I will never forget the moment a few years ago when I came across a Razer stand at a game show. Razer had several PCs set up promoting its range of keyboard and mouse peripherals. This in itself was pretty unremarkable. What confused me was that the company had chosen Rocket League as the sole game on its stand. A game I had always played with a controller. I couldn’t help but give it a try.
What I experienced was, to put it bluntly, pretty abysmal. This was likely because of my inexperience using keyboard and mouse, and my commitment to playing with a controller. Either way, I left that show thinking how determined someone would have to play with a keyboard and mouse.
It’s been a few years since that unusual experience, and Rocket League is a much bigger beast than I could have imagined it would be. There are global competitions with prize pools in the hundreds of thousands. The game has a concurrent monthly community of around 100,000 players and has done since around September last year - coincidentally, that is around the time it went free-to-play.
One of the biggest points of contention in the Rocket League world is the choice between controller and mouse and keyboard. Now obviously most players use a controller, but there is a vocal community of players who religiously use nothing but mouse and keyboard. Let’s discuss the benefits of each, shall we?
Rocket League – Keyboard and Mouse Vs Controller
Now ultimately, the keyboard and mouse vs controller debate comes down to personal preference. Psyonix built the community on the legacy of the original PS4 release. So, it's no surprise to find that most people online choose to play with a controller. The game itself even recommends that players use a controller, as the team designed Rocket League with it in mind. However, Rocket League is perfectly playable with mouse and keyboard, and there are even several professional players who compete using the control method.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The controller on paper is ultimately better. Mainly for one major reason: the analogue stick. A keyboard and mouse can only ever provide eight different directions to move in based on the WASD movement buttons. An analogue stick provides far more control over the direction of your car, an important factor for aerials. This is often one of the first points of contention online in the argument between the two ways of playing.
Keyboard and mouse have one enormous advantage, and that is customisation. With more inputs to choose from, PC players of Rocket League can create a custom controller profile that perfectly suits them. With so many options, it is possible that keyboard and mouse players can find a control scheme that they find more playable than controller.
A great blog by Gamersrdy.com goes into how some of the different professional players customise their control scheme. Torsos, who took first place in several recent ESL Oceanic Championship regionals, plays Rocket League with a mouse and keyboard. What makes Torsos playstyle interesting is that he swapped the jump button from the right mouse button to the space bar. Jump in most video games is assigned to the space bar by default, so maybe he just finds this easier personally. Regardless of the change, Torsos performs well in competitions, having earned himself approximately $108,000 through competitive play.
Torsos isn’t alone, fellow professional Rocket League player Yukeo similarly swaps the established keyboard and mouse control scheme. Interestingly Yukeo uses his thumb mouse buttons for air rolls, meaning most of his movement sits within the mouse. Yukeo has found quite a lot of success within the Rocket League Esports scene, earning an estimated $135,000.
“A matter of preference …”
Even though the controller has some clear advantages over the mouse and keyboard, it’s difficult to say which is better. It often comes down to which option you chose when first learning to play the game. I went with the controller as I started playing Rocket League at launch on the PS4. For others though, keyboard and mouse was the first way they played the title.
I reached out on Twitter to see if I could find anyone who plays Rocket League with a mouse and keyboard. Fortunately for me, someone reached out. Twitter user @flyingcarparts initially started with keyboard and mouse because he didn’t have a controller.
I asked him if he thinks there are any major differences between the methods of playing: “I would say half flips are probably easier on keyboard and mouse, but I’ve played so little with a controller that it's truly hard to say.”
Having seen how many professional players use keyboard and mouse, I couldn’t help but flyingcarparts if they played ranked and if so what their placement was: “I play a lot of ranked. I’m currently at Grand Champion 1, but that is with over 4,000 hours of play.”
Speaking about the learning curve for playing with a mouse and keyboard and the fact that some people see it as a disadvantage, flyingcarparts was confident in their response: “I don’t believe the learning curve is harder at all, and it’s ultimately a matter of preference. Honestly, keyboard and mouse is not the disadvantage many people think it is”.
I honestly went into writing about mouse and keyboard kind of writing it off. As I mentioned at the beginning, seeing Razer promote their peripherals using Rocket League seemed really weird to me. With further research, there’s clearly players who are getting on just fine with keyboard and mouse.
I’m still sticking with my controller though. It’s too late for me to swap.