It’s here! It’s finally here!
You know what? It’s not that bad either.
Ok, so I’m going to be a tad biased – being deprived of a decent rugby title in several years, but I can honestly say it didn’t disappoint me too much. Admittedly there’s a lot of work to do before it could contend with the big-names (like FIFA and Pro Evo) for one of the top sports titles out there, but they’ve certainly made a good start.
Graphically it is very good – considering its other contender (Rugby World Cup 2011) was supremely disappointing. Players in the game aren’t photorealistic, but vaguely resemble their real life counterparts. Licensed kits look pretty good too. The stadiums aren’t too shabby either making the entire in-game visual experience pretty good. The commentary is not as fluid as I had hoped, and reminds me a little bit like commentary from ISS 64 but nowhere near is bad/hilarious. Player animations are pretty good, but not as fluid as other sports games out there. As a result, the animations don’t seem to string together to well and can cause some frustration, particularly when you’re trying to score and a tackle animation comes into effect and forces you out of play.
The controls and gameplay are simplistic yet complicated and unforgiving. There are a lot of controls to get used to and several different buttons do several different things at different times, which I guess is to be expected. To be honest, they feel right once you get used to them (except tackling with a button. I’m used to checking/smashing people with a thumbstick thanks to NHL + NFL). Things get tricky in set pieces – scrums involve moving both thumbsticks up at the same time when two lines meet…repeatedly. You don’t even have to hook the ball, you just drive it. Also in scrums, you’ve got to be more precise than the opponents or they will punish you. I’m also not 100% confident with lineout throws, which for me are probably the most frustrating aspect of the game now. The kicks are a little unforgiving because you need to press the kick button within a kicking window. If you miss the window, you get no second chance. Fair enough, I guess, but other games aren’t like that.
The AI is not as thick as two short planks. They don’t swarm around you when chasing and tend to think sensibly. Without being able to call preset plays at breakdowns, they aren’t so bright, though, and do tend to stand around randomly (without running onto the ball at pace). So the AI does dither around at times but thankfully not enough to bother me too much. Most of the time they set up sensibly, but without a wide range of play calling, I’ve not really found a way of trying to outfox my opponents with switch moves yet.
The career mode is simplistic, as far as I have encountered. You just play a series of games, and that’s about it. You can choose to be a club, international or club AND international and play game after game after game in league or cup competition. My career sees me in charge of Wasps, so we’re playing in the Aviva Premiership and the “Not the Heineken Cup due to licensing”. Simple is fine by my, but I hope I can sign a few players at the end of the season – if not, then I can see it getting repetitive quite quickly. Also, you can only have one career going at a time, meaning I’ve got to finish my Wasps Career before I can start a new game. Again, this is fair enough – but I’d hope for a multiple save option in the future.
I do hope they get official licensing for everything next time around, because its difficult to play as England if you don’t recognise anyone. I know they aren’t allowed to put real names in for the players, but it doesn’t half make things confusing.
Fortunately there’s a lot you can customise. You can make your own players, teams and competitions, which is particularly worthwhile for me, as I enjoy the odd bit of customisation. The problem is, I’ve not found a way of resetting everything so a few of my early test creations are on random teams and I can’t remember who I swapped them with. Due to licensing restrictions, certain players can’t be moved to certain teams, meaning when I wanted to recreate the England World Cup Squad (with real players as opposed to randomly named ones) I had to miss out a few. (P.S. If you DO build the England squad as accurately as possible, it turns out they are quite rubbish).
As an additional extra, you can get “Credits” which you can use to buy Unlocks, I’m saving mine to unlock all of the 3 teams that are available, but you can also unlock some videos too. I can’t see much purpose in this so far – but I guess it’s a nice little extra to have in.
I’ve not really touched Online yet, so I’m hoping its good. I’ve played one game, and aside from a little lag here and then it was pretty stable – so I hope every game I play is like that.
Overall I reckon it’s a solid effort and definitely the best current-gen rugby game out at the moment, however it’s not really got a lot of competition. There’s enough to keep you occupied for a while, but in terms of longevity – I’m not quite sure how long this will last. Still, its definitely got potential, and I hope they make another.
+ Graphically Nice – Not amazing, but there is nothing about the visuals that puts me right off
+ Better than the Rugby World Cup Game
+ It’s a Rugby Game – which is a big plus as there isn’t really much choice.
- Very basic in terms of content – more game modes, please!
- Not all officially licensed – this saddens me, but I can live with it
- Commentary could do with brushing up