Rocket League is one of the best games of the generation. It has established itself as one of the most played releases on PC and consoles through rock-solid mechanics and a dedication to performance. Now, all of those elements are available on Nintendo’s Switch, and the experience translates well enough that I think most Switch players will have no trouble competing with their crossplay opponents on Xbox One and PC (PS4 does not support crossplay with Switch or Xbox One).
Let’s get performance out of the way first. In docked mode, Rocket League is 720p at 60 frames per second. That’s lower than the 1080p60 players on Xbox One and PS4 get, but it also looks totally acceptable. Handheld mode is where things get interesting, though.
“Generally speaking it hovers around 576p,” Psyonix wrote in a comment on Reddit. “Post-launch we plan to continue working on optimizing the game.”
576p is not HD, and you’ll definitely notice that when you load into matches. The vehicles and the stadiums look like a really good original Xbox game. But Psyonix and developer Panic Button, which handles the port to the Switch, made these sacrifices to ensure Rocket League would run at 60 frames per second in handheld.
And you know what? Once the match starts, you don’t think about the resolution anymore. A big reason for this is that the screen is tiny. 576 lines of horizontal resolution across a 6.2-inch screen is still a relatively dense number of pixels-per-inch. The Vita and the Wii U screens both didn’t run at 720p, and they always looked sharp.
The art is also strong enough to convey all of the information that you need to know where you are at, where other players are at, and where the ball is. I never felt at a disadvantage because I was playing on the Switch and my opponents were often on a PC or Xbox One.
I played in a couple of casual and ranked matches, and I performed just as well (or poorly) as I do in 4K and 60 frames per second on PC.
The biggest bummer with the Switch version isn’t the visuals at all. Instead, it’s that the triggers for gas and brake are digital instead of analog. This means you cannot feather the gas for precise adjustments in front of the goal or in defensive positions. That’s a high-skill mechanic, so most people won’t even notice. But it’s a reminder that Nintendo skipped out on analog triggers with the Switch for some reason.
As for what this means for other ports to the Switch, I think it indicates that Nintendo’s hardware isn’t worth it unless you’re on one of the newer engines that scale easily. Psyonix built Rocket League on Unreal 3, and that toolkit is clearly struggling to downgrade from PlayStation 4 to the Switch. Games from 2016 and 2017, however, likely could make the leap unless they are specifically graphical showpieces with a lot going on.
But I’m glad that Psyonix made the choice to cut the resolution of Rocket League to get it on the Switch at 60fps. That was probably a tough call, but it was the right one — and more developers should do the same going forward.