'Rocket Arena' is a Breezy, Non-Lethal Team Shooter That's Easy to Pick Up and Hard to Put Down

The premise of Nexon's Rocket Arena is simple. Two teams of three face off against one another, armed with various non-lethal weapons and a jetpack, with the aim of blasting one another into the stratosphere. Sounds simple? It is. And that's what's fun about it.

That said, Rocket Arena's fun, fast-paced gameplay does offer a bit of depth and strategy for experienced FPS fans, couched within intuitive and satisfying core gameplay mechanics that make it easy for less experienced players to dive right in. We had the chance to take the game for spin at a preview event in Los Angeles, and came away pleasantly surprised with its zingy, blast-and-dash gameplay.

Our demo featured six playable characters, ranging from burly tanks to nimble speedsters, each with their own unique loadouts, items and abilities. One fighter, the watery Barbie-girl Amphora, can launch a geyser at foes to hurl them into the air, or transform into an aqueous manta ray to slip and slither around the battlefield to evade incoming fire. Another, named Plink, has a nifty set of homing missiles and a boomerang that ricochets off objects to snag stray items and land unexpected hits. While it was easy enough to shift between characters, there's an unexpected level of depth in their loadouts, allowing experienced players to develop more sophisticated combat strategies and likely leading to some frenzied grudge matches.

nexon rocket arena hands on
'Rocket Arena' is a non-lethal first-person shooter for PC and consoles from mobile powerhouse Nexon, where your goal is to blast your opponents out of the arena. Nexon

The game includes four gameplay modes—Knockout, Rocketball, Mega Rocket and RocketBot Attack. The first three of these were playable during our demo. Matches were brief, just a few minutes long, though that tended to lengthen out once everyone got a handle on what they were doing.

Each of the modes are pretty straightforward. Mega Rocket focuses on capturing an objective and preventing your opponents from doing the same. Rocket Ball is essentially soccer with jetpacks, and the first team to score five wins. It's quite a lot of fun, but the simplest mode on offer was our favorite: Knockout. Each member of your three-person squad has three badges (like the balloons or shells in Mario Kart battle mode). Whichever team loses all nine badges first is the loser. Knocked-out competitors can still chip away at their opponents, leveling the playing field and raising the chances for some dramatic upsets.

Maps are vibrant and colorful, with environments spanning from dusty mesas to crumbling jungle temples. All the environments in Rocket Arena have a satisfying verticality to them—those jetpacks aren't just for decoration, after all. It's not always clear—until you learn the hard way—that certain areas are out of bounds and will result in a K.O., which may lead to frustration among younger or less experienced players. Even so, it's pretty easy to get a grasp on where the pitfalls are in a given stage.

nexon rocket arena temple map
The premise of 'Rocket Arena' is simple. Two teams of three face off against one another, armed with various non-deadly weapons and a jetpack. Nexon

A small quibble: a brief tutorial explaining the basics of rocket jumping and navigation in the game was a bit confusing and fiddly, making it all seem much more complex and daunting than it actually is. Do yourself a favor and just jump straight into the action. You'll figure it out.

Is Rocket Arena the next Overwatch? Almost certainly not, but it's the epitome of good clean fun and can be enjoyed by gamers of varying skill levels, whether in brief bursts or for longer sessions. Sound like your cup of tea? Sign up for the closed beta on PC, which runs from May 23 to 29 here.

Rocket Arena will be available on Xbox, PS4 and PC. Nexon plan to support cross-platform play for the game, though has yet to announce an official release date.