Over the years Rugby games have been few and far between as developers and publishers churn out more and more football titles. But with the success of the England team at the time the games industry changed its mind. However as proven in the past rugby games are very hard to get right, mainly because there are so many players acting at once, and also due to the more complicated style of the game when compared to something like football.
World Championship Rugby is the official game of the England team and comes with a fully licensed set of stadiums and players, so if nothing else the game is aiming to be as realistic as possible in terms of presentation. However, as many people know having the licenses does not necessarily mean the game is of any real quality.
The title contains a large number of different play modes; you can take on the world cup, do tours, play leagues and take on the challenge of a number of different historical matches from rugby’s past. Add a few ‘winner stays on’ style survival matches and it is clear there is plenty for fans to do and a certain amount of long-term appeal. At this point it all looks promising, maybe just maybe they have got right?
Graphically, things are functional, players look vaguely similar to real life counter parts and the ball looks the right shape, but in the midst of a match it can be hard to tell who is who and also to see what is going on. This really is not a good a thing as with so many bodies around it can be far too easy to simply lose sight of the ball and end up turning over possession to the opposition without even realising it. Sound wise the game is poor, there are some nice touches but the commentary is terrible, it lacks any passion and makes the game feel flat and lacklustre. Sound effects for tackles and other moves seem tacked on and the crowd can be deadly silent at times, even when a try is scored. Saying that there is one high spot, the England crowd sing ‘swing low sweet chariot’ if you are doing well.
However, the gameplay is really not up to world championship standard. At first it seems fine, you run along passing the ball left and right, thinking to yourself how to make creative moves and passes, then it hits you- you can’t really create that many different plays. Unlike real Rugby this game has you passing the ball all the way to one side of the pitch, where your man gets tackled. You then pass the ball all the way to the other side of the pitch, repeat until you reach the try line. It’s terrible and every game you play ends up exactly the same.
Not only this but there is a huge lack of skill involved in playing the game. Any scrum or maul you get into seems to be almost completely random as to the outcome. Something very noticeable when teams are even, playing against weaker teams simply means you win every single scrum, not the most realistic of things to see, and it all descends into a large amount of random button bashing in the hope something might happen in your favour.
When running with the ball you have so few options it is criminal, you can pass, kick or do some strange dodge move, but there is no variety in it, In a real game of Rugby you see countless different types of running and passing moves, overlapping plays, little chips through from a kicker, none of it is present here. You just run get tackled, bash buttons and run again.
Then after much random button bashing and playing five group games in the world cup that all played exactly the same, you think you’ve seen the worst of it, but no, World Championship Rugby has one final piece of sloppy workmanship to throw right in you face. Running with the ball and passing it left and right may have been ok to give an adequate feel for the sport, had it not been for the monumental amount of slow down that causes the play to move into a sort of unplanned bullet time. It truly is the worst case of slowdown since James Pond decided to become Robo Cod, what a mess.
Unfortunately, it seems all the time spent on this release has gone into making the first few menu screens you come across look nice. It seems that developers just do not have a clue how to make a decent Rugby game and this is so removed from watching or playing the real thing it hurts. Maybe one day there will be a title to rival Pro Evolution Soccer for a Rugby fan but until that day it is probable better to leave the gaming to football fans.