You may have noticed recently that there is quite a large tournament going on in New Zealand for the Rugby, it’s actually the world cup and is probably the most important rugby tournament that exists.
It also has an official game attached to it but this isn’t it, but it should have been.
I reviewed the official RWC title previously and didn’t love it. It ended with a 6.9 which I thought was a bad score but that is simply because I hadn’t played Rugby Challenge properly yet. If I’d received them at the same time RWC would have received a much lower score.
Rugby Challenge, or Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge as is it’s full title in South Africa is a much larger game and consists of not only a World Series (World Cup event) but also a slew of national and international leagues such as the Tri-Nations, Bledisloe Cup, Six Nations and more.
On the downside it only has 4 licensed international teams but the rest of the teams are there and as the game has the most indepth character modeller I’ve ever seen in a sporting title you can quite quickly ensure your team is updated with all the character models, names and skills to match what our bokke are doing in New Zealand.
On the domestic front however they have licensed pretty much every major team on the planet, except for all the South African teams who are represented by city names, as well as licensing all the stadiums in NZ and Australia.
But that’s all inconsequential as the game is about gameplay and that’s where Rugby Challenge destroys it’s competition.
During the loading screens between matches you are given the opportunity to practice things from as simple as passing the ball to fending off opponents and side stepping. Each of these tutorials are rated out of bronze, silver or gold and each level rewards you with some in game cash.
This isn’t some idle waste of time designed to ignore the loading times however and I strongly recommend you go through these tutorials during loads to pick up the nuances of the game. You’re going to find it pretty impossible to beat the AI on higher levels if you are not fending off opponents while side stepping incoming tackles.
The ball control in game is fluid but I did find myself getting frustrated by how long it took to pass the ball at times, I couldn’t ever get my players to pass it instantly on receiving which often resulted in me being taken down. However that said you do have enough control on the passing to work around this issue and deciding whether to pass long or short makes all the difference when breaking through the line.
Which brings another negative to this game, the tackles are nowhere near as crunching as the ones in RWC and I found myself disappointed in the lack of crunching tackles.
The penalties are ridiculously easy as well but are then drop goals and kicking for touch are overly difficult in my experience. All in all the gameplay still feels a little unbalanced but that is something I suspect Sidhe will be fixing as the years roll by as they have already confirmed they will be annualising Rugby Challenge.
The other gameplay elements such as the scrum, drive or ruck are well integrated and I never really felt that it was all down to button mashing and for the most part skill seems to reign in most circumstances.
The best part about Rugby Challenge though and what makes it a better game all round is the career mode. You start a career and choose a local and international team to play for and then you are set for the next 13 seasons.
Right now I’m playing for Johannesburg (Highveld Lions) and South Africa and you’ll be happy to know that I did pretty well in the Tri-Nations by coming second to New Zealand and am progressing well in the world cup so far by smashing some minnows and scraping past the decent opposition.. sound familiar?
This career mode doesn’t have the same amount of options as say FIFA but it’s still feature packed enough to keep you entertained for quite some time and once you start ramping up the difficulty level then the game really starts coming to life and making you sweat.
I had a few moments where I found myself physically jumping in the air as I scored a tri as the game was on a knife’s edge and when it comes to graphics Rugby Challenge is far and away the better looking game and I am yet to see any graphical glitch or bizarre player movement.
Being a sports title there really isn’t much more to say about it, the gameplay is solid and is by far and away the best rugby game available at this time. The different gameplay options and careers will keep you invested in this title for months to come and the player editor will placate even the most demanding fans.
There is also an online portion of the game if the 4 player couch multiplayer doesn’t work for your circumstances which allows up to 4 vs 4 over PSN or Xbox Live. Unfortunately I couldn’t round up 8 people to play against but that is something that sounds like it would be a whole lot of fun and so far there have been very few complaints about lag so it seems like Sidhe have nailed the latency issues.
The online ability is simply one of matches at the moment with an added leaderboard but that’s enough to keep you going until they announce online tournaments and leagues, which I can only hope they are working on.
All in all it’s an excellent title from Sidhe and will make a great addition to any casual or hardcore rugby fans gaming collection.
Oh I nearly forgot, the money you earn from winning games and completing tutorials can be used to unlock images in the rugby shop from the making of the game. Why you would want to do this is beyond me and it really just feels like they liked the idea of earning money but had absolutely no use for it. It’s pointless, but adding pointless things doesn’t negatively affect a title so it’s there but who cares really?
The gameplay is deep and well implemented and while there are some niggles I am forgiving them as it’s a great start to what we have been promised will only get better.
Design and Presentation: 9/10
From the character models to the menu’s to the layout, everything in Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge looks and feels great
Yes it’s going to become an annualised sports title but you can grab this game now and only pick up a sequel in 3 years. With the character modelling and in-depth career mode this game will keep you coming back again and again.
By far the best rugby game on the market at the moment. Do you need more than that?[Reviewed on the PS3]
Last Updated: September 13, 2011