Imagine if it was still called Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. Imagine being the world champions of that game and trying to explain it to family around the dinner table this Christmas. Fortunately, Psyonix plumped for the infinitely more elegant Rocket League for the name of their 2015 vehicular football hit.
With its immense popularity, easy to follow mechanics and opportunity to show off awesome feats of skill, eSport success was all but guaranteed. Psyonix wanted to keep that momentum up with the second season of the Rocket League Championship Series which just wrapped up in Amsterdam this weekend and it certainly did not disappoint.
In a tournament that wore out the game’s 'wow' sound effect with its countless number of aerial hits, Europe dominated by claiming all three podium finishes. Mockit Aces seemed unstoppable in the winners’ bracket as they strolled through to the grand finals without much trouble, only finding themselves seriously contested by Northern Gaming in a tight best-of-seven series they managed to win 4-3.
On the other side, Flipsid3 Tactics certainly didn’t take the easy route to the final: fighting their way through the losers' bracket from Round 2 and needing to beat Mockit Aces in two best-of-seven contests to claim the Championship. After their silver medal in last year’s season it seemed Flipsid3 Tactics were destined for another second place finish unless they could pull off a monumental comeback. Francesco 'Kuxir' Cinquemani decided it was possible.
Wrapped up in a hoodie and beanie, Kuxir looked as if he was more prepared to brave a Dutch winter storm than the Rocket League Championship Series finals, but it was only his opponents who felt a chill. It was his precision and deftness of touch that stood out most in the finals, as he regularly positioned himself to direct the ball past opposing defenders from near-impossible angles to set up his team-mates or go for glory himself.
To that end he was always there to find goals when they were needed most: whether it was through graceful balletic movements while soaring upside down through the air or a simple tap in from being in the right place at the right time. It was these moments that defined his tournament, such as the overtime score that secured his team’s place in the grand finals.
Before focusing too closely on his individual successes it would be remiss not to mention how his pairing with Mark 'MarkyDooda' Exton also played a significant part of Flipsid3’s success in the Championships. The two have been playing together for a while and that relationship was clear in the way they linked up multiple times throughout the tournament for some incredible team goals.
It’s a rare event, but wonderful to see, when you have that natural connection with another player and you understand exactly what they’re going to do or where they’re going to be at all times – Kuxir and MarkyDooda demonstrated that perfectly.
They would set each other up throughout the tournament with impressive one-two plays and inch-perfect mid-air passes that fell right in line with the other’s path. Passes from everywhere on the field – from the back wall to the ceiling of the arena – found their way to the other player, including a standout aerial goal from the tournament that saw MarkyDooda latch onto a pass from Kuxir, nudge the ball over one defender off the arena roof and follow it into the goal from a redirect off the back wall.
Kuxir was a threat all over the field too, regularly popping up in goal at just the right time to get all-important saves or chasing down balls cleared into the opponent’s half for fast counter-attacks. One rapid series of play saw Kuxir respond to a heroic goalline save from MarkyDooda by piling the pressure forward on a retreating Mockit Aces and zip across the field to tap in a goal that put Flipsid3 Tactics in an early lead midway through the second series. Having just lost a game after seven exhausting minutes of overtime it marked a big momentum swing in the final that Mockit Aces could not overcome.
As he did in the losers' bracket final before, Kuxir was there to score the winning goal in overtime that secured victory for Flipsid3 Tactics at the Rocket League Championship Series, claimed the $50,000 prize, and locked him in as our tournament MVP. The victory was an emotional moment for the Italian as he shed a few tears of joy amid the on-stage celebrations, but it was clear had fun throughout the tournament as you could always see him merrily wiggle the wheels of his Batmobile before every kickoff.