Since the famous edition of Rugby 08, developed by EA Games, ten years ago no one has quite managed to replicate the on-field excitement of one of the most popular sports in the world. So as a fan of the sport and obviously being a gamer, I was thrilled to hear that Eko Software was developing a new rugby title, Rugby 18. The game, which was released in late October 2017, however, did not live expectations.
Taking into consideration that rugby is an extremely complex sport and the difficulties of translating that into a game must be very difficult, the fact of the matter is when you compare it to other sports titles such as the EA developed, FIFA 18 and NBA 2K18, the game simply doesn’t match up. Although the budget of EA for their titles likely dwarfs that of Eko Software, the games compete at the same price point so it is not unfounded to compare the titles.
Licensing and Graphics
One thing that game managed to get right was that it had all the relevant licenses in place to ensure an authentic experience when selecting teams and players. So none of that misspelling players, teams and coaches names in an attempt to work around licensing issues, which gave the game a good platform to build from.
The graphics of Rugby 18 are at a decent standard. Again it can not be compared to the likes of FIFA 18 or NBA 2K18, but it does not feel as if you are playing a game from 2007. The crowd is not as clear and precise as on other sports games. There is also a clear difference between the cut scenes and game play in terms of graphics, for example the grass is clear during the cut scenes with blades visible but when you get into the actual game play it changes becoming less visible. This is something that is unacceptable.
Without having the luxury that other sports titles have of having had years to fine-tune the gameplay, Rugby 18 falls well short of the mark. It feels as though you are stuck in an 80 minute (virtual minutes) rucking fest.
The first issue comes in when trying to get the ball from the scrum-half to the first receiver, the ball will get there alright, but passing it down the backline is near on impossible due to the poor organisation of the backline, if you can even call it organisation. The players are also all drawn to the contact zone this results with a lack of space for the backline players to run into and thus make ground with ball in hand. This coupled with the fact that as soon as a player receives a pass the AI controlled defence has already started making a tackle, so again it turns the game into one huge rucking fest.
Due to this constant stop-start nature of the game, Rugby 18 sees very, and I mean very, low scorelines on a constant basis. This not only drags a lot of the fun out of the game, but it also affects the career modes in terms of points difference throughout a season… but more on that later.
One unforgivable mistake is the misuse of the rules of rugby. I’m sure the developers have to have had an insight into the sport so the fact that the game clearly gets the offside and penalty advantage rules wrong on regular occasions is quite simply unacceptable. This coupled with the poor commentary, which is miss timed and riddled with errors, makes for a difficult experience for rugby lovers and gamers alike.
Some positive from the gameplay is the set pieces and the goal kicking. These are areas which are structured and allows players to have a relatively real experience.
The career mode starts by you selecting a 23-man squad from using any of the top stars that you wish. This is really fun and gives players the chance to build up their very own dream team. The game encourages to use your budget wisely, but there is also the option to pay off your debt over two season, which sounds like a good risk to build the best team possible.
This is about where the fun stops with the career mode as pretty much every gameplay fault in the game works against you in your pursuit to climb the leagues. I touched on the points scoring issue earlier, when playing career mode the fact that it is so difficult to score means that the other teams will accumulate a far better points difference which could ultimately see your team miss out on a promotion.
Unfortunately, this game did not live up to expectations. It is riddled with errors and draws much of the fun out of what is an entertaining sport. The game is low-scoring, rucking-filled, and is just an all-round disappointment.
Yes I get it they do not have the budgets of the other sports games around, but that can not excuse some of the fundamental errors in the game. This is Eko Software’s first attempt at a Rugby game so let’s hope they take the criticism levelled at the title and work on the issues to produce a better version next time around.