Rugby is an intricate sport. It’s governed by several technical rules, player movement is often spontaneous and reactive, while set plays are tactically astute, incisive and often difficult to pull off. For these reasons, and many others, Rugby is a difficult sport to translate into a game, and while many developers have tried, most have failed.
It’s scary to think that the two best rugby games we have ever seen released over 20 years ago. Maybe it’s time others stopped trying. BigBen Interactive have released several rugby games over the years, but just about all of them have been massively disappointing. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the developers should just try to keep it simple, something that Rugby 20 has largely tried to do but sadly, the more simplistic approach doesn’t seem to work either.
The first major issue with Rugby 20 is the clear lack of licensing. A handful of Pro 14 clubs and a teaspoon full of countries are licensed, but for the majority of teams there is no official representation whatsoever. Player names, likenesses, team names, kits, and sponsors are mostly fake and while other games counter this issue by putting in names that sound like the real thing, Rugby 20 doesn’t follow this familiar trend at all.
Even worse is that the player stats are random, making teams that are the best in the real world often terrible inside of the game. I used South Africa as my team for the most part and there’s not a single recognisable player based on stats, likeness or anything that remotely resembles a real-life player. It’s a larger problem with Rugby 20 in that the stats don’t seem to make any difference, and with all the players looking relatively similar, it makes no difference who is on the ball.
Even the licensed teams don’t make great use of any major differentiators between the players’ looks, other than a change of skin or hair colour, there’s little to pick from. Visually, Rugby 20 feels like it belongs on PS3. It’s possibly an upgrade over Bigben’s previous title, but only just. It runs smoothly at times, but the janky graphics are more unpleasant than a collapsed scrum. The player movement is unnatural and occasionally chaotic, making it feel like an under-six football game with every player swarming towards the ball, rather than a professional rugby match.
Kicking, running, passing, tackling and set plays all feel like a big mess with limited animations making it feel incredibly repetitive. Even scoring a try when you eventually break through the line doesn’t feel even remotely rewarding. The commentary and stadium sounds do nothing to change the dull atmosphere of the game while the robotic voices of some of Rugby’s past favourites makes you question how much they were paid to lend their vocals to Rugby 20.
Rugby 20 doesn’t have many saving graces, although the “highlight” is the Ultimate Team like mode which sees you start with a weak team, playing matches to earn in-game currency and upgrade your team. There are no microtransactions here which is a win, but because you are mostly getting
unrecognizable players, there’s little joy in getting better players into your team.
Other modes are standard with a handful of international tournament options, a career mode and some of the individual tournaments out of Europe. The online modes do nothing to add glamour to Rugby 20, and even if you find an online match, as it starts, you’ll find yourself wondering why you bothered.
While other sport games that don’t have licenses have added a full edit mode with the ability to download community-created squads, or option files – adding all the realism you need – Rugby 20 gives players neither of these options, meaning that you’re stuck with no-name players with odd stats that make the game just plain boring to play.
These Rugby games usually release at the time of a World Cup, generating some hype but Rugby 20 releasing now it doesn’t even manage to do that.
Last Updated: February 10, 2020