Leading the sports news tonight, Saturdayâ€™s one off trans Tasman rugby league test has ended in another loss for New Zealand. While there is nothing new there, what is new is Rugby League Live 2 from Australian developers Big Ant Studios. Promising hundreds of leagues and teams, game breaking off-loads, devastating shoulder charges, and - most importantly - a chance to take the Kiwis to a win over the Kangaroos.
To be realistic, Rugby League Live 2 is never going to match the mega sports sim franchises from 2K and EA Sports. But, with a good knowledge of league, and experience with 2010â€™s Rugby League Live, thereâ€™s reason to be optimistic that Rugby League Live 2 can deliver a big hitting, hard running, and enjoyable game. And, all things considered, Rugby League Live 2 is an enjoyable game. Except for the sound, which is terrible.
While not liking the soundtrack, which is mostly a mix of Aussie Indie bands, may simply be a matter of taste. Without a doubt, Phil Gould doing the expert comments is the most annoying thing Iâ€™ve ever heard. After every poor last tackle option, duff kick, or dropped catch, Phil cries, â€śNo, no, no, no, no.â€ť While I should add how accurate and varied the play by play commentary is by Andrew Voss, I canâ€™t. Because after four or five â€śNo, no, no, no, noâ€™sâ€ť, I turned the sound off. If I had a choice between sharp sticks jammed in my ears, listening to John Key answering questions about Kim Dotcom, Rebecca Blackâ€™s latest single, and Phil Gouldâ€™s â€śNo, no, no, no, noâ€ť - Gould would be my last choice.
Once youâ€™ve turned the sound off you can jump straight into a quick play game between teams from the NRL, State of Origin, or the northern hemisphere Super League, and various junior leagues. All licensed, and accurate to last seasonâ€™s rosters. So, while thereâ€™s no Sonny Bill Williams, at least Michael Luck is, along with every other rugby league player in the world. Although you can see the work thatâ€™s gone into the biggest stars (you can identify Johnathan Thurston not only from his headgear, but by the way he kicks his goals), for most of the players itâ€™s hard to distinguish whoâ€™s who.
The way the controls work is you use the triggers to select the player closest to the ball, and to sprint. When you have the ball, the bumpers let you pass right or left. You control your direction with the left stick and the right stick triggers fends and side-steps. While running the ball feels intuitive, kicking takes a bit of getting used to. To do this you have to hold the left trigger and then aim with the stick.
Most of the time the, controls work well. You can hold down players in the tackle, but you canâ€™t fight to get up. So, sometimes youâ€™re waiting at dummy half for the play-the-ball, even when youâ€™re on a roll. You can pre-select a pass, and with the face buttons nominate who to pass to. You can do grubber kicks, chips, and bombs. Switch from compressed to sliding defense. And, for repeated offending, or head high shots, you can get ten minutes in the bin.
Everything that happens in a real game is well covered. While the delay between pressing the pass button and actually making a pass can be frustrating, especially when it takes so long it results in a forward pass or an intercept, or the way itâ€™s impossible to select your fullback to get across in cover when your lineâ€™s been broken, the essence of rugby league is captured very well.
Rugby League Live 2 also has a comprehensive player and team creation mode. You can play ten year careers that that also require some player and team management. While itâ€™s not a fully realised management mode, you do have to manage funds, sign with the right sponsor, and stay within budget to get to the end of your ten year cycle.
You can also play four player co-op and eight player online. Connecting to a game is quick and playing is hassle free. Like all sports games, playing against real people adds to the difficulty and enjoyment of the game - even if it does have the odd graphical glitch when your opponent is kicking a conversion. With Rugby League Live 2, a bit more difficulty is especially important because, in singleplayer mode, it is far too easy.
If you play a game at amateur or rookie, by your second or third game you will be unstoppable. Every player will break tackles like Aussie James Tamou against the Kiwis. Within half an hour your only challenge will be to get the â€śten tries in a matchâ€ť achievement in a ten minute game. Even if you ramp the difficulty up to legend, youâ€™ll still be able to win State of Origin and test matches. Itâ€™s one thing to make the game accessible, itâ€™s another to make it so easy that anyone can beat it in an afternoon.
So, although itâ€™s too easy, has uninspired graphics, and for some reason wants to send every try up to the video ref for review, Rugby League Live 2 is playable and enjoyable. Everything thatâ€™s good about real rugby league is in the game. You can smash James Tamou, play State of Origin, win away with the Warriors, and finally beat Australia in a one off test match. Now, all we need is to find some way to shut Phil Gould up for good.