Rugby World Cup 2011

It’s hard to be a fan of a niche sport, sometimes. Yes, rugby is a niche sport, at least so far as videogames go. After four years without a rugby game, we’ve suddenly got two to choose from: Sidhe’s Rugby Challenge (reviewed here by rugby guru Sam Waldron) and HB Studios’ Rugby World Cup 2011, a direct successor to their own Rugby 08.

So has it been worth the wait? Unfortunately, not really. This is essentially Rugby 08 in high definition, with only a handful of gameplay enhancements to try and justify the long wait. But it gets worse: unlike last time, there are many missing licenses, tournaments, and game modes. We’re left with something that’s a mere shadow of a game that’s half a decade old.

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It’s not all bad: Rugby 08 was, after all, a competent and often fun take on rugby. That fun is still present here, and old fans will be able to pick up the controls in a flash, as they haven’t changed one bit. In fact, everything feels almost 100% the same: passing, kicking, throw-ins and so on are identical, right down to the animations used.

One new feature can be found at the breakdown: you can now mash a button to send people in to try and secure the ball. As you do, a meter fills up; if it goes to far, you’re likely to concede a penalty. It’s a neat little mechanic that successfully abstracts the breakdown into something fun.

I’d love to say the game has many such improvements, but it simply isn’t true. While the official World Cup branding is present, and premier teams such as South Africa and England are fully included, there’s a big gaping hole where the All Blacks, Wallabies, and so much more should be. Instead, we get to play as a generic, fictional ‘New Zealand’ team, which just doesn’t do it for me. Names can be changed if you’re very patient, but there’s no full player editor — or a team editor of any kind — so you’re never going to have a real team on hand.

Much worse, though, is the lack of tournaments and extended game modes. You can play a quick match, or run through the World Cup, or… no, wait, that’s about it. There’s no Tri-Nations, no Six-Nations, no ITM Cup, no Super Rugby. The World Cup mode does let you play a series of international matches as a lead-up to the tournament itself, but it’s nothing special and doesn’t really warrant a second play-through.

The tournament is fun, for what it’s worth: taking Argentina (with real player names!!) from start to finish and nearly winning was a good experience. But in the end, it’s still just a string of matches with a surprising lack of incentive. It’s the lack of a career or manager mode that’s the real killer; there’s just no reason or desire to return to the World Cup once you’ve gone through it once or twice. Rugby 08, for all its faults, at least had a healthy number of competitions, and a World League mode spanning multiple seasons to lose yourself in. Here, you’ve got nothing.

More annoying things from Rugby 08 that should have been fixed are still present. AI idiocy still rears its ugly head: a grubber kick, for example, will still cause the opposing AI to just stand there rather than going for the ball. And while player movement feels a little tighter, it’s still far too easy to drastically switch directions while maintaining speed, resulting in some pretty frustrating and unrealistic weaving amongst the competition.

There’s new commentary, including an Aus/NZ combo that features Sean Fitzpatrick. He doesn’t do too badly, but all the commentators suffer from stilted, dry delivery. Worse, however, is the implementation: there were a couple of times when the commentators pointed out the level score, and how tight a match it was. Both times, the score was something like 12-0.

Everything about this game screams “minimal effort”. The graphics are passable but far from extraordinary. There’s no licensed music, or even any attempt at variety — instead, you get the same oddly stirring theme song endlessly looping. Gameplay has barely been updated from the previous games that came out on the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. Tournaments and licenses are so glaring in their absence, it’s a wonder I haven’t been blinded. I don’t know if all of this is simply due to a lack of funding, but the fact remains that we have a World Cup game that doesn’t feature the All Blacks, in a year where New Zealand is the bloody host! Combine that with the numerous other flaws and a narrow feature set, and you’ve got a compelling reason to immediately seek out Rugby Challenge instead.

"A shadow of a game."
- Rugby World Cup 2011
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments Comments (1)

Posted by wangwei1
On Friday 2 Sep 2011 6:01 PM
Hi everyone just skip to the last sentence. That's all you need to read.