Review of Rugby
This game was originally titled and penciled in to clash with the last Rugby World Cup, but EA were obviously not happy with hurriedly cramming the unfinished code out on a Playstation 1 disc and sensibly decided to continue fine-tuning it until the PS2 was launched. Obviously waiting until the 2003 World Cup came around was not a feasible plan therefore the lamely titled Rugby slips quietly into the stores with little, or no International Rugby Union competitions presently going on to help raise awareness (I suppose there is the Australian test series, but thats against the British Lions).
Now some of you out there may not know much about Rugby Union Football. Perhaps you were raised by chimps in a dense jungle… or maybe just born in the Americas, who knows? Regardless, Ill run through the basics.
This traditionally English sport was established back in 1823 when a young schoolboy named William Webb Ellis decided to pick up the ball during a soccer match and then charge towards the goal. Although this act was classed as cheating the idea eventually laid the foundations for a separate ball game. This event happened at a school named Rugby, thus the sport was named.
Played by two teams of 15 players the rules of Rugby may at first appear complicated but can be briefly explained as so:
A Kick Off must reach the opponents 10-metre line within the field of play; otherwise a scrum will be awarded to the opposition back at the center spot. The ball may be passed in any direction except forward. An intentional forward pass will result in a free kick awarded to the opponent. If a player is tackled then he must release the ball immediately, but he may hand off an opponent while teammates arrive.
There are four styles of kicking the ball. A Drop Kick will be kicked on the rebound from the ground. A Punt is kicked before the ball reaches the ground. A Grubber Kick is used to drive the ball along the ground and a Place Kick is used for a conversion after a try has been scored.
The object of the game is to advance across the oppositions territory by passing and running with the ball. If your player crosses the oppositions goal line then the ball must be placed onto the ground to score a try. Sounds quite simple, doesnt it? Unfortunately there is over three thousand pounds of pure muscle that will attempt to halt your progress.
If the ball crosses the side touchline, then a lineout is called. In effect, this is a throw-in where the ball is tossed down the middle of a line of players who must jump up to collect the ball and gain possession.
Certain infringements result in a scrum where the violation took place. This is where your heavy-weight players shove their heads up their team mates backsides and then push forward with all their might in order to gain possession. Rucks and Mauls are when every player in the vicinity piles on top of the poor sod that is holding the ball and does not end until either the ball touches the ground or the holder stops breathing and releases the ball.
If you are still confused, then dont worry as EA Sports Rugby has an idiot-proof Training mode that quickly covers the most important aspect of the game. For the novice player selection of a tournament is the place to get your immediate kicks with three major championships up for grabs. The VI Nations is a foot and mouth free round-robin European event involving England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and recent additions Italy. The Tri-Nations is a three-way series between possibly the cream of Rugby Union, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Finally a full World Championship allows the minnows to rubs shoulders with the greats and maybe create a few shocks along the way.
Rather than include a difficulty setting Rugby allows the player to increase or decrease the performance level of their chosen team between -20 and 50%. Its a great idea and should allow all teams, whatever their standard, to participate equally in each event. After all, which team would an Italian gamer gain more pleasure from guiding to a World Championship victory, South Africa or Italy? Precisely!
The control configuration is perfect for playing the sport of rugby as it almost replicates the highly successful system used by Rage for their Jonah Lomu game. When attacking, each of the three styles of kicking is allocated a separate face button with the final symbol being pressed to sprint. When defending the same face buttons are used to perform tackles, ground kicks or switch player. The top shoulder buttons work perfectly to pass the ball left or right. Pack play takes up most of the game and an ingenious graph system has been devised to monitor energy and strength for scrums, rucks and mauls. By keeping a close eye on the opposing packs energy bar youll soon work out the best times dig in or tactically push and gain the upper hand. Overall, the simplistic control set-up really does enhance gameplay.
When first playing the accompanying manual is best left open on the pages depicting Set Plays. There are 16 offensive scrum and lineout set plays that really do improve gameplay when used properly. Prior to a match four of these patterns are chosen and allocated to each of the face symbols on the joypad. Then, just before a scrum (or line-out) is taken, your selection is flashed up onto the screen allowing an immediate decision on how you wish the CPU controlled members of your team to react. This way you should always know where a pass is available, even to those players presently out of vision. Similarly there are 8 varied defensive set plays.
In an attempt to re-create a realistic environment all participating teams include real name motion-captured squad members, each with accurate physical attributes. This seems to transform across extremely well when playing, especially those in key positions. For example, pass the ball to a nimble winger and hell streak through any space offered, but should his route become blocked by a bit of muscle then his feet wont touch the ground (unless that certain winger happened to be the man mountain, Jonah Lomu). Similarly using your forward packs to stomp through the middle of a mass of bodies is far more effective than trying to get them to run into space. Put simply, its horses for courses. The only problem this poses is that once a game is underway all the players look fairly similar so best try not to run someone out of position.
Sadly the sound effects are pretty standard and use none of the PS2 audio capabilities. Mundane title music, monotonous crowd roars and a few grunts and groans are only saved by some splendid commentary from Bill McLaren and Jamie Salmon.
This finally brings us onto Rugbys graphical content. The team members and stadiums look good, but theres nothing here that you havent already seen before. I thought the player models seem quite rigid and robotic rather than loose and flowing (as in EA Sports recent FIFA soccer series). I also noticed that when standing still they squat in a very similar way to the ISS Pro Evolution players (hmmm, whos been looking over the fence?). Even the crowd is nothing more than a solid slab of tightly packed colored dots crammed into pens, while the pre-match and after-goal celebrations are virtually non-existent. As for the replays… why do we have to watch the fast rewind before every try is shown again in slow motion? This game really does lack finesse in the visual department!
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Rugby' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Martin © Absolute PlayStation
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