Aiming to win the Webb Ellis Cup, the international rugby community has descended upon New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup 2011 tournament. The focus is on the hometown team, though fans and competitors from all around the world have made their way over there to participate in the festivities. This includes Canada and the United States – two countries who are not powerhouses in that particular sport, though the North American programs have continued to improve. For fans of my home nation and our neighbours to the south, it’s just nice to be able to watch them participate against challenging opposition on the world’s biggest stage.
To complement the ongoing collision heavy action, HB Studios and 505 Games have combined to release a video game based on the event. Entitled Rugby World Cup 2011, it brings the hard-hitting sport into our homes through our interactive consoles. Available in various countries around the world, this is the first game based on the sport to hit North American shores in quite some time. The sport’s fans on this side of the pond have certainly had a lot of downtime between releases, which is too bad considering the amount of other sports games released throughout the years.
Those wondering if their long wait was worth it will want to read on, as the answer is a mix of yes and no. Rugby World Cup 2011 is a decent game, but there are quite a few issues which hold it back from joining the sporting elite or the video game Hall of Fame, if you will. Let’s take to the pitch, get in a scrum and discuss our options as well as the pros and cons regarding this game. Make sure to put on proper protection though, as this is a rough and tumble affair which takes no prisoners.
What’s good about this game is that it brings the action into fans’ homes, through competitive and interactive means. There’s a full tournament mode with its roster of international powerhouses and those wishing to become that someday. It’s easy to just jump right in at the start of the pool stage, in order to take your nation from pool to finals, with a grand spectacle ending. To that extent, this game does a decent job of representing its source event.
On the contrary, those looking for something which will give them hours upon hours of content will be disappointed. Outside of the world’s biggest rugby event, there isn’t a lot to be found on this disc. There are some regional events which can be set up, but they’re really basic and end up boiling down to simple one-off games against each of the three or four teams in that area. A map pops up showing the different countries and your team takes a plane from one to another over a guided line. There aren’t any statistics kept or points earned.
What’s lacking here is a cohesive qualifying route, such as what we’ve seen in other games of this ilk. It would be much more exhilarating and immersive if there was a chance to qualify a team through a lengthy pool stage prior to the main event. If this gameplay mode was available, it would keep fans coming back for more.
The requisite exhibition match option also presents itself, allowing fans to jump into a no-strings attached match-up against their nation’s arch rival. Essentially, this is all that makes up the online offerings, which is pretty disappointing. Quick match and custom match options are available, though there’s very little difference. What I found odd was that an online pass code was required to jump into cyberspace rugby action, though the string of numbers and letters was not added into copies of the game. Instead, players must go to its website in order to jot down the necessary string. At least online competition is available.
If there’s one major mode suggestion I could levy, it would pertain to the inclusion of a tutorial mode. As it stands, Rugby World Cup 2011 isn’t as welcoming as it could be, due to a lack of any sort of practice option. Armchair athletes are forced to jump into one of the aforementioned modes, without being briefed on exactly how the game plays. Being someone who is relatively new to the world or rugby and all of its intricacies, I would have enjoyed the chance to find out more about the sport, this game and its related controls plus mechanics. It was a bit overwhelming to jump right into, to be honest.
Thankfully, the on pitch action is pretty fun once you get the hang of it. It’s competitive, and relatively challenging on harder difficulties. The development team did a decent job of making the chaotic sport playable in video game form, though some necessary concessions were made. What results is a sports games which plays a bit more like football, with stoppages and downs instead of lightning fast pick up and resume action after downs. This works pretty well in making things competent and manageable. Scrums tend to be less interactive than they could be though, and tend to hamper the experience more than they add to it.
Running the ball is fun, as is trying to break through defensive lines using quick tosses to the left and right. Limited play options are available to be called upon and the players themselves do a decent job of getting out into the open. Defensive artificial intelligence is lacking at times, as it can be relatively easy to get past the final defensive man, once you’ve broken through the main set. I quite enjoyed trying to go on epic runs, which made up the brunt of my offensive attack. Though, others may decide to use kicks to their advantage. There are varied options to be found and employed.
Every time there’s a downed ball, players must abuse the A button in order to attempt to win possession. A metre fills up showing who pressed it the most, but advantages are sometimes given to the loser anyways. It’s a strange aspect which doesn’t get much discussion or a proper in-game tutorial. Sometimes it’s possible to take control at key points in the game, though it’s much more difficult for the defending team to win when the attackers are nearing try territory.
A major area where this game falters is its employed camera angles. There are only a couple different options (sidelines and overhead action,) with neither one being all that impressive or easy to use. Regardless of which one I played with, I almost always had a problem following specific facets of the action. The most frustrating part lies in the distance at which the camera is away from the field, making it hard to see if a ball has come loose. The opposing team almost always had the jump on me because of this, at least when it came to those instances. It’s also sometimes difficult to pick up who has the ball or what’s going on because of the camera’s location.
Though the action is fast, relatively entertaining and interesting, it isn’t without its mechanical faults. Tackling is a bit more challenging than it should be, but that’s a more minor issue. The more noticeable problem lies in the kick and drop goal metres, which are very temperamental and feel imprecise. Trying to finesse a kick into a certain area is more challenging than it should be, using an employed mechanic like what is found in the Madden series. Players press A to instigate the power metre, which then swings back quickly. Another press of the button signals accuracy. If you’re even a hair off, it can be very detrimental to this cause, as the double press mechanic lacks cohesive polish and refinement.
Drop kicks and kicks ahead are performed holding the same button as tackles, dives and some other attack movements. As a result of this, there came a few occasions where I accidentally kicked the ball instead of dropping it down for a try. An arching arrow appears to identify your action, but it’s hard to aim or even make use of it with defenders barreling down on you. Perhaps a bit of a slow-down effect could have made this more exciting, applicable and user friendly. Camera issues also factor in here.
The necessary detraction announcements over with, I want to say that I had some fun playing this title. Sure, it’s not perfect by any means, but it does a pretty good job of delivering an interactive version of rugby. Considering how long local fans have waited for a game based on the sport, I’m sure they’ll enjoy this one even though it’s lacking in the features department and in need of some refinement. Rugby World Cup 2011 is an alright game overall, which could have greatly benefitted from some mechanical adjustments on the pitch. Its budget price makes these issues a little bit more understandable, though they’re still frustrating.
Throughout my hours spent with Rugby World Cup 2011, I didn’t notice many glitches or major issues with its performance. There was one freeze and a collision detection issue, but those were the only notable ones. For the most part, it ran quite well with a decent amount of detail within its environments and character models. The stadiums themselves tend to look better than the players, due to their static nature. There’s some good detail to be found, including adjoining tracks, visible overlooking buildings and the like. Players themselves aren’t as detailed or lifelike, but their models still look pretty good. The caked on mud effect is a nice addition, though it lacks realistic detail.
It’s easy to tell that a lot of work was put into the commentary offerings in Rugby World Cup 2011. There isn’t just one commentary duo to be found here, with the total tracks being a staggering four (two in English, one in French and one in Italian.) Being that I’m exclusively English, my time was spent listening to that track. I found that they did a pretty solid job of describing what happened on the pitch, using good stitching without noticeable errors. However, I wish there was more talk about history, teams’ past victories or the event itself, to add some colour in. I also found it hard to understand every one of their words, as the audio became a tad muffled at times, especially when the fans’ roar came into effect. The crowd and the sport’s requisite on-field effects sound okay and fit the bill, but are not memorable.
Overall, Rugby World Cup 2011 is an alright video game representation of a very physical and popular sport. I enjoyed playing it for the most part, but felt that the overall experience was lacking with some noticeable issues and detractions. With a little bit more time in the shop and some mechanical improvements, this game could have been much improved, especially if new camera angles were added. Rugby fans looking for an enjoyable game based on their favourite sport will want to give this one a shot. However, this try attempt could have been more effective had it been refined and expanded. There are elements here to like, but not enough to keep you coming back for years.
This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of content here to keep fans coming back for. Poor camera angles also mar the experience, which includes some gameplay hiccups that should have been polished and/or altered for improvement.