I play rugby on a weekly basis. I’m fly-half for the university I attend and, as such, I’ve always found it disappointing that, in videogames terms, rugby is very much a niche sport.
The Rugby World Cup begins on the 9th September and lasts unit 23rdOctober, and to wet your appetite, HB Studios, along with 505 Games, have produced the official game of the tournament. This is a sports sim, so there is no deep fulfilling story, instead there is the blood, sweat and tears of playing alongside your fellow man as you try to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
There are five modes that greet you in the options: The World Cup tournament, international tests, a warm-up tour, a place kick shoot-out and online multiplayer. The international tests are probably the best place to start for novices to the sport. The rules are explained during the loading screens as are the controls and these need getting used to as the lack of a tutorial does not help beginners. You can play as any of the 20 teams in the World Cup. However, only 10 of these are officially licensed, a fact that some fans are sure to be unhappy with.
The shoot-out mode is a nice inclusion, allowing you to practise and perfect your kicking technique, which is vitally important in the modern game. The controls are fairly well executed, but again they take some getting used to. The warm-up tour is a succession of international tests that will get you ready for the World Cup itself.
Graphically this game looks good but not great. The crowd looks blocky and I have to say some of the character animations look odd. Whilst you are running it looks smooth and plays quite well. In the scrum you can push the opponents back but it’s not always accurate. Kicking for penalties and conversion points is fun to do, but sometimes the aim goes off a bit, however with practise you will be getting those vital extra points. It was slightly disappointing when comparing the Rugby 2008 game to this one, that not a lot of difference can be seen in gameplay and physics of the balls/players. The opposition AI is also hit and miss, you either get rock hard defenders that stop you or ones that run away from the ball. It’s also to be noted that during the set plays the same holes open up again and again, making them easy to exploit for simple tries.
The commentary is pretty good and is usually accurate to what is happening on the pitch, there are some instances of the wrong phrase being used, but to be fair these are minimal. The sound effects of the players as they go in for tackles are sometimes very good and sometimes sound like someone hitting a sack of potatoes on the floor. The music in the menus is nice and goes along with the rugby theme very well.
This game really comes into its own in the multiplayer. I got the whole rugby team together for a spot of testing and they had an amazing time. When playing with people that know the rules and tactics of the game in real life playing Rugby World Cup 2011 becomes a treat. You get all the competitive energies going and it feels very nice playing against other players. Online this is also good but it’s pretty obvious those that don’t know the rules and those that do. I must say it’s very fun beating New Zealand with Japan.
Overall, I would recommend Rugby World Cup 2011 to keen rugby fans and players. They will understand what needs to be done and the situations that unfold during gameplay. I fear that, once again, there’s nothing here to entice the casual gamer away from their FPSs and RTSs and into the world of the oval shaped ball.
Rugby World Cup 2011 suffers from some graphical and gameplay physics issues, I will not lie. The lack of licenses may also annoy some diehard fans (you can change names in the game of the players). Ultimately I think the real test for the game will be in comparison to Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge when that comes out. Only then will rugby fans finally get to decide which game is the more popular.
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