I’m a football gamer. Always have been, and for my sins always will. Every now and then I will stray away from my true love and play some ice hockey or basketball. But in more than thirty years of playing video games I’ve never played a rugby game. I’ve always been tempted, and even window shopped a few times, but I’ve never fully committed. Well, Rugby 18 is here and now the chance is upon me to set things straight. In fact, I was pretty excited about loading it up, in the hope it would give me a new sporting crush – or is it so bad that I never want to look at an oval shaped ball again in my life?
After a break from the latest generation of games, a rugby experience is back on our screens. It’s not since back in the ‘90s has a rugby game had any favourable reviews from critics and consumers, so after some rethinks and changes, how does the new game fare? Well, to start with Rugby 18 has decided it needs a new way on how the game is viewed, which is a bold statement from the get go. It all used to be played with a sideways camera, like FIFA, but now it’s gone down the Madden route with the camera behind the team. This works very well indeed, giving you a great perspective of the whole playing field at once, all whilst feeling dynamic and exciting.
The control system consists of a kick button and a pass button in attack. You pass the ball with the triggers in either direction, and this sometimes gets murky in the accuracy of the pass and the power. You can punt the ball forward at any time, which tactically works well as you are able to get space, and of course weave and sprint through the throng of players coming straight for you. In defence you have a tackle button and one which allows you to change player – once again this is hard to master and the accuracy sometimes gets put into question. It is in fact when you tackle someone, or are tackled yourself, before finding yourself involved in a scrum, where the game has problems.
The reason being is that you will end up in a scrum or left rucking for eighty percent of the gameplay. The way the scrum and rucking work is via a sort of mini-game, as you attempt to get the ball out as quickly as possible. The main problem is that it breaks the rhythm of the game up, and, after the umpteenth time of doing it, fails to ever become interesting. If the developers could find a way in the next incarnation of Rugby to do something differently with this mechanic, then they could well have an exciting game on their hands. But at this moment in time, it doesn’t quite work for me.
I also found myself taking part in loads of low scoring games, with little in the way of scoring or even getting near a try. It all boils down to a ruck, a kick, another ruck, an offside and then a ruck. Some of the A.I. seem to have problems with positioning too, and it doesn’t ever feel as cohesive as a game of this standard should be. When it flows and you get an attack right, then Rugby 18 feels good, delivering something pretty close to a decent sports experience. It’s just that overall there is something missing.
Modes wise and there are a few for rugby fans out there to enjoy. There’s the quick match option for instant gaming action, and a career mode that puts you in charge of your favourite team with money to spend in order to get all the best players and progress up the leagues. I enjoyed this mode, even though I became bankrupt in no time at all. There is also a normal league mode, with a few different leagues to participate in whilst My Squad is almost like Ultimate Team in FIFA, giving you points to spend on your squad before playing them in quick matches. A weekly challenge mode is also thrown into the mix.
When you compare it to the amount of options the EA Sports titles provide though, it isn’t in any way as extensive. The online mode has only a quick match option, which is a shame, as there should be more like the addition of online leagues. But it all works well enough and surprisingly these games are effective and tight, with the option of a private match against friends or a random.
Visually and Rugby 18 looks okay and there are no glitches to worry about. The stadiums aren’t amazing and I don’t think there are many licences on offer here, so it all gets a bit generic, but I like the presentation of the menus and the play animations. It does feel a tad last generation to be honest, especially when comparing it to the other more recent sports titles that are on the market. The audio effects seem to be appropriate, but I would have loved to hear the ref’s chat like you do on the TV, but alas, there is no luck with that. The commentary is a bit weak, using real world pundits, but it feels uneven and at times not accurate to the action taking place. It most certainly needs more passion, which from my meagre knowledge, is what rugby as a sport is all about.
Overall and Rugby 18 is a game for die hard rugby fans who know every move and have the patience for the slow gameplay. I found that the constant scrums and rucks are too boring for my normal routine of fast paced sports play. The career is fun though and there are some good modes to play with, but the lack of online opportunities may hamper Rugby 18 in the long run. There also really does need to be some changes to the commentary, at least to allow them to give it some welly and passion.
For now I’m glad I’ve delved into the world of the scrum, line outs and oval shaped balls, but will be more than happy to head back to the football.