Let me start of this review by saying that I am by no means a source of knowledge for all things rugby. On the contrary, I tend to be a casual rugby fan who watches a few games every now and then. This hasn’t stopped me from enjoying most of the rugby games on consoles even though they lacked the quality of their more popular rivals like the FIFA series.
I was quite exited when I heard about Rugby 15. Would this be the rugby game to launch rugby into the next era and reach the heights of FIFA?
Well first of let me answer the most obvious questions. What leagues are available in the game? Are all the players and licenses included?
The game has the Aviva Premiership, Top 14, Pro D2, Southern 15 and the Pro 12 all available. The players from these regional teams are all included.
Also available are the internationals such as the 6 Nations and 4 Nations. You also have access to all the international and Super rugby teams. Sadly the problem with the Super rugby teams are that you get Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town etc instead of the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers etc. This was very disappointing. To top that off all the player names are fictional (for the Super rugby and the international teams). You are able to painstakingly change the names manually to the correct player names. I really hoped that they would be able to acquire at least the majority of the international and Super rugby teams licenses. Although I do understand that HB Studios does not have the budget that someone like EA has.
The controls in Rugby 15 have been totally revamped. No longer do you have to tap the shoulder buttons and hope that someone catches the ball. Now you use the right analogue stick to select the player you want to pass too, and tap the right trigger to initiate the pass. This took some getting use to. After a few matches I realized that the accuracy of where the ball goes was greatly improved by this. I also found that the new passing mechanic enabled the matches to flow better.
The new controls are also present in rucks, mauls and scrums.
Rucks and mauls are no longer decided by who can mash their buttons the quickest. Now you push the right stick forward to add more players to the ruck/maul and press the right trigger at the correct time (when the on screen bar fills) to secure the ball. This worked fine in single player but, it felt a bit random when playing local multiplayer. I found that it was too easy to get penalized for handling or not letting go of the ball when the trigger was pressed at the wrong time.
Scrums have exactly the same controls as the rucks and mauls and I felt it worked a lot better here.
Goal kicking was a disaster the first few matches I played, as I struggled to understand the new controls. After figuring them out, goal kicking turned from a nightmare into a joy. You use the left analogue stick to line up the ball. The right analogue stick is then pulled back to build up power and then flicked forward to kick. This felt very natural and made kicking a breeze.
Seasoned rugby players will notice the lack of a sprint button. At first this frustrated me. Later I came to the realization that rugby players tend to run at full speed when attacking and defending.
Rarely have I seen a player jogging and then suddenly pick up speed in an attack or defend situation. So it makes sense then that the sprint button is missing although I struggled to get use to it not being there.
During matches you can select offensive and defensive tactics with the directional pad. This seemed to work fairly well.
Dynamic weather affects the way that the game is played. Wet weather means less long passes (as you might fumble the ball), as the ball is slippery and wet. Dry weather gives you the chance to experiment as it is much easier to handle.
The A.I is actually not that bad. Although I did find that I was able to score some easy points. This was only on a few rare occasions. I did encounter a few bugs, players tackling the air, the ball being passed through a player. Luckily I noticed nothing game breaking.
Where Rugby 15 shone for me and where it feels at its best was when I was playing against my friends. The local multiplayer is great fun and to me is how the game should be experienced. Nothing beats the excitement as you and play against your friends in a local multiplayer match. Everyone seemed to enjoy this from the people watching to the ones playing. I must mention though that there is no online multiplayer which felt a bit odd.
Anyone looking for stunning visuals will be disappointed. Rugby games have not been known for their visual fidelity when compared to other sporting titles like Fifa. The players all tend to look roughly the same. It looks like the whole team consists of props and hookers as they all seem to have about the same build. The crowds in the stands are just one continuous blur. I really hoped that this would be one of the areas where we would see improvement but, unfortunately the visuals tend to look a lot like the previous rugby games on the PS3.
In conclusion I have mixed feeling about Rugby 15. There are some bugs and the AI tends to, every now and then do silly things. It also isn’t going to win any prizes for the prettiest game.
That said I enjoyed the new control scheme (when it worked) and a lot of it felt new and innovative. Playing local multiplayer is a blast and kept me coming back time and time again.
I would like to see HB studious build on what they have started in Rugby 15. It isn’t a very polished game but, it shows promise. If they learn from their mistakes and spend more time polishing what they have done in Rugby 15 I look forward to a future where we might get the perfect rugby game. Until then Rugby 15 is a flawed yet fun alternative and if you are willing to look past its faults Rugby 15 is an enjoyable experience.