As I lie here in darkness, shedding my load as Eskom so desires, I’ve been given the opportunity to reflect on my weekend with the recently-released Rugby 15.
I’ve decided that I love this game, after discussing this at length with MenStuff’s Jeremy, who spent the weekend holed up behind his TV. He defined it as “a terrible game but one of the best rugby games you will ever play.”
And that is exactly what is right and wrong with Rugby 15 here’s why:
Let’s get the negatives out the way:
There is a steep learning curve to the control-scheme – you basically have to throw any prior muscle memory with previous rugby games out of the window. After playing every rugby game and using the shoulder buttons to pass, tapping your right trigger is extremely disorientating and at first seems completely demented and obtuse. This approach, which is so far out I can only refer to it as “French”, is only reinforced by the fact that there is a complete lack of an interactive tutorial.
Every rugby game since I have played since Jonah Lomu Rugby on the original Playstation has had some sort of interactive tutorial – they have never really been necessary but one would think that when you are throwing the rule book and convention out the window, you don’t really want to leave your audience completely in the dark, bumbling around trying to read through text-hints.
Gamepad a prerequisite
If you are playing this game on PC, you are going to need a gamepad. There is zero keyboard support, and for most PC gamers this isn’t an issue, but it is a major inconvenience. Understandably, this is probably down to the fact that you can’t customise your controls.
As shiny as a rusted ball joint
Sadly, this is not a “next gen” visual experience, as regardless as whether you’re playing on PC, PS4 or Xbox One, it easily looks like you are playing on a PS3 or Xbox 360, even when running on a PC at maximum resolution and visual settings – it just feels empty.
Chopped at the ankles
There is a complete lack of stadiums and Rugby 15 is a bit slim on game modes too, which quickly leads to monotony when playing by yourself, and you’ll be doing a lot solo-play, because there are no online features.
Multiplayer is limited to four-player local, meaning if you are an only child, get used to playing with yourself.
And while it’s sad to admit, it’s buggy as hell. I found myself resetting the game numerous times due to either graphical glitches or the audio suddenly stopping. The most frustrating moment was when my controller just become inactive mid-game and I couldn’t exit due to the lack of keyboard support.
This game is going to be slated by reviewers worldwide and after reading what I just wrote you would be forgiven for joining the masses with your pitch forks. That said, all of this criticism is completely constructive, as the developers made it very clear leading up to the launch that this is phase one, and is hopefully the foundation for more rugby games to come. Keep in mind, they are not being backed by EA’s hoards of devs and their deep pockets; they are a small team who are releasing games in tiers.
With everything that’s been said, if you dedicate some time and patience to the game, there is definitely some joy and slick rugby to be found. The learning curve of the control-scheme is horrendously steep, but in all my time playing, I am yet to accidently pass the ball into touch once, which for me is a huge step in the right direction.
The rucking mechanics are amazing – you can win over rucks at each opportunity, and you don’t get the feeling that you are hopelessly outnumbered and don’t stand a chance because you are using an inferior team.
The rolling maul no longer collapses after 3m and can go for at least 30m before it stops which is another huge step in the right direction.
There’s a lot of positives that HB Studios has introduced, and we can hopefully see there fully realised in future iterations of the game, whether that be Rugby World Cup 15 or Rugby 16.
Should you buy this if you are a rugby fan who knows that this is the first step in something bigger? Yes. While it may be ugly, buggy, and lacking in certain areas, the actual rugby gameplay is fresh and interesting. We’re invested in the future of HB Studios Rugby franchise, and hopefully the loyal fans are too.