I hate to admit it, but my knowledge of rugby union is pretty bad. Being from the north of England, up here it is all about rugby league, a completely different sport. Prejudices aside though, the England rugby team have done alright since the turn of the millennium; World Cup winners in 2003, twice runners up and still the only northern hemisphere team to win it. So, imagine my surprise then that the officially licensed team cannot be found here in Rugby 22.
This review of Rugby 22 is even somewhat delayed on Xbox Series X|S because initially, there were no licensed teams on this version of the game. Now, some have been added in: All the other Six Nations sides are in, along with New Zealand, Australia and a few others. Current world champions South Africa are however absent.
Domestic teams from the French Top 14 and Pro D2 leagues are included, as are those featured in the newly expanded URC (which now includes domestic South African sides). The English Premiership is here in a fashion, but again without licensed teams.
Normally, these things are a minor inconvenience, and don’t detract from the game too much. But in Rugby 22’s case, it has tried to emulate FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode. But my collection of players shows a screen of silhouetted pictures with only a few actual players faces; either they haven’t got the licence for that player, or he doesn’t exist. It is all very messy and gives off the completely wrong impression.
Notice I said he, as there are no female teams at all in Rugby 22.
These cards can be used to create your own custom teams for use in the Career mode. This is the meat and bones of Rugby 22. Starting at the bottom rung of the rugby union ladder, you must improve and develop your team into a world-beating powerhouse. In typical fashion, you start off with lower ranked players but build up your team as you progress by buying booster packs or through recruitment. Rugby 22 has a universal currency called SP which you use to purchase booster packs, but Career mode also has a unique currency called RP to improve all aspects of your squad. Things like stamina recovery, team cohesion and injury aversion can all be improved using this currency.
The UI for Career mode isn’t very friendly however. League structure, standings and fixtures are all confusingly laid out and then there is the fact it will incorrectly display any upcoming fixture as a team not in my pool.
Bugs aren’t just limited to the UI. Match presentation shows more inside out faces of rugby players than I care to remember. Facial features all bulging out and no skin to hold them in place isn’t a pretty look.
You can also choose to participate in a regular league using one of the pre-created teams, licensed or unlicensed. There are also quick matches and online matches for a quick one-on-one, along with a training mode for brushing up on your skills.
As mentioned before, Rugby 22 has its own version of Ultimate Team, but this isn’t just limited to buying booster packs. Events run concurrently with real world events – again without any actual reference to them for legal reasons – which you can complete for big SP gains and even unique booster packs. Then there are missions to complete which offer 100 tiered milestones to achieve. Almost every action off and on the pitch will contribute to these so you are constantly working towards something. You can unlock boosts to both forms of in-game currency, new kit designs, booster packs and more. Completing a mission will also reveal a tile of a much larger picture. There is also an achievement related to this, but it is currently not working as intended. Hopefully this gets fixed down the line.
And then we get to the action on the pitch. Before you do anything though, I would increase the match length. By default, it is set to only five minutes, which sometimes is barely long enough for one possession each half.
There is a reason that rugby games don’t get a major annual release like some other sports, and it is very apparent here in Rugby 22. The real-life action can be tough to replicate without exhaustive body motion capture. As a result, there aren’t that many animations in Rugby 22. This is no more apparent than when passing down the line. As long as you tell the game where you want the pass to go, it will go there. Whether this involves the passer dislocating their elbow or phasing the rugby ball through their body just to throw the ball, they will make that pass.
It is quirky if a little rough around the edges.
Most of the rest of the action is shown about as well as the animations. There is an overreliance on rucks to overturn the ball and kicks aren’t used anywhere near as frequently as you would expect. Kicking isn’t even mentioned during the initial tutorial so a newcomer may not be aware that it is a thing in union.
Other grievances are more to do with the sport itself. So in that sense, Rugby 22 does a slightly better than average digitalisation of rugby union.
Commentary leaves a lot to be desired though. It feels ripped straight from sports games of the early noughties with sentences fused together from different recordings with pitches and speeds all over the place, particularly when relaying the latest score. That and there are very few lines included. Even within the first match played, I was hearing lines repeated over and over again.
Rugby 22 is a bold attempt at a rugby union game. The attempt at recreating the sport and number of unlockables is worth praising, but a lack of licences and game modes prevent this from being a must-play title for union fans. Rugby 22 may be the best presented rugby union game available, but it is still a world away from the upper echelons of sports simulation titles.
Hookers, fly-halfs, grubbers and more can be found in Rugby 22 on Xbox
- Attempts to create a rugby version of Ultimate Team
- Large amount of progression tools
- Lack of licensed teams and leagues
- Grating commentary
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - NACON
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 27 Jan 2022
- Launch price from - £41.74