Rocket league players often face opponents better than they are. The most common thing I hear from students is “they’re so fast!”. When things aren’t working out for your team a common response is “we just need to be quicker to the ball.” Everyone would love to be the fastest Rocket League player and run circles around the opposition, but playing with speed isn’t as simple as it may sound.
If I told you to go from one end of the pitch to the other as fast as possible, pretty much everyone in the high ranks would get there at the same time. We all know how to be fast. Just hold accelerate, dodge and boost. In Rocket League getting your vehicle off the ground is referred to as “Aerial”. There are ways to gain a lot of speed using the Aerial mechanics to your advantage but this won’t be the main focus of today. If you want to be faster to the ball, it’s not just about raw speed. It’s also about positioning.
If a ball was hit into the air whilst you are directly below it and an opponent is half a pitch away driving towards the ball at supersonic speed. Who do you think is getting to the ball first? Being directly below the ball is one of the worst places to be in rocket league. Not only do you not have momentum, you have to aerial directly upwards and you will waste a lot of time building up the same speed. If you are already further away from the ball and already have the momentum, all you have to do is get your aerial going. Waste no boost trying to gain speed and you will reach the ball at 100mph. The idea behind being fast to the ball is to make sure you position yourself in a way where you have enough space in front of you while not leaving the area behind you exposed. Even if you are constantly in a good position you may still be beaten to the ball on occasion.
The combination of solid positioning and a high speed is a fickle one. The faster you travel the less time you can spend in a good position without stopping to a halt and destroying all your momentum. One useful tip for this is when driving around the pitch at high speeds trying to get yourself into a useful position is that you need to make large rotations. For example: You are rotating back to the goal and you want to get yourself onto that back post. If there is no rush to get back to the goal as soon as possible then take a wide route through the mid-boost and around the edge of the pitch. By taking the long route you can maintain higher speeds for longer without putting yourself out of position.
If you’re keeping an eye on the ball whilst doing this you can time your arrival at the back post to a shot/pass that is coming in. This means when you go for a challenge you are already in a good position to do so and you have the momentum to make it on time. The good thing about these longer routes is if there’s an unexpected change in the ball’s velocity and it seems to be heading to your own net either directly or by a player carrying the ball forward. You can then cut out of that longer route and head straight towards the goal to challenge the attempt.
However no matter how long your route is to arrive in a good position, sometimes you arrive long before you need to be which forces you to slow down. This is why you need to balance out your speed with what is happening around the pitch. If there’s no sign of danger, then you can afford to drive a more leisurely pace and pick up speed as the ball begins to make its way to where you need to be.
It’s better to start off slow and build up speed in time with the ball’s hit, rather than to force yourself to brake because you started off too quickly. The key idea here is to make sure you’re traveling as fast as you can while being in a good position to respond when needed. That way you can respond right away without having to spend time reorienting yourself or accelerating.
Another big aspect of why some players feel slower than their opponents is their boost management. You have to pay a lot of attention to how much you are using up your boost when you don’t have to. If you are boosting all over the pitch when you have no reason to be fast yet. Drive at the normal speed while you can so you have the boost available for when you need it. It’s also important to constantly drive over the boost pad’s to give yourself a constant flow of boost.
One of the most important advanced moves in Rocket League is using dodges to flip the car in one of the several directions. The advantage of using the dodge move is that it covers more ground at the same time as driving would at the same speed. The most common situation to use this would be when you are preserving your boost or as a way to try and score using this less predictable way of shooting at the goal. If you are using the dodge move in your game be careful to not overdo it as sometimes it can put you out of position if the ball is unexpectedly hit in the other direction.
Finding this balance between speed and positioning is one of Rocket League’s most useful and most difficult skills to learn. But once you get the hang of it, you will quickly make your way to the highest ranks!