Its been a number of years since we last saw Jona Lumu Rugby back in 1997. This new title developed by Sidhe and published by Alternative Software, brings the sport of gentlemen to our screens in a great way. I have always been a huge fan of rugby, I grew up next to a rugby stadium and I am always on the look-out for a well put together and realistic digital version. Well, I think I might just have found it. This game is fantastic, and after waiting so many years for a decent rugby game again, I have not been let down. Even though Jonah Lomu doesn’t play professionally anymore, its still a name that sends shivers through a lot of the game’s professionals. Anyone that has seen him play in his heyday knows that he was one of the best. This game helps bring the sport into your living room and even teaches you the rules along the way if you don’t already know them.
There is a lot to like in Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge. For newcomers to the sport, there is a great tutorial section that not only teaches you the controls but also the rules. This is achieved by having you select each lesson and first watching a short video showing you what to do. You are then required to try it yourself and, if successful, you get to complete that lesson. This is a great way to bring newcomers to the sport that may like the look of it but do not have a clue how the rules work. It also it helps teach you the controls in a easy to understand manner.
After you have selected the game type you wish to play, you get to experience your first match and see the amazing detail that has been put into this title. It really does feel like you are in a huge stadium full of spectators all cheering and clapping at every move. You have the players come onto the pitch and have them singing their country’s national anthems, which is a nice touch. Also, if the New Zealand All Blacks are playing you can even watch their famous ancient Maori dance the ‘Hacka’ that is very intimidating, even in a videogame.
You soon get to kick-off and it immediately becomes noticeable that the develops have really put a ton of work into this game to help delivera truly realistic feel. The teams all have their good and bad points, like their real counterparts. The full backs run like the clappers as they try and dodge opposing players to try and score a try. The commentary by Grant Nisbet and Justin Marshal, further adds to the real-life feel of the game. The graphics are really nice, and the sound effects and music as your team comes onto the pitch are great. Its hard to explain and do justice to just how fantastic the game feels, all I can say is that if you have even a passing interest in rugby union you will need to play it for yourself to find out.
There’s an excellent library of licensed real-world club leagues and competitions, including Super Rugby, the ITM Cup, The Aviva Premiership and others. Many (but not all) of the clubs are accurately represented down to the exact player rosters and kits. Perhaps more importantly, the top international squads of New Zealand’s All Blacks and Australia’s Wallabees are fully licensed and can participate in top global competitions like the TriNations (although the South Africa squad is not licensed) and Quad Nations (ditto that for Argentina). The World Cup does not officially appear – it’s owned by a competing title – but a clone of the tourney lets you take part in a competition that’s virtually the same. In addition to the one-off competitions, multi-year franchises are available too – although not online. Needless to say, one thing Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge doesn’t suffer from is a lack of content.
The game even gives you the opportunity to customize your player’s features if you like, right down to the finest detail. You can change the head size, body size, and eyes; almost everything. These customization features are vast and deep, you can even make your own dream teams up with all of your favourite players. There is also the option to start your own unique tournaments and leagues and these can be created using templates from real-world competitions which can be adjusted any way you like. Even the club and international teams are up for grabs. Thevast array of options and changeable features is great to see and almost makes the gap since the last Jonah Lomu title forgivable.
After waiting so many years for a decent rugby union game, we have not been let down. Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge is fantastic for everyone with an ounce of rugby fan in them. I also recommend you get a mate round to have a kick-about, it adds evenmore experiencing the highs and lows with a friend, and if you don’t have a mate readily available at any point, online play is there for you as well. To summarise then, Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge is so good, there deserves to be a scrum for copies wherever it’s on sale. Oh, and its much less painful than the real thing.
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