How To Improve Your Defence - A Rocket League Guide with ViolentPanda
Wed 1st May 2019 - 6:03pm
There are two main components to a match of Rocket League: offence and defence. Although offence is regularly discussed, with common talks about mechanical aspects such as flip resets, ceiling shots, and other very impressive features, defence is just as important. Being able to defend your goal from the opposing team by positioning yourself in a sensible manner and being defensively active will help you to improve as a player.
I asked Jos "ViolentPanda" van Meurs for some insight into how to be a defensively solid player and how to improve yourself when you find yourself being the last player back in your half of the field.
Positioning on the ground
There will come times where you find yourself being the last player in defence. This means that in a team of three, your two other teammates are further up the field into the opponents' half, and you will be the last player in your half of the field, facing oncoming players who are looking to sink the ball into your net.
If you find yourself in your net and a player is approaching you with possession over the ball, you may want to study where this player is approaching you from. For example, if they are approaching from the left, should you position yourself differently to when they are approaching from the centre of the field?
Well, kind of. When asked about positioning in your net, Violentpanda responds, "You want to shadow the ball so you can react fast to where the opponent is shooting and going."
Basically, instead of being stationary in defence, you should keep moving. As opposed to waiting for the attacking players to shoot the ball on your net so that you can react, you should shadow the ball instead. What this means is that you should follow the movement of the ball so that when the player shoots it, you have more of an understanding as to where the ball will go, so that you can block the shot much more easily.
Not only is this great for reacting immediately to a shot on your net, but it also serves nicely as an intimidation technique to throw off the enemy player with ball possession. If you are shadowing the ball, you are also shadowing the player. This might put them off, and getting into the opponent's heads is a fantastic technique for advanced players in the higher ranks.
Waiting vs. Attacking
One question you might ask yourself as you await an attack on your goal is "Should I stay here or push up and challenge the player with possession of the ball?" Luckily, we have Violentpanda to answer this, who states, "Normally you want to bait out the player with the ball. This is called a fake challenge. Then after you bait them to do something, you can challenge afterwards."
Fake challenges in Rocket League are surprisingly more effective than you might think. This is when a player pretends to go for the ball, but backs off. This, if done very well, will make the enemy think that the player is going to hit the ball, and therefore will do something in order to stop this from happening. This could be hitting the ball to the left or right, or just jump in order to win a fifty-fifty.
As soon as the attacking player does something to retaliate your 'challenge', then you will be able to charge at the ball as the player with possession over it will have let it go through panic. This is a very good technique used in high-level gameplay and it is a great idea to try and implement this into your own gameplay, to further you that little bit more into the higher ranks.
So there's the ground to position yourself on, but where else could you position yourself in order to defend? Well, one potentially under-valued area is the backboard, and this can serve as a good place to position yourself to block those high shots.
Something you want to ask is whether or not a player is going to hit the ball high or low on your net. Ways to determine this would be the number of defenders in your side of the field. If there are multiple who are grounded, the opposing team may be more likely to shoot high.
Otherwise, as Violentpanda suggests, "The way they position their car on the ball" is also an indicator as to where the ball will go. If their car is below the ball, such as when they are dribbling with the ball on top of their car, or if they are going for an aerial shot, then the shot will most likely be high with a powerful flick or other aerial technique.
Opposingly, if the ball is in front or to the side of the player's car whilst on the ground, the shot is likely to be lower. Make sure to keep a note of how their car is positioned in relation to the ball, so that you can decide whether the backboard is an appropriate option, or whether you should stay grounded to defend those low shots.
Using the backboard to defend the high shots is useful then, but can using the backboard be overdone? Violentpanda says, "It's situational, sometimes yes, sometimes no, because it depends on you being able to read where the ball is coming." As a general rule of thumb, only use the backboard if you know that the enemy team will go for a high shot. Otherwise, it is most likely a good idea to stay grounded, as using the backboard for low shots means that you will take longer to reach the ball.
Pre-jumping in Rocket League is dangerous, no matter the situation. To quickly define what a pre-jump is, then this is when a player jumps into the air before the opposing team or a teammate hits the ball, as they are so confident that the ball will come their way. To perform a successful pre-jump, you must be extremely confident in your reads of the enemy team or even your own team.
Pre-jumping in defence, then, is even more risky. Your car only covers a certain area in the air, and you must be certain that the ball will make contact with this area. If you are wrong, then the ball will go past you and into your net. Violentpanda reinforces this, by noting, "I don’t recommend pre-jumping. Don't pre-jump unless you wanna be a freestyler."
For further information on how useful pre-jumps are and how they can sometimes be useful, the article 'Pre-Jumping in Rocket League: A Guide for Improvement' might be useful for you to expand your knowledge on this subject.
Overall then, defence comes down to how you position yourself and how the enemy team position themselves. You should be able to read the opposing team. For example, you will eventually be able to tell that if the player is:
- Coming from the ceiling
- Coming from the wall
- Dribbling the ball with the ball on top of the car
Then the ball will be likely to be shot high. Otherwise, it is possible that the shot will be low. Make sure you take mental notes of how the enemy is positioning not only their car, but the ball, and adapt your defence to suit the situation.
So for practice, Violentpanda suggests "matches are way better because players are random and you have to get used to these situations." This is a good point, as the cars on the field have a human controlling them, who's minds work similarly to your own, and this is much more realistic than an AI or training pack.