The World in Union... Rugby Union
Picked up a copy of Rugby World Cup 2011 recently, just out of curiosity. The last rugby game I'd played was the classic Jonah Lomu Rugby on the Playstation1, so it's been quite a while since I've played a game of virtual Rugger.
This is actually the first of two rugby games coming out this year. The other one being a new Jonah Lomu Rugby game, Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge.
Having sat and played a good couple of hours of it I can honestly say the game isn't bad, it's just not great. It's very utilitarian. By that I mean you buy the game and you play the Rugby World Cup and that's all you really get. There isn't much in the way of any other meaningful play modes.
First thing to note about the game is that when first play it your presented with a screen telling you to visit the official game website for an access code. This code unlocks the online modes for Xbox Live, much like your EA Sports Online Pass. The code however, is just displayed on the front page of the website so unlike your Online Pass this is freely available and in no way penalises you for buying a used copy. It begs the question then, why bother with it?
Once into the game you get the option to play the Rugby World Cup Tournament, play a Warm-Up Tour, an International Test or a Place Kick Shoot-out. International Test is your bog standard versus mode while a Place Kick Shoot-out is the Rugby equivalent of a penalty shoot-out in Football. Warm-up Tour seeks to emulate real rugby tours, taking your chosen team on a series of matches around either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. The Pacific Islands Tour pits your team against the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga for example. You can't set up your own tour which is a bit of a shame and you can't take a Northern Hemisphere team on a tour of the North, it has to be the South and visa-versa.
The meat and two veg of the game though is the Rugby World Cup mode. All the teams from the tournament are here however not all are fully licensed. The aforementioned Jonah Lomu game has snapped up the rights to some of the teams, who appear in the game with generic kits and just the nations flags on the menu screens. It does strike me however that a game about the Rugby World Cup, taking place in New Zealand, doesn't have New Zealand licensed as a squad and don't even do the Haka before a match, poor show. You can play through the entire tournament as it would be in real life or you can randomize the teams for a fantasy World Cup experience.
The game isn't great graphically. Don't get me wrong the game doesn't look bad, it's just not up to par with the top football games like FIFA and Pro Evo for example. I'd love to say this is because there are more men on the pitch but it's probably more down to low budget. The stadiums aren't very well rendered either as they have very generic looking crowds and small touches like the TV screens aren't animated. It just takes away from any possible realism. Although I thought making Murrayfield, Scotland's national stadium, only playable in dull and overcast conditions was a nice touch.
I thought the games audio was slightly off as well. There is only one music track that plays through the entire game, the World in Union Rugby World Cup anthem, and the crowd noises just seemed way too loud all the time. Even playing with the audio sliders I just couldn't get a good balance that made it feel like a TV broadcast.
All the niggles aside it is a fairly competent game of rugby. The game controls well enough and the AI will kick your butt on the higher difficulties if you don't really know what your doing. If anything the AI is maybe slightly too good as I found the jump from easy to medium a challenge. It was a fairly enjoyable game to play though, however I have a hunch that the Jonah Lomu title might be the better game.