Rugby 15: Is It Still Delivering?
Quite often we see gaming reviews come out hot off the press, with hundreds of sites and magazines all vying for the first load of hits by getting theirs out first. While it’s great that the internet brings us the capacity to deliver turnarounds that quick, it also brings the slight negative that we can get a review based on very little gameplay. Some offerings are what you’d call slow burners, whilst others race out of the blocks and grab you straight away.
That’s why we’ve decided to revisit Rugby 15 a few months after it hit the market so we could let it digest and see how it holds up. Is the longevity there, and can we still get enjoyment out of the game?
Rugby console games have had their ups and downs but the announcement of HB Studios’ Rugby 15 was well received by fans, although the original screenshots did leave something to be desired. Rugby Challenge 2 came out in 2013 but since then there hadn’t been much of a stir in the market. Granted it has never been the most popular sport to transfer to video gaming, but there is a fan base for it.
With 2015 the year of the rugby World Cup, it seemed an obvious time to bring out this offering. It has so far underwhelmed. Of 58 reviews on Amazon, 51 reviewers had given it the lowest rating of one star and an average of 1.4/5. Is that a fair reflection? Just recently, publishers Big Ben have announced their intention to put out a World Cup specific version of the game. Whether or not this will be worthwhile remains to be seen because of what we’ve played of the current offering so far.
How it looks
To put it bluntly, there doesn’t seem to have been many advancements since the ‘Rugby’ series first came to the market. Given that it’s been over 11 years, that’s quite an achievement and not in a good sense. The graphics have been slightly scaled up and are better than back then but by modern standards they’re not up to par with their sporting peers in football, golf and the likes. The crowd aesthetics seem to have regressed, with cardboard cutout square heads the order of the day.
More annoying – and more of an issue for rugby fans – is the fact that the likeness of the players is at best rudimentary and at worst totally wrong. This is a licensed game for certain leagues and has likeness rights but they appear to have totally discarded them. Whether it’s lack of investment or lack of time, something doesn’t add up. It doesn’t matter too much because there are no differing camera angles or close-ups.
Let’s start with a rare plus. The controls are quite simple to get to grips with. They need to be because there’s no other way to learn them such as a worthwhile tutorial. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the game plays well because there is fault after fault. The passing game offers little hope of success. It takes too long to offload and this results in a real lack of fluidity. Any rugby aficionado will tell you that the most joyous part of the game is attacking, running rugby with backs running hard lines and passing to create space and hitting the gaps. That is just impossible to make happen, therefore it means we’re left without the most entertaining part of the sport.
You’ll have to get familiar with these situations
Kicking out of hand is tolerable, but penalties and conversions are clunky and much harder work. The actual real-life ability of the player to kick the ball doesn’t matter in the game. From fly half to prop and everything in between, if you mash the buttons right anybody can deliver a Wilkinson-esque punt. However, that’s quite useful when keeping the ball in hand is such a chore. Kicking can often be the best attacking option.
Every forward has the Zinzan Brooke ability to deliver 50 metre drop goals
Relation to the real game
The biggest issue we found with the realism came in the breakdown. This is what defines rugby union. The way the game realises it is so far from the mark it’s untrue. For example, statistics say that the 2007 World Cup Final had a 95% breakdown retention rate. In Rugby 15, you can lose the ball at almost every contact situation. The forwards of the day would roll their eyes at this, and gamers do, too. A turnover is hard-fought at the highest level and a real reward. It’s every other breakdown in the game and that’s one of the facets that really detracts from its relation the 15-man game. Scrums are passable, as are line-outs, if not very engaging. Again, the real-life stats of the forwards rarely seem to have an impact on the set-pieces of the video game.
You can play ‘Six Countries’ but it is lacking the true-to-life World Cup element. It is hard to see many people shelling out to buy the next instalment after this release but at least that will be available. Fans want a game with the best teams and players – 7/2 New Zealand and 12/1 England (at the time of writing) will bring the star value in that one, but when the international teams in Rugby 15 don’t even have complete real player names (or the ability to edit them) that gives it a hit in name value that is hard to swallow. FIFA has always been a huge hit because you have every true-to-life player you could ever want. Names do sell. In lieu of gameplay, it’s something you’re going to need. Another rare plus, the Top 14, Pro D2, Aviva Premiership and Pro12 leagues are up to date, albeit without convincing visuals.
In closing, there are games that are generations old that you might still rather stick into your PlayStation. If RWC 15 has made leaps and bounds then there might be a reason to invest, but in the given time it might not be worth holding your breath. Going back to Rugby 15 and trying again has just compounded the woes, it hasn’t made it any better. If anything, every game exposes more flaws. There’s ground to make up but a market that is baying for it so here’s hoping HB Studios make the right investments to push the output forward.