Publishers: 505 Games
Developers: HB Studios
Platforms: Playstation, Xbox 360
Release date: Out now
With the Rugby World Cup in full swing, Jon Hozier-Byrne boots-up the official tie-in
Rugby is one of the rare sports that has, traditionally, translated very poorly to video games. Sure, most of us will have fond, misty-eyed memories of 1997’s Jonah Lomu Rugby, but peel away a layer of nostalgic mis-remembrance and most rugby titles released to date have been buggy, simplistic, and shallow. Now, amid the furor of the sport’s biggest tournament, Rugby World Cup 2011 has strode onto the field of play, ready to continue that long tradition of mediocrity.
RWC2011 marks the first rugby union title since Rugby ’08, all of four years ago, and not much has changed. The entire game feels decidedly last-gen, and bar a minor HD graphical overhaul, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were back in the good old days of the PS2. Players float around the pitch without any apparent connection to the field, computer-controlled AI has defenders frantically running away from the ball, and a huge, poorly-animated crowd move eerily in unison. All this could be forgiven if the gameplay was up to scratch; however, the game mechanics are accessible enough to pick up in five minutes, and shallow enough to get bored of in ten.
The only major difference between RWC2011 and HB Studios’ previous rugby title is that they seem to have stripped away the vast majority of the features. The game offers astoundingly little variety for a full-price title, with only the one eponymous tournament to play, and only twenty teams to play it with.
The worst offence, however, has to be the licensing. As a game officially branded Rugby World Cup, you would expect, at the absolute least, the complete roster of teams playing in the real-life tournament. Only a frankly startling ten of the twenty competing teams are licensed, excluding Australia, and even the host nation, New Zealand. Sure, you can bring a slightly outdated official Irish team through the World Cup, but you will be meeting fifteen completely fictional All-Blacks in the final. Not having the two most iconic teams in world rugby in a supposedly official World Cup title is nothing short of ludicrous – and the Kiwis don’t even do the Haka.
Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge will, most likely, be released here on October 7th, and will feature ninety-four teams, thirty-one stadiums, and cannot but feature more gameplay depth and re-playability. As exciting as the prospect of a new rugby title is, hold off until then; RWC2011 is incredibly shallow, unpolished, and even the most ardent rugby fans will get bored after a few hours of gameplay.