With any sport’s World Cup, it is gaming policy to develop a title around all the fanfare and hype, and the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2011 is no different. Taking place in New Zealand this year, 505 Games and HB Studios have come together to develop the official game to accompany all the drama, sweat and glory.
It’s the first Rugby World Cup game in many years, and although the previous rugby games were developed by Electronic Arts, HB Studios has put in a stellar effort to capture all the emotion and action, but the game isn’t perfect.
Actually, no game can ever be perfect, but there are a couple of niggles in RWC 2011 that just make it a bit frustrating. But before we get to that, the title sure does have its own merits as it tries to carve out a place in history.
With South Africa being a rugby-mad nation there is no doubt that the title will sell like hotcakes, and it rightfully should. Its officially licenced by all of the teams, except for Australia and New Zealand (who committed to another rugby game) and features all the proper names and likenesses of key players.
The game consists of the full World Cup, single International Tests, a Warm-up Tour and a Penalty Kick Challenge. With the full World Cup, up to four players will be able to take control of any team and steer them through the group stages, the quarter finals, semis and then on to the big final match.
International Tests are just what they imply – single matches between two nations, while the Warm-Up Tour will allow players to experiment with positions, players and tactics before entering into the tournament.
The game of rugby is by nature a frenzy of muscle, speed and strength, and all of that is conveyed in the game. There is definitely a feeling of anticipation every time the ball takes flight, and it’s rather nerve-wracking to see 15 men come barrelling down on the ball carrier.
Although the controls are fairly simple to figure out and the graphics are good enough for the intended purpose, there are a couple of niggles that need to be ironed out for the next release. For example, most of the players all have the same running speed. If a wing is able to side-step his way around the last defender, there is no way that they will be able to catch up, as they all run at the same pace.
With a game of this calibre, it would have been a good idea to include a small tutorial as well. Most people know the basics of rugby, but there are a couple of control combinations that are not explained. A good example of this would be scrumming – the title instructs the player to use the left analogue stick, what needs to be done with the stick is not explained. Does the player need to simply push it forward, press it in or rotate it in a certain direction? When Namibia starts pushing South Africa’s forwards more than 10 meters there is clearly a problem.
And then there is the issue of tackle detection. There is no problem with the tackling as a whole, but there will be occasions where the ball carrier is clearly out of the defender’s reach, yet he manages to miraculously bring him to the ground. Line-outs are also a bit contentious, as it’s difficult to guess where the opponent will be throwing. When the CPU throws towards the back, logic dictates that if the front players jump up, they should catch the ball. But because the game is scripted, the ball will travel through their arms towards to back of the line-out.
A bit of an artistic issue is the wind factor. When getting ready for a conversion or penalty kick, there will more than likely be a wind in play. The only way that players will know there is a wind, is by looking at the wind gauge, as there is no wind effect on hair or clothing.
As a first effort for HB Studios, it’s really not a bad game. The game will appeal to the masses, and they are more likely to forgive the title for its short-comings, but it’s valid issues that the developer should have considered.
Although the graphics could have been a bit better, there are some instances where they shine (and it’s really only in the small details). The controls are easy enough to almost pick up-and-play, but a tutorial would have relieved some of the in-game stress.
All in all, it’s a great game for any rugby fan, and if this is the base from which HB Studio will have to build on for the next Rugby World Cup game, they don’t have a lot to worry about.
It’s not the best rugby game on the market, but it has its moments.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor