Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: HB Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
It took until 2011, a full five years after their systems launched, for the Playstation3 and Xbox 360 to get a rugby game. And then we didn’t get one, we got two. Rugby World Cup 2011 and Rugby Challenge. Before rugby fans had a chance to even play the games, they were faced with a crappy decision – inexplicably, the official Rugby World Cup game didn’t secure the license for the All Blacks, the Wallabies or any stadiums in either country. Instead of the All Blacks, you get to play as New Zealand who has Arseface McGillicuddy as their prop and instead of the Wallabies, you get an Australian squad with Hungus Dave as their scrum half. The decision maker at publisher 505 Games must have felt like he was in Jack and the Beanstalk. Who the hell pays for the license to make a Rugby World Cup Game that doesn’t have the goddamn host country and Australia? Those are some pretty awesome magic beans he must have brought back to the office.
Rugby Challenge however does have a fully licensed All Blacks and Wallabies squad. But it has no other international team. Its infuriating. Instead it has the license for Super Rugby and the Magners League in the UK. I opted to buy that game because it contained my beloved championship winning Queensland Reds and I got to be Quade Cooper. That was a mistake. Rugby Challenge is only the second game that I have returned to the store in the last five years (the other was the Xbox launch title Kameo). Rugby Challenge seemed to be a better simulation of rugby on paper but in reality, the gameplay was awful and missed some fundamental components of actual rugby. The game didn’t have any setpiece options at the lineout, a busted rucking system and seemingly an absense of any depth. There are no unique animations or moves to distinguish Johnny Wilkinson from Quade Cooper or for that matter a fast paced winger with the frame of Rod Davies to a dumpy prop forward like BJ Botha. They all have the same animations.
By comparison, I think Rugby World Cup 2011 is more successful in what it sets out to do. It’s more of an arcade game and feels like a spritual successor to Jonah Lomu Rugby, which is ironic since Rugby Challenge was published as Jonah Lomu’s Rugby Challenge in the UK. Rugby World Cup 2011 is fast paced, fun to play in multiplayer and has easy to learn set pieces to vary the gameplay. The biggest knocks against the game, aside from the licensing snafu, is the crusty near-Playstation2 quality graphics. Otherwise, its a fun, if limited, game. You can find the game nowadays for $20 and at that price, its pretty good value.
Ideally, EA Sports would get off their backside and make a successor to Rugby 08 that has both Super Rugby and a full international team license. Come on, guys. Make it happen.