In an industry that constantly chases better visual fidelity and higher resolutions, it’s easy to forget there’s an entire community of gamers who are far more passionate about frame rates. While it’s true that better graphics look great, a solid frame rate feels great. In the competitive Rocket League scene, the concept of game feel is crucially important.
The history of competitive gaming and frame rates is well documented. This KillScreen feature from 2016 did a fantastic job of detailing how the Counter-Strike competitive scene was shaped by its chase for better game performance. Professional teams can fail or succeed based on the reliability and performance of their hardware. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that people are pretty passionate about FPS.
Rocket League’s competitive scene may not have the same cultural significance as Counter-Strike, but it is still a pretty big deal. One of the most recent Rocket League competitions, the RLCS EU Spring Regional had a prize of £30,000 and maintained a steady 100,000 views throughout the stream.
Many people argue that higher FPS doesn’t make a difference, and some people say they can’t even see the difference. However, there is a lot of science behind the way the number of frames can affect the way you play. Can it make you a better Rocket League player? Let’s find out.
Frames Per Second
Before we go into any of the theory behind why frames affect gameplay, we need to understand what frames per second is. Frames per second or FPS for short, is a measure of how many times a source updates an image in any one second. The most common value globally for this is 24fps, which is what most films and tv shows are shown in. A long time ago, 24fps was decided as the best speed for displaying video while still maintaining realistic motions.
In video games, most games display at 30 or 60fps. The debate over which is better spans several decades, but it mostly comes down to personal taste. 60fps may look and feel better, but for others, 30fps provides a far more ‘cinematic’ experience. Whatever your preference is, it would appear most of the industry is now moving towards 60fps as standard. The PS5 and Xbox Series S/X supports most games with it as standard now. Take a look at the GIF below to see how frame rates differ.
The higher your numbers of frames, the more rapidly the game is updating the image each second. It takes time for your PC to process what is happening in-game and send that information to the display output. This is why competitive players rely on powerful hardware in games. A game running at 60fps is having its image updated double the amount of one running at 30fps, so it's easy to see how this could affect gameplay.
Now that we’ve got all that nerdy tech talk out of the way, let’s carry on with even more nerdy tech talk. In a game like Rocket League, those additional frames per second can really make a vast difference. Not only does it provide a much smoother experience for players, but it also increases your reaction speed to events within the game. This has been proven countless times before, but one of the best examples is Linus Tech Tips’ experiment from a few years ago with professional Counter Strike player Shroud.
In the experiment, Shroud and the Linus team play Counter-strike at varying FPS, measuring the reaction times of those involved. The experiment fundamentally showed that higher frames per second resulted in faster reaction times. In a game like Rocket League where reaction times and accuracy are a vital formula for success, having those additional frames can go a long way towards improving performance.
I personally play Rocket League at 144fps and have done for some time. Whenever I have to go back to playing on PS4, I can instantly feel the difference. Going between the two frame speeds almost feels like there is input lag in comparison. I would argue that I’m actually a better Rocket League player on PC because of the additional frames.
Many people would assume you need a high-refresh rate monitor to take advantage of additional FPS. This isn’t strictly true though. While a high-refresh rate monitor might certainly look better, even players on 60fps monitors can reap the benefits of higher refresh rates. Frame latency is the difference between how often your PC generates frames and how regularly your monitor refreshes them. This is essentially the measure of how long it takes for you to perform an action and the time it takes to appear on screen. If your PC can create more frames for the monitor to choose from, the smoother your gameplay is going to feel. Therefore, you should aim for higher frames in Rocket League, even if you can’t see them.
Balancing Rocket League Settings
So how do you achieve those higher frame rates in Rocket League? This fantastic Steam forum post from ChrisTy has all the best settings for higher frame rates. It essentially boils down to finding the best settings for each PC. However, there are some key settings you’ll want to keep the same regardless of your setup.
Vertical Sync or Vsync will synchronise your gameplay with the refresh rate of your monitor. This is a big no in any competitive Rocket League scenario as it essentially limits your input to the speed of your monitor, creating noticeable input lag that would seriously hamper your playing ability. The only scenario you should ever consider Vsync is if your PC is quite old and suffers with screen tearing issues when displaying video games.
Visually, you want Rocket League to look as simple as possible. Make as many compromises as you can. It will ultimately improve the number of frames you can achieve. Rocket League is visually quite a basic experience, so reducing the graphical settings shouldn't be too painful. There’s a reason why Counter-Strike professionals play with the graphical settings turned all the way down.
Ultimately, how you play Rocket League comes down to what level you play it at. For a lot of players, those extra frames likely won’t mean much. However, at a professional and even a competitive level, those additional frames can make all the difference. High-skill level players will take advantage of those additional microseconds granted by better performance. That extra time can mean the difference between saving a shot, or setting up an aerial which is why FPS will always reign supreme in competitive gaming.
The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding, in this case, are frames per second.