What the flip is a Pre-Flip in Rocket League?

featured image for pre-flips

In this essay, I’d like to look into something called the pre-flip in Rocket League.I came to know about pre-flips purely by accident after I unintentionally hit a pre-flip goal in an online game. At first, I didn’t know what it was called. But since I thought the goal looked kinda cool, I shared the clip on Reddit and titled it “flying kick goal”. I know I know.Anyway, here’s the clip:Luckily the kind people of r/rocketleague told me what it actually was called and how common it was at higher ranks. After that I was sucked into the pre-flip rabbit hole finding, watching, learning, and consuming everything about pre-flips from teh interweb.

What is a Pre-Flip?

A pre-flip is a premeditated early flip in which your car makes contact with the ball only towards the latter half of the flip. The later you make contact with the ball, the toastier or nuttier your pre-flip will be. And all that effort must result in a surprising outcome – mostly an unexpected goal, save or pass for it to have any value.I’m not sure why they christened it the pre-flip though. Won’t we technically have to call every flip that intends to hit the ball a pre-flip? No. The confusion only lies in the nomenclature. The ‘pre’ in pre-flip is not pointing at pre-ball-contact. Instead, it points at pre-an-obvious-time to flip. A pre-flip almost completes before you hit the ball while in a regular flip, you flip as you hit the ball.
No, wait. It’s not quite clear. I can do better.Ok, another way of looking at it is – In a pre-flip, you complete nearly 75% of your flip before connecting with the ball. The pre-flip places the car at a point where it has the momentum to meet the ball so that the contact between car and ball leads to a surprising but desired outcome.
rocket league player gyro pre-flipping to score a goal
gyro pre-flips to score a goal

Learning how to Pre-Flip

Because pre-flip is such a versatile mechanic in the various ways that it can be employed, there is no one method to learn to do a pre-flip.If you understand what it is, then it all comes down to practice and timing. You’ll have to learn to adjust, calculate or guess when to pre-flip based on your car’s speed and momentum to get perfect contact with the ball during the final few milliseconds of the flip.
That kind of understanding will mature as your practice progresses. The two things you’ll have to focus on for your practice are frequency and variety.

Practicing Pre-Flips

If you want to perfect the art of pre-flipping, there are many possible avenues for practice and improvement. One of which is free play – where you can start with pre-flipping on the ground and then work your way to aerial pre-flips.
If freep play is not your thing or you are just bored and want some variety in practice then another option is heading over to any striker training and practicing pre-flipping into your shots.And lastly, if both above choices are not sufficient then here are two codes to training packs that can specifically be used to practice and perfect your pre-flip.
  1. YouTuber Musty’s Pre-Flip Training Pack: D278-781E-6C94-C1A1
  2. YouTuber 3G0 Pre-Flip Training Pack: 7E3C-979C-9ED5-4468

When is it useful?

From what comes to mind, there are 3 potential situations where pre-flips can be useful.
  1. When you have to surprise the opponents, in offense and defense. If you know how to control your pre-flip then it can be a deadly tool to stun the enemy because it is so difficult to read or predict.
  2. When you have to adjust your trajectory after committing to a shot. This is exactly like in my case. I had misjudged an aerial and then had to place my car in a different spot before the ball hit the ground. Similarly, mid-air pre-flips could also be used in situations where you want to extend your outreach further to where the ball is, but are carrying less boost so can’t do a proper aerial maneuver.
  3. On rare occasions, when you have to get to the ball just before your opponent does, pre-flipping may help you beat your opponent to the ball.

Are all pre-flips calculated?

Of course, they are.. not. Because of the nature of pre-flips and how the physics in rocket league works, unarguably a lot of pre-flips will be accidental and unintended regardless of how many times you spam “calculated” in chat.Take my clip for example. I kept rewatching it in shock unable to understand how an unskilled idiot like me pulled off something perfect like that just by chance. What was supposed to be a rookie aerial whiff somehow became a cool pre-flip goal with my car perfectly barrel rolling mid-air to meet the ball at the front right corner – such a fantastic fluke!And yet, because it looks so well-timed, I could have gone about spamming “what a save” and “calculated” in chat, and unsuspecting kids on Instagram would probably buy it. But no one pays attention to the glaring mistakes like double commits and disrespecting teammates’ space.Truth be told, even if I was 3 ranks above my current rank and even if I had 20,000 hours total, and if I was a gifted rocket league genius, even with all that, the chances of intentionally executing a shot like that would still be the same as me getting a fennec in a rare drop – i.e. very very very very small.

Did you have to pre-flip?

There are so many clips of pre-flip shots online. A lot of these shots may have been intentional and so they may technically count as pre-flips. But an objective and unbiased analysis of the games that those clips are from will ascertain that most of those pre-flip shots were unnecessary.I don’t have a problem with pre-flips. But in my opinion, for them to be useful, they must check the following boxes.
  • Could that shot only be executed using the pre-flip?
  • Was there any advantage to using the pre-flip instead of something else?
  • Was there a simpler, more guaranteed mechanic to ensure a similar outcome (goal or save)?
A lot of pre-flipping in pro-level games satisfies all the above conditions. But the real cost of one sensational internet clip with fancy-but-useless mechanics is countless unnecessary whiffs, self-goals, compromised games, and whatnot.

Final Thoughts

We have a weird obsession with style over substance. This is exactly why low-ranked players waste all their time practicing mechanics like flip resets and ceiling shots when they can barely even hit a ground power shot.It took decades of perfecting the basics and building a solid foundation for someone like Bruce Lee to show up in America and start doing Fancy-Looking-Bruce-Lee-Things (most of which may have been ‘calculated, calculated, calculated‘).If a rookie ignored all that and went on to blindly practice the fancy 1-inch-punch, then maybe they’ll make some really popular tik-tok clips but in the dojo, they’ll probably be called a paper tiger.