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Game review: Rugby World Cup 2011

15 Sep 11

I have a number of issues with this game, a very large number, and most are obvious. But something was bugging me about it for ages, something that I couldn't put my finger on, and then it hit me: in this official rugby game, all you do is play rugby.

Yes, that does seem odd. But there is no career mode, no manager mode. You can’t even make your own player. So all you do is pick a team and play a game or series of games until the game tells you to stop. Even the place-kick mini-game is just a small (and fairly dull) section of the larger game played over and over (seemingly designed to get you used to the unlikely situation of a tied game).

Sure you can sub players in and out and select which reserves you want in the game; but given that the statistically better players are already in the squad, why would you bother? This mind-numbing experience is the final nail in the coffin of Rugby World Cup 2011.

The general retail price is around $100. This is roughly $70 too expensive. If you paid $30 for this game you could be happy with the product, as the game is essentially the Rugby 08 game engine with fewer teams and game modes. In fact, for the official Rugby World Cup title, this game is missing a lot of features.

For a start it only has a small number of the stadiums being used in the real RWC (Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Napier) and one stadium (Christchurch) that isn’t. So don’t expect to play in Dunedin’s flash new indoor stadium or recreate the tension of Japan v France at North Harbour. You can, however, play in a number of Northern Hemisphere stadia, like Millennium Stadium and Twickenham.

And forget recreating any games with New Zealand or Australia. As RWC 2011 doesn’t have the licences for these teams you have to play as generic players in generic uniforms. The All Blacks and Wallabies are licensed to Sidhe’s Rugby Challenge game, while RWC2011 has all of the Northern Hemisphere teams and South Africa. By not having all the teams and all the players both games are hurt, and hurt badly. I spent over an hour creating the All Blacks from scratch, writing in the 30-man roster and bumping statistics to more accurately suit the players. Of course with no player face or body editor, Dan Carter was still a blonde, Piri Weepu wore head gear and Brad Thorn had long flowing hair.

There’s also no haka, no ‘Nonu with the line break’ from the commentary team, no general atmosphere of a rugby game. I mean, at the final game of the RWC, in New Zealand, the All Blacks were playing France and most of the crowd was wearing blue.

The commentary is as bad as can be expected. The English commentary is slightly better than the Australasian team, but there is no option to hear the call in French unless you also want all of the on-screen graphics to be in French as well. And of course the awful plague of commentary in sports games continues as what is said doesn’t match what’s happened and the phrases get repeated over and over. Playing it the other day I turned the sound off and instead listened to coverage of an ITM Cup game that was on at the same time, it was a much better experience.

The game itself is simplistic and the controls aren’t too bad. The top left and right bumpers pass in that direction (with the triggers offloading to forwards from the ruck) and the other buttons are for different types of kicks. Pretty straight forward - until you get to the ruck. This is the most important part of rugby and the hardest thing to put into a game. RWC2011 goes with the tried and true method of button mashing. Mash your button fast enough and more often than your opponent and you win the ball. Some are more easily won than others. Though as the difficulty level increases except to lose more rucks in a very arbitrary fashion.

The button you press to join the ruck is the same button that you press to offload the ball in the tackle and also the same button to punt the ball. So be careful, you might end up kicking the ball away instead of winning it at the ruck.

But the controls really aren’t a problem, the overall game is. It just doesn’t feel like rugby. From the game mechanics to the atmosphere it just doesn’t feel like the sport that most fans know. And for an official game this is far from what people would expect.

Graphics: 5

Sound: 4

Gameplay: 6

Lasting appeal: 4

Overall: 5

Played on PS3 and Xbox

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