With the Rugby World Cup now well into the swing of things now seems like a good time to get in on the action and try out the official rugby tie-in game. Rugby games have always been notoriously disappointing, riddled with bad gameplay. Developed by HB Studios Rugby World Cup 2015 looks to change things by one, improving on last year’s disappointing title and two, spark up some more interest now the tournament is playing on everyones minds. Now that we’re well into this year’s competition has this game succeeded? Most definitely not.
Personally I’ve never played a Rugby game, always been a fan of watching it but have never really got how it would all play out in a digital format. So to get to grips with it I spent a lot of time in the different training modes the game offers. There’s a lot to the game to take in and the controls tutorial isn’t overly helpful as you’re just given a bland splash screen with a breakdown of the controls. You have training regiments for each area of the sport including rucks, scrums and the driving maul but they’re not very deep, take only seconds to complete and the free practise mode is useless as it’s just you on pitch by yourself with nothing to do. Then there’s the bugs. During ruck training sessions for example you lose control temporarily and have to rely on the AI to setup the ruck, which only happened occasionally leaving you with two squads in a standoff till you forcibly exited the training.
Once you’re ready to go you lead one of the 20 participating sides on to certain victory. Of course it was always Wales for me. Games don’t particularly flow very well, scrums and lineouts feel like separate elements, they playout alright and the lineout offers up some strategic gameplay but they really slow down the normal quick flowing passing game. Worse still players stand around in static stances waiting for the current play to finish and there’s no chance to play any interesting tactics through off ball play. Bugs aren’t just localised to training either, they can crop up in the middle of games with AI failing to set up rucks or running around incomprehensibly. Of course the sensible solution in these situations is to quit the game and start over but in tournament that counts as a forfeit and a point deduction if you’re still in the early qualifiers.
Rucks are perhaps the most important element of any rugby game as you build up the phases and make your way towards the try line. Unfortunately rucks in this game don’t quite have the same impact as the ones you see on TV. Competing for the ball plays out with two bars that fill with one of three colours that determine whether you should go for the ball. Red are fouls in which you give away penalties and green is when you’re safe to take the ball while yellow sits in the middle and is more dependent on your opponents bar. The rucks are decided by waggling your right stick into the vibrating sweet spot better than your opponent and they’re really not hard to lose. Changing to a high difficulty does nothing other than decreasing ruck chances but even then if you’re quick they’re still not that difficult.
Building up phases is really the only viable tactic for winning successfully. While you can execute drop goals, long kicks, high kicks and soccer kicks none of the tactics play out very well. If you kick the ball forward and the opposition grabs the ball before you can charge it down rucks are a lot harder to control. Drop goals never seem to work either; I lost count how many times I tried to pull them off. When you’re that close to the line why go for the posts anyway when tries are much easier to pull off in this game. Then there’s off-ball mode in which you can call for the ball and make quick breaks for the touchline. While this might open a few more strategy options it takes time to setup, there’s more risk to it and it’s just too fiddly to control to be used repeatedly.
Dull comes to mind when looking at this game, well that and bright. You’ll find no FIFA level player models or fancy lighting effects here. Player models are pretty much universal through every squad and you’re not going to get any fancy closeup’s to distinguish each individual. There’s no trophy presentation ceremony, no anthem line-ups not even try and conversion celebrations. Perhaps the main highlight of the game comes down to the commentary box. Sky Sports regular commentator Miles Harrison and former English outside half Stuart Barnes make up the duo, and while a lot of their lines are recycled regularly they do sound like they’re having fun. Without it the rest of the sound department is rather lacking. Having seen Welsh hooker Hibbard doling out tackles live I can tell you there’s a satisfying meaty smack to go with them which reverberate around the stadium. Here however they’re more a pathetic slap.
As long as you’re up for just playing a running and passing strategy then Rugby World Cup 2015 plays alright. Try anything else and you’re in for a whole mess of problems. The game feels very much like it was rushed to coincide with this year’s tournament. There are huge flaws from the game breaking bugs, atrocious AI and poor design decisions. Ultimately this game deserves to spend some time in the sin bin.
This review is based off a review code of Rugby World Cup 2015 provided by Lick PR.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.