball, part Discs Of Tron. At the start of the match, there are no goals on either side, but as players bounce the ball through the air, it gains power to smash holes in the ground (which cars can still drive on, because force fields). Knock a hole in your opponent's side of the map and then land the ball in it - simple, although arguably more technical than just regular Rocket League play.
Hoops is exactly what it sounds like. An official NBA-branded basketball mode, encouraging aerial showboating to land that elusive dunk. It's trickier to defend the goal than in other modes, but also a bit harder to score than just punting the ball in roughly the right direction. This mode is 2v2, unlike the 3v3 standard in most other modes.
Rumble is an odd one. Standard rocket league rules and arenas apply, but the moment-to-moment play is anything but ordinary. Kick opponents with a spring-loaded boot, scramble their controls, freeze the ball into place or cover yourself with spikes and stick to the ball. Messy stuff, but fun, and surprising that they'd make it a ranked competitive event.
And last, Snow Day, as featured in the latter half of this trailer:
The only one of these modes to not use a ball - instead, you're trying to push a hockey puck around a frozen field and into the opponent's goal. All other standard rules apply, except for the fact that you're going to be sliding around like an idiot and the only way to quickly change direction his a hop, spin and a boost before you land back on solid ice.
It's good to see these extra modes in competitive play now. I'd always avoided Rocket League's ranked scene because it lacked some of the Fun Stuff that other modes had. Now, you can work your way up the season leaderboards in some fun new ways, though the wackier mutators in the video immediately above are still for custom matches only. The Rocket Labs testing mode remains casual-only, of course.
Rocket League's ninth season is live now. The full patch notes are here.