It is an authentic and licensed Rugby World Cup game, but not much more. I can’t be too hard on the fact that it offers very little more than its title suggests, but even so, if the multiplayer doesn’t carry it along there won’t be much for the singleplayer to do besides winning the cup with all of their favourite teams.
Publisher: 505 Games
For fans of: Previous HB Studios developed Rugby
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: Playstation 3
If we had to give it a numerical score: 6.9/10
What I liked
- I can play Rugby on my current consoles
- Fast paced action
- Gameplay covers the basics well
- Pre-rendered visuals
Not so much
- Players detailing and animation is mediocre
- Lack of substance
- No tutorial
- No real depth in gameplay
- Lasting appeal
HB Studios was responsible for the previously EA published Rugby titles, Rugby 08 being the last title in the series until now. Rugby World Cup 2011 is the first title from the studio to come to HD consoles and amongst better graphics, we have been promised that the new title will be familiar, but the gameplay has been tweaked. At the launch of the game earlier this week by local distros – Apex Interactive, press were told the game “had to be familiar” and that the focus was on “action” and “fun”.
505 Games picked up the publishing rights and despite the game having its origins in Canada, we were told the team was a “passionate about the project” team compromising of people from around the world.
Gameplay and Features
WRC 2011 is actually not fully licensed, only 10 of the teams are licensed because of the upcoming Rugby Challenge game attaining the rest of the licenses (including Australia and the Kiwis). You can edit the players’ attributes and names. The team’s strips will be updated at the game’s launch to the strips for the World Cup, so don’t expect the new strips right away. Five modes are on offer – Warm up Tour, International Tests, a Place-Kick competition, Online Multiplayer (or offline up to four players) and the headliner- the Rugby World Cup 2011.
This is a WC game so sports-game fans will be used to the lack of content that is common with these themed games. I was basically finished playing through all the modes in two nights, playing 5 minute halves on normal difficulty. You can change the minutes and increase or decrease the difficulty. I found that because I was familiar with the series, playing with the Boks on normal, I slaughtered the predictable AI. Fortunately the difficult level was a real challenge, mainly against the big teams. It was actually a tad bit too challenging in my opinion; I mean what are the chances of Wales beating the Boks in 90% of the scrums? You have two camera angles (vertical and horizontal) and with the vertical one you can choose to always face up. I would have liked a closer angle, but unfortunately there is not much choice here.
Rugby 08 fans will pick the controls right up but will need to read and work out the added controls because there is no tutorial mode. You have better options with separate buttons now for punting or chipping up the field – if I remember correctly the previous titles only had one ‘kick’ button. Even though the controls are easy to come to grips with and there are not many options in the scrums for example – new comers to the sport won’t have a clue what the different options for the scrumming mean. An explanation of the various scrum options would have been welcome. Fortunately the controls are mostly fluid, but I still had the same tackling complaints. I regularly found myself flying around the field, diving, at… air! You can be a little more patient with your tackling and direct your player to the one you want to tackle. Also included now, by holding the LB down when facing the opposing player, gives your player a bit more focus on the player he is squaring up – a welcomed feature. Pushing the right analogue stick in different directions allows you to fake, shoulder barge or side-step when running with the ball. On normal difficulty this is an almost sure way to get past the AI.
A big gripe I have with HB Studios is the fact that this game has been four years since its predecessor, yet the advances feel like they could have been slapped together as a yearly update. The gameplay is still not deep enough for me – I like sport games that lean heavily towards technical or sim-like, this feels very ‘arcade’. Another issue I have is that the AI still seems to come from exactly the same rugby academy – and it’s not a strong one. Within a few hours I was exploiting the exact same avenues I was with 08. You run at a 45 degree angle for a bit, straighten out, and you’re off… time and time again.
Fortunately add some mates (up to four on one console) and things get better – much better. I still manage to lunge desperately at the players only to miss, but at least the opponent starts to read my game and counter. In multiplayer mode, the simple control system helps keep the pace fast and fun without fumbling over the controls.
Graphics and Sound
Rugby World Cup 2011 is delivered with a glossy, neat and functional lay-out. The presentation is very good indeed and the stunning theme-song from the previous World Cup plays in the backround while you choose your options. Navigating the menus is easy and the selection or loading is very quick.
The field of players look great from a distance – the pitches and stadiums are all a treat to look at. The pre-rendered visuals are mostly apt, but then the player-likeness and definition is not the best at all. In a close-up shot nobody is ever going to walk in the room and mistake it for live footage. The players represent their real-life counterpart, but look lifeless and generic. Fortunately the animations (like running) were well put together. I found usual awkward moments that fans of the series will remember – like diving for a try and then someone tackles you as you are doing so, you rise from the dive and then all drop… defying the laws of gravity – if a large man is flying vertically towards the ground, chances are he will go all the way down in one motion, if someone joins him, they both go down.
I found the sound very good, from the WC theme song to get you in the mood, to the sounds navigating the menus, to the sounds in-match. You have four sets of veteran commentators to choose from including a team in English, from Zealand, an Italian set and a French set. The commentary is a delight for a few hours and then you obviously get used to what will be said. Still, nice to be able to change the commentary teams for a change.
The crowd along with the commentary build the tension and excitement in the matches and keeps the adrenalin flowing. The recorded bits were all well done, realistic sounding ball kicking etc. I would have loved to hear the ref and his calls off field mics, but maybe that’s me asking for too much.
So overall I found the sound way better than the graphics, but if you were to compare this to some of the big EA Sports titles, it does not come close enough for current-gen titles. Maybe titles from a few years ago.
The studio promised that RWC 2011 would be fast paced and fun – that it is for most of the time. We were promised tweaks in the gameplay – we got them, even if it wasn’t the most. In all fairness the gameplay was well designed, but like most aspects of the title, lacks depth. It is a ‘World Cup’ game, so how much more can we really expect, but little additions like a tutorial would have been very welcome.
Thanks to the simple but fun gameplay, I definitely enjoyed it against some mates. And it does spur on the World Cup nostalgia, but I think the lack of depth in most aspects will only keep my attention for maybe as long as the Cup itself.
Read about our ratings here.