In this piece, Lofty explores the best ways to pass in Rocket League, giving you his top tips for moving the ball around within the game…
There are multiple reasons to pass the ball in Rocket League. It might appear as a selfless act at first but, when it’s all said and done, the aim of the game is to score points against your opponents.
Passing will help you win more. Anything that can make scoring easier in this meta where defenders are so good at saving 1vs1 shots however they’re taken, understanding how to pass effectively is going to make your life a lot easier.
You can create easier and better shooting opportunities for your team with an effective pass. Utilise your teammates and build trust in order to create easier goals, especially in 2 on 1 scenario.
Intentional passing in Rocket League
Before we start breaking down any aspects of passing in this guide, let’s just define what a pass is, so we are all on the same page:
Noun: (in sports) an act of kicking, hitting, or throwing the ball to another player.
It’s safe to assume that this is exactly the same for esports and Rocket League. As the dictionary definition suggests, it’s fairly clear that passing needs to be intentional and thought out.
Technically speaking, you can’t call those missed shots a ‘pass’ because it happens to land perfectly for your teammate. Similar for 50/50s or for boomers. Of course, they could result in a pass but if we’re going to officially count it as a pass it does need to be intentional.
Sometimes, only you will know if it was intentional or not, so keep true to yourself as that will be an important aspect of improving your passing skills.
To pass effectively you will have to understand some fundamentals. In this guide, I will explain and break down these fundamentals in a way that should be useful to every rank of rocket League.
The Rocket League passing fundamentals are as follows:
- Passing Awareness: Understanding where my teammates are, knowing how to use them, understanding when is a good time to pass to them and how to use back board, midfield and unconventional passes.
- Utilising Space: Understanding how to position to receive a pass and understanding passing lanes.
- Mechanical Passing: Leading the pass and shooting redirects.
- Defending Against Passing: Trying to position yourself so you cover all options and how you with your team should focus on dealing with passes.
Okay, now we’re all caught up, let’s break this down into more detail.
Passing awareness is understanding when you have a passing opportunity.
This requires thinking and understanding of what the potential is for making the pass in the first place. Many hours of gameplay and experience will certainly help with this, but even then, a huge part of it is knowing that you and your teammates are on the same page.
There will be different ways that you can increase the chances of a successful pass. These split up into 3 areas:
- Knowing your team: This means that you know that you can attempt the pass because you know your teammate will actually be going for it. It also means that you won’t have to follow up and can start rotating back. This confidence will naturally make you think and become more aware of the opportunity.
- Knowing the timing: Sometimes passing is the wrong decision. Being aware that you should keep possession is key. At other times, passing is the right decision but delaying it by a second might make all the difference. For example, it might help free up some space in the centre by drawing out one or two of the defenders. The result of this could be leaving your teammate with just one defender to deal with, or, even better, an open net.
- Knowing the type of pass: There are plenty of pass types and each of them has their advantages and disadvantages. This could be an entirely separate article but to give it an overview: backboard passing and infield passing are the most popular as they’re difficult to predict and defend against. Other types of passing such as ground fast passing are great but require a lot of mechanical ability and speed to make them effective.
Rocket League is particularly fast-paced, especially when you compare to a traditional sport such as soccer. The length of the match is shorter, the speed of the game is faster and the most important, the size of the gameplay area is far smaller. This condenses all the action into a short action-packed match.
When thinking about space, there are 3 outcomes, if done correctly:
- Match control: When thinking about the space that you have in Rocket Legaue, it’s all about possession. You want to be in control of the match for as long as possible. The more space you have the easier it will be to control the match. Having that goal advantage will also help with this, but when it comes to space and passing, similarly to soccer, you need to position yourself in such a way to make the pass effective and accurate.
- Offensive pressure: At the receiving end, it’s a similar principle: you need to be positioning your car in such a way that when your teammate makes the pass you can predict where the pass will be heading. If both parties do this correctly you should be able to reach the ball before the opponents do.
- Passing to avoid 50/50s: When you have ball possession, the best-case scenario is to either pass or to take a shot in order to force the opponents to save and be out of position or low on boost. You’ll want to avoid 50/50s generally speaking. This is because they are far less predictable than a pass, hence the name. The only advantage to a 50/50 over a pass is that it forces at least one opponent to commit and challenge you, resulting in more space left behind them.
Mechanical passes can be considered any type of pass that involves a more advanced mechanical ability to get the ball where you want it to but making it as difficult as possible for your opponents to read what you’re about to do. Often, being able to ‘fake’ a shot and actually be passing is a great way to be using your mechanical ability.
We can break this down into a couple of principles:
- Being able to lead the pass is key: In other words, be confident when you’re making that split-second decision on what to do. That ability to lead and take control with confidence is what could result in you with a successful pass. The hard part of all of this is your mechanical ability. For example, getting your car in front of the ball to make a backpass using a flip reset is technically possible but incredibly difficult. This is an extreme example but you get the point.
- Looking for fast and powerful redirects: The ability to hit a redirect is much more on the receiving end of the pass. Making that powerful shot straight towards your teammate to get around a defender is actually looking 2 steps ahead of what is about to happen. 1) You’re getting around the immediate defender that is between you and the goal 2) You’re getting so much pace and unpredictability that only defenders who happen to be in the right position at that exact moment will be able to save it.
Defending against passing
Essentially, when defending against passing, what you need to do is utilize all the information above in order to best predict what others might do.
There are a few patterns that you should be able to notice once the game has started. Using the first minute to get an idea of what your opponents are doing is a good start. For example, if you notice a player keep going on the walls to make a high pass, then you can assume that it’s likely to happen again.
The best way to defend against passing is to read that is about to happen:
- Trying to position yourself so you cover all options: Generally speaking, when you have possession you can either go into space, pass the ball or take a shot. Imagine yourself in your opponent’s shoes and think what would you do in that moment. If it’s not obvious, then it’s usually safer to take it slow and prepare to challenge and win a 50/50.
- Communicate to avoid double commits: The exact way on how your team should focus on dealing with passes also boils down to communication. You should try and play at least a few times with voice comms on (using Discord is most popular these days). This way even when you’re not playing you will be a bit more conscious of how they’ll be playing. Rocket League is usually too fast-paced to make a call on every single detail but saying ‘I’m going’ could avoid a double commit when challenging.
Apply this guide to advanced your passing skills
It’s no lie that being able to pass in Rocket League is still not mainstream in most games. Only when you start to get into teams, higher ranks or leagues are you able to really try and intentionally get this aspect of the game right.
There is a lot of talk around strategies and passing metas, so being on that will help you advance the fastest. Other options also include looking at coaching by experts or joining a team to get that chemistry going.
To finish off this guide I thought it would be useful to look at some examples. This video created by FLuuMP gives us an insight into passing plays at a higher level. There are several tutorials on this subject but being able to have someone with you in order to watch and explain how to apply these fundamental principles is going to help just that little bit more.