All Blacks Rugby Challenge Hands On

Last week NZGamer.com popped down to Sidhe Interactive to check out All Blacks Rugby Challenge. It's obviously an appropriate title for New Zealand sport this year, but it’s also an attempt to make an engaging Rugby title — something that's proved problematic for developers over the years. Thankfully, as with the game’s namesakes, things are looking positive heading into final prep.

After a couple of impressive stills of ITM Cup stadiums for Canterbury and Taranaki (photographers were sent round all the grounds, and unfinished stadiums — such as Eden Park — were completed off their plans) we got our first look at the menu.

 
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The intro sequence features Mils Muliaina, Dan Carter and Ritchie McCaw in the heat of action setting up a try. However, this sequence can change as the game will detect which country you're based in and select your national team by default. This is similar to the EA Sports Favourite team option that featured in FIFA, NBA and Madden, but the presentation is far better than we've seen in any sports game from Sidhe.

The developers have really aimed for a more emotional and engaging experience; there are lens flares, slow mo captures and snap zooms galore. If you've seen the night-time Piri Weepu haka shot, you'll see what I'm talking about. The camera angles are more dramatic.

Sidhe has also managed to break new ground by individuating crowd members. The change from a classic "cardboard" crowd has made big waves in the international digital world. There are even security guards, journalists, teammates and other sideline essentials. It's a wonderful small touch that looks very impressive.

Apart from one and two-player options, you'll also be able to play a single season and attempt a legacy in Franchise Mode. The ITM, Qantas and Super 15 franchises will be available, and there is also word of multiple European teams being involved. For those curious, the squads are current as of two weeks ago. As you’d expect, a big focus has been placed on online play to ensure any lag is minimised, so here’s hoping you and three mates can go compete without any jitters.

A handy tutorial helps get you up to scratch and, with an eye to the RWC bringing in new fans, a lot of work has been put into making this both easy and accessible. Various skills, such as running between cones, practicing kicks, and many other NZ primary school classics will have you doing behind-the-back passes and side-stepping opponents in no time.

All Blacks Rugby Challenge also features Rugby Money, a rewards system most gamers will be familiar with (think GT or Burnout). These rewards come from completing various activities, whether running through the tutorials or playing online, and can be spent in the Rugby Store. This is not an online function, but rather an in-game unlockable system similar to Sidhe's Rugby League games.

After being walked through a game featuring the All Blacks (game rating 95, the highest in-game) vs. the Wallabies (game rating 91, deal with it), we got our own chance for glory.

The pre-game Load Screen allow players to practice their passing skills in both one and two-player modes in a generic New York-esque background, although apparently it was originally Wellington's Newtown Park.

Of course, the All Blacks do the Haka. Only Ka Mate will feature, and in this case is led by Hosea Gear. Apparently the game will always pick the most relevant player to lead the Haka. Opposition teams respectfully stand and take it, which sadly means no Manu Samoa or other countries’ traditional challenges.

Controls are simple and should be familiar to most sports game fans. An interesting thing to note is that bound characters in a ruck cannot be unbound, to allow for a faster game. When kicking, the wind is shown dimensionally on the field using VVVV symbols rather than a HUD system. Side-stepping and fending require the use of the right analog stick, and passing after a tackle will result in an offload, depending on your stats.

When a player starts to pulse, they gain momentum and will have heightened attributes (break tackles etc). Those attributes include Mental Agility, which affects both a player’s awareness (especially with offloads) and also relates to their Discipline stat. Incidentally, Ma'a Nonu gets 58 MA. If you have a problem with that, there's an incredibly detailed player editor and character creation menu, which will allow for all those personalised rugby memories you've been craving.

Commentary comes from Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall, with Nisbett doing the heavy lifting and Marshall firing in asides. Fans of Jonah Lomu Rugby will be glad to hear Sidhe are fans of the game, so you may hear a couple of classics ("Dig's like a demented mole!") popping up. And that's not the only involvement the big man has lent to the game.

Sidhe Interactive has been liaising with the NZRFU for their Weta Digital motion capture with Jonah Lomu and various All Blacks, although we haven’t yet been told which ones.

All in all, this is an impressive display, and something rugby fans should be excited about. Can it finally give us a rugby game to be proud of? We’ll find out in the coming months.

All Blacks Rugby Challenge will be released on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and PS Vita.


All Blacks Rugby Challenge
+ More rugby! Finally!
- Can it overcome rugby's more awkward rules and still be a fun and free-flowing game?
"A rugby game made by New Zealanders in New Zealand? Bring it!"
- All Blacks Rugby Challenge
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Comments Comments (29)

 
Mongrel_Rob NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
Posted by Mongrel_Rob
On Wednesday 8 Jun 2011 7:32 PM
2
PSP and PS Vita versions? Wicked!
 
 
 
Ninja-15 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
Posted by Ninja-15
On Wednesday 8 Jun 2011 8:10 PM
1
Great write up. This has revealed alot more info. Too bad Kapa O Pango isn't in.
 
 
 
Ninja-15 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
Posted by Ninja-15
On Wednesday 8 Jun 2011 8:36 PM
-1
Rico Gear leading the Haka?
 
 
 
Sam NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
Posted by Sam
On Wednesday 8 Jun 2011 10:46 PM
1
So excited now it looks so mean
 
 
 
Mongrel_Rob NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
Posted by Mongrel_Rob
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 4:02 AM
2
8 June 2011, 07:32 PM Reply to Mongrel_Rob
PSP and PS Vita versions? Wicked!
PSP must have been a typo, it's changed to PC, which makes more sense. :P
Still, a PS Vita version will be very cool and is another reason why I'm be interested in the new handheld. Hell, I'll probably end up buying both the Xbox 360 and PS Vita versions of this game.
 
 
 
Rapidity NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
Posted by Rapidity
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 7:57 AM
1
How does the gameplay compare with say Rugby06 or Rugby08?
 
 
 
onehitter09 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
Posted by onehitter09
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 10:14 AM
1
9 June 2011, 07:57 AM Reply to Rapidity
How does the gameplay compare with say Rugby06 or Rugby08?
06 and 08 were nearly the same. Lets hope there is no zig-zagging. ''Step, STEP!, STEPP!!!''
 
 
 
TONGZ
Posted by TONGZ
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 11:47 AM
-
Loved 06 & 08, day 1 buy for me.

any news about cover star?
 
 
 
argsy NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
Posted by argsy
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 12:04 PM
-
Looks impressive, its been far to long since the last decent rugby game! Can't wait to see the wind turbine at the home of the Mighty Turbos (unashamed Manawatu fan!)
 
 
 
Nokise
Posted by Nokise
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 12:12 PM
4
9 June 2011, 10:14 AM Reply to onehitter09
06 and 08 were nearly the same. Lets hope there is no zig-zagging. ''Step, STEP!, STEPP!!!''
Even at this stage, it's playing far better than 06 or 08 - there's still swirving, but right analog allows for stepping. It's also faster as, and I may not have the numbers right coz I'm on my phone, it's made at 30fps, instead of 64 fps - not being able to unbind players takes getting used to, but with offloads improved, it's much more of a running game. I didn't have room to mention in the article but, depending on your skills, there's some great stepping and offloading animations. Also you can play as Lomu - and yes, he is big and awesome. No word on Chester Williams.
 
 
 
Rapidity NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
Posted by Rapidity
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 1:29 PM
2
Multiplayer... Check, Franchise mode... Check
Super Rugby... Check, NPC... Check
Tri Nations... Check

This game is going to take over my life
 
 
 
danterevan
Posted by danterevan
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 7:03 PM
-
oh my g$% this look ricken sweet im so glad i pre-ordered this already cant wait
 
 
 
AudaciousGnome NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
Posted by AudaciousGnome
On Thursday 9 Jun 2011 9:43 PM
-
9 June 2011, 07:03 PM Reply to danterevan
oh my g$% this look ricken sweet im so glad i pre-ordered this already cant wait
Where did you pre order it from?

I want to also :)
 
 
 
MajorZed
Posted by MajorZed
On Friday 10 Jun 2011 9:18 PM
2
this looks so good for a Wellington company !
 
 
 
hot_shot_9
Posted by hot_shot_9
On Friday 10 Jun 2011 9:36 PM
-
Keen as for this
Time to beat my mates at rugby games lol instead of always fifa
 
 
 
blurdog
Posted by blurdog
On Friday 10 Jun 2011 9:40 PM
-
I'm wondering, is the forward play much on this or do you just add players to a ruck and hope to win it back? How do you win ruck ball? Above you guys put Rucks in the 'Ugly' category, is that to say it's part of the game without any real appeal for those who like forward play? Really enjoyed your article, but would be really keen to know, thanks. :)
 
 
 
Nokise
Posted by Nokise
On Saturday 11 Jun 2011 10:24 AM
1
10 June 2011, 09:40 PM Reply to blurdog
I'm wondering, is the forward play much on this or do you just add players to a ruck and hope to win it back? How do you win ruck ball? Above you guys put Rucks in the 'Ugly' category, is that to say it's part of the game without any real appeal for those who like forward play? Really enjoyed your article, but would be really keen to know, thanks. :)
Essentially, the lack of un-binding means the forward play is much looser: The rucks are smaller, and have more runners / tacklers standing off it.

It takes a little getting used to and, because of the way most Rugby games play, you'll start off just adding and hoping. But the payoff is that, after a while, you realise you can't just power over teams and have to think about how many players to commit and what your chances of winning the ball are. This means you don't get the classic (and un-realistic) scenario of throwing most of the team into a ruck to be left with two players to pass to.

You can judge if you're winning ruck ball using the "power ring" (groan) which surrounds the ruck and, depending on who is winning, will have yours or the other teams colour dominate. That's not a great description so I'll try to get hold of a picture in a follow up article.
 
 
 
mbeyers
Posted by mbeyers
On Saturday 11 Jun 2011 5:56 PM
-
Will there be a Tri-Nations mode? If so, is there a licensed South African (Springbok) team in the game?
 
 
 
fijianfury
Posted by fijianfury
On Sunday 12 Jun 2011 10:16 PM
-
8 June 2011, 08:36 PM Reply to Ninja-15
Rico Gear leading the Haka?
looks like piri weepu
 
 
 
PeekaBoo
Posted by PeekaBoo
On Sunday 12 Jun 2011 10:22 PM
-
Im just wondering, does time slow down when your going for a kick like in the rugby league games? if so, that is a let down. I would rather the rugby 06-08 kicking.

And does the players actually look like themselves? cant really tell by the photos :D
 
 
 
PeekaBoo
Posted by PeekaBoo
On Sunday 12 Jun 2011 10:25 PM
-
9 June 2011, 11:47 AM Reply to TONGZ
Loved 06 & 08, day 1 buy for me.

any news about cover star?
Hey buddy,
http://nzgamer.com/all/news/5036/rugby-challenge-cover-art-and-new-name-revealed.html
That is the cover for New Zealand sold products.
I would think if your in Australia (like me), the stars would probably be Matt giteau, Rocky Elsom and Kurtley Beale.
Not sure about the other countries though.
 
 
 
watties
Posted by watties
On Monday 13 Jun 2011 12:36 PM
-
"An interesting thing to note is that bound characters in a ruck cannot be unbound, to allow for a faster game."

A little disappointed about this, hopefully it won't make defending harder inside your own 22.. Otherwise looking/sounding good!
 
 
 
Nokise
Posted by Nokise
On Monday 13 Jun 2011 4:09 PM
-
12 June 2011, 10:16 PM Reply to fijianfury
looks like piri weepu
That is Piri Weepu in the shot, but the Haka itself is lead by Hosea.
 
 
 
PeekaBoo
Posted by PeekaBoo
On Tuesday 14 Jun 2011 12:29 AM
-
11 June 2011, 10:24 AM Reply to Nokise
Essentially, the lack of un-binding means the forward play is much looser: The rucks are smaller, and have more runners / tacklers standing off it.

It takes a little getting used to and, because of the way most Rugby games play, you'll start off just adding and hoping. But the payoff is that, after a while, you realise you can't just power over teams and have to think about how many players to commit and what your chances of winning the ball are. This means you don't get the classic (and un-realistic) scenario of throwing most of the team into a ruck to be left with two players to pass to.

You can judge if you're winning ruck ball using the "power ring" (groan) which surrounds the ruck and, depending on who is winning, will have yours or the other teams colour dominate. That's not a great description so I'll try to get hold of a picture in a follow up article.
does time slow down when your going for a kick like in the rugby league games?
 
 
 
wangwei1
Posted by wangwei1
On Tuesday 14 Jun 2011 11:40 PM
-
Sounds promising. I will pick up the better one between this and Rugby World Cup 2011.
 
 
 
marvelboy
Posted by marvelboy
On Tuesday 5 Jul 2011 1:44 PM
-
about time a Rudby got a new game out pity they could not get licenses for all teams. will pre order immediatly, it comes out on my birthday so happy birthday to me
 
 
 
Shaneo2011
Posted by Shaneo2011
On Thursday 14 Jul 2011 10:52 PM
-
Im looking forward for this game, it has been quite awhile since a rugby game has been released. I quite like the feature of the ITM cup being added they will be a must play.
 
 
 
Shaneo2011
Posted by Shaneo2011
On Thursday 14 Jul 2011 10:54 PM
-
Im looking forward for this game, it has been quite awhile since a rugby game has been released. I quite like the feature of the ITM cup being added they will be a must play.
 
 
 
kluzo
Posted by kluzo
On Sunday 24 Jul 2011 7:46 PM
-
Hey, great article. Definitely looking out for this one!

Just one thing, you've mentioned that we will "be able to play a single season and attempt a legacy in Franchise Mode." Sorry for being ignorant, But what exactly is Franchise mode? :P is it like manager mode in FIFA? Coz i reckon a manager mode for Super 15 with transfers and stuff would be wicked. And can you only play a single season, no more?