Rugby Challenge–More info and hands on

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On Friday afternoon I was invited down to the swanky Melrose Arch Hotel to hear about the upcoming Rugby Challenge from Sidhe that Megarom will be bringing into the country.

First things first, the title is now officially Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge, however to create confusion the game has a different name in Australia (Wallabies Rugby Challenge) and New Zealand (All Blacks Rugby Challenge).

It’s the same game in all 3 regions, nothing at all is different apart from the cover and name so don’t let that worry you too much.

Rugby Challenge is obviously the other Rugby Game being released in the near future with Rugby World Cup already being announced and having the Springbok licence which leads us into the question as to why should you buy this Rugby game over RWC?

Since we haven’t played finalised versions of either yet we won’t try answer that question for you but rather give you the reasons we were told by the publishers.

First up Rugby Challenge is not a world cup game, this was emphasised quite a few times through the presentation and so was the fact that it has a RWC styled tournament in it called Rugby World Cup Challenge. In Rugby World Cup Challenge you can setup your pools with all the teams in the RWC 2011, edit the teams to ensure they reflect who is really playing in the tournament and then run out onto all the fully licensed and recreated New Zealand stadia. But remember this isn’t a RWC game.

In total there are 31 stadiums in the game but they aren’t all licensed, the local ones for example are just named after their city so you can’t play in Newlands but you can play in Cape Town Stadium which looks identical to Newlands.

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You also can’t play as the Lions but you can play as Johannesburg.. ah but wait you say. Why are there even teams for cities? Good question.

Remember this isn’t a world cup game so not only do they have all the Rugby playing countries represented but they also have another 93 teams in the game with most of them being licensed. The sad part is that the unlicensed teams are the best ones in the game. (The local ones)

Onto the game itself, the game has 4 difficulty settings and one of the things that was stressed is that the new harder settings are now actually pretty hard. You’re not going to be running circles around the professional level anytime soon which also means the game should have some longevity.

Not that they really want that though as it was mentioned on numerous occasions that they are planning for Rugby Challenge to become an annualised title much in the same vein as the FIFA series from EA. Whether this is a good or bad thing I’ll leave up to you.

Thankfully the game also comes with some very in-depth tutorials from a 2 minute video explaining the basics of Rugby to a series of hands on tutorials that take you from a simple pass to the advanced moves and features in the game.

You can attempt these tutorials while waiting for a match to load which is a nice steal and improvement from FIFA to avoid those ever hated loading screens. Or you can just run around and practice your awesomeness while the game loads.

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One of the things we knew about Rugby Challenge before hand is that it has an incredibly detailed character editor so that if you really want to recreate your favourite team all the way down to the pot bellies, cauliflower ears and sloped forehead you can.

The editor looks easy to use and will be a constant source of entertainment for people who love customising their characters, which isn’t me. As long as the name is similar to who I think it should be then I’m happy but each to their own I guess.

Once you have your team setup and all your guys looking like tamed gorilla’s then you can enter the career mode. The career mode lasts for 13 seasons during which time you will age (but attributes won’t change) and you’ll be forced to deal with injuries, suspensions and all the tournaments that occur over the 13 seasons.

Another addition that I wasn’t aware off was that of Rugby Dollars, the more you play and achieve the more Rugby Dollars are earned, these can then be used in the shop to purchase behind the scenes videos of the making of the game including one of Jonah Lomu himself in a motion capture suit and running around with little balls stuck to him.

This was done so that all the movements in Rugby Challenge look realistic and that is something I can happily attest to. The game really does look very good and the player movements are great, obviously we are not talking about FIFA level great yet but for a game with a much smaller market and development budget I can say I was impressed by what I saw.

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There isn’t much we can say about it really other than it looks good, the movements are fluid and the change from running, to mauling to passing is very well done with little to no jittering and the controls look and feel very responsive.

After the meeting I had some hands on time with the game against Dawid from G3AR magazine and I am happy to say that I thrashed him… yeah I’m lying what chance does a football loving Brit/SA have against someone called Dawid Venter in Rugby anyway? He ended up thrashing me mercilessly but in that time we did manage to experience a scrum, lineout, some good mauling and passing and then in the end my only tri was ruled out by the Third Match Official.

While it sucks losing at any time it was nice to see the game wasn’t all about button mashing and good looks, Dawid picked up the controls very easily after playing many a Rugby Game and quickly showed that a bit of knowledge and talent will take you a long way in this game.

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To wrap up, the game will have a fully functional online section that you can use to quick match against other people or setup private games up to 4v4 online. Locally you can play 2v2 on your console and that is where I see a lot of time being sunk into this one.

There is no release date yet for Rugby Challenge but they are obviously trying to get it out before the World Cup starts and if they manage to do that then RWC is going to have a massive fight on its hands.

As soon as we know when it’s going to be released we will let you know, that’s a promise.

A big thanks to the guys from Megarom and Tru Blu for the opportunity to get some hands on with the title and hear more about it and thanks to our celebrity guest, Percy Montgomery, who gave the event a bit of class and ball signing.

Last Updated: August 1, 2011

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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