Since the departure of the EA Rugby franchise the sport has suffered some very underwhelming Rugby game experiences in the virtual domain. Rugby games have become the laughing stock of the sport genre. Can you pin your hopes on this officially licensed Rugby World Cup game? Perhaps if you stick the pin right into your brain.
A poor PS2 game
Have you played Rugby 15? If so you’ve got a great understanding of what you’re about to experience. It’s a massive, massive disappointment. With another year of development you’d imagine the developers, HB Studios, would have improved the various aspects that did not work in Rugby 15, before this, but it’s quite honestly an insult to rugby fanatics around the world. What makes this all the more unbelievable is that the last great Rugby game, Rugby 2008 (developed on the FIFA engine at the time), was a HB Studios developed game. The heritage and passion is (or was) there, but it seems the game development engine is not.
Rugby World Cup 2015 looks and plays worse than Rugby 2008 (that included the 2007 Rugby World Cup license at the time). It sounds absurd, but it’s the unfortunate truth. Stadiums, called Club, International 1 and International 2, are not named after Twickenham or the Millennium stadiums. Yes, there are 3 stadiums in total. So what about the heroes of the game, the rugby players? If you’re a South African, New Zealander, Australian or English rugby supporter you’ll get unlicensed teams. This mean false names. You can at the very least edit the entire squad, but there’s a hiccup, especially in the South African line-up.
A team of no names
Phil Lazer, that’s Pat Lambie (common, I thought you’d catch on to that), is a black player and Thomas Matthews (Tendai Mtawarira) is a white player. How on earth could you get it so horribly wrong that you can’t even get the skin colour of the player right? Nevermind a look-alike for the player in question. As you’d expect it’s no different for the All Blacks, Wallabies and English players. So, license issues aside, is it an enjoyable rugby game?
What if I tell you that there’s a feature missing in this game that was present in the 1995 Rugby World Cup SEGA Megadrive game? When the action kicks off there are 30 players on the field, but there’s no referee. You’ll hear the whistle, but it’ll come from some unknown source it seems. There are also no linesmen. The control scheme is a bit of a mess too. Use the R2 button to pass left and right (in conjunction with the left analogue stick to choose the direction) and the face buttons will kick and tackle, as you’re accustomed too, but the scrum still does not work. As soon as you enter any ruck, maul or scrum you’ll be prompted to press the X button. The longer you wait, the more players join the ruck or maul. Once pressed it’s up to you to rotate your right analogue stick to find the sweet spot in the scrum. When it turns green you can claim the ball by pressing R2. It takes some time getting used to, but I found that I was pushing New Zealand off the ball with ease.
The good news is that the classic control method has been included, which means you can use L2 to pass left and R2 to pass right, which is something I switched to early on. Trying to pull off special moves, such as sidestepping, a charge or hand off depends on the direction you press the right analogue stick while running towards the opposition. When kicking you don’t have any arrow (a nice big one, like we’re accustomed to) guiding your kick. It’s generally a blind kick, hoping that you’ll either kick the ball out or in the right direction. There’s a tiny arrow that appears around the kicker, but it really does not assist in any form whatsoever. Kicking at goal takes some time to get used to and involves you pressing down on the analogue stick to increase the force at what you’ll kick the ball, with an upwards flick to attempt the kick. That flick involves good timing as well as a slick upward movement that will determine if you land the kick. Push it up to the left or right and the ball will slice off your foot. Winning a lineout is near impossible as you have to select the player who’ll jump with the right analogue stick and press L2 to jump. By the time you’ve made a selection the ball is already with the opposing Flyhalf and if you find that it’s a 2-on-1 scenario, with it wide open in front of you, there’ll always be a player that miraculously slides towards the wing and tackles him. It’s all one enormous glitch fest.
A high tackle and low blow simultaneously
Seeing a ball travel way behind or in front of any player, but him catching it when nowhere near the ball, is a common occurrence in the game. I also experienced a match, the final no less, where the commentators were completely missing from the match. This brought out the dreadful sound effects even more so than before. If you plan to put a friend through the pain of joining you for a game you’ll be able to do so offline only as there are no online modes whatsoever. No leaderboard, nothing.
The overall presentation and production quality is so low that it’s unexplainable how on earth the Rugby World Cup license was awarded to HB Studios. There are no quick throw-ins, no set pieces, the commentators don’t call players by their names (they refer to ‘the Flyhalf’ or ‘The Lock’) and what’s worse is that when you finally do win the World Cup, you’ve worked so hard for, you get a ‘Congratulations’ message. There are no celebrations and it feels as if the spirit of this tournament is as dead as this game. If you thought Argentina beating the Springboks in the Rugby Championship was a low moment then you’re sorely mistaken.