Having grown up with EA’s FIFA as a staple of my gaming diet and gone through the evolution of the game down the years, my first taste of Rugby as a gaming experience was a severe letdown. Eko Software‘s Rugby 22 is not FIFA 22.
Now to be fair, I admit it’s not very fair to compare any sports game to anything made by the colossus that is EA. When talking about budget and resources, one of these is not in any way like the other.
I’ve stayed away from rugby games in the past as I thought it would be one of the hardest sports games to pull off. I was not wrong. Having not had much expectation going into Rugby 22, my initial feeling upon loading in was one of overwhelming disappointment. The training/tutorial felt very basic and uninvolved (I’m still struggling to get to grips with contesting lineouts).
It’s a shame that they couldn’t secure full licenses for the game. As a South African, the first thing I’m doing is loading up a game with the Bokke. Now, mind you, I’m still traumatised by years of Pro Evolution Soccer giving us Merseyside Red and Blue that when I see my beloved Springboks without a single recognisable name or face and a kit that looks like it’s a throwback to a bygone era, I can’t help but be extremely disappointed.
Fear not though, it’s not all bad news for Rugby 22.
The more I played and started coming to grips with some of the gameplay and tactical play, I found myself enjoying the game a bit more. Scoring my first try got me excited to the point I whipped out a celebratory “siuuuu!” Please don’t judge, I’m only human after all. The feeling of turning the ball over at the ruck and launching your counterattack is very satisfying and exciting, especially if you can work it wide and blitz your way over the try line. Don’t get it confused though, it’s not quite as easy as that! There’s a subtle art to when you release your pass, waiting long enough to draw the defender close to the passer but away from the next pass and releasing the pass quick enough to not be closed down and tackled before release.
Unfortunately, I don’t have too much positive to say about the graphics in Rugby 22. The look of the gameplay takes me back to the early to mid-2000s and this is not very appealing. This is quite a subjective view though and I would advise checking out some online gameplay trailers to see for yourself.
The gameplay can come across as a bit stiff and linear initially, however, the more you play and start to invest in this game it does become that little bit more enjoyable. As previously stated, the initial game tutorial isn’t particularly helpful and so you have to get your hands dirty and just play. A helpful tip is to navigate to the control’s options and select the controls menu to get a detailed explanation of each and every action.
Once you feel comfortable enough to start testing yourself, Rugby 22 offers a few game mode options: Quickplay, Online Match, League and Career. The modes are rather self-explanatory with options to play against the AI, a friend or other online players.
The licensing issue does ease up quite considerably once playing League Mode. I was happy to take my local teams, The Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Stormers, through their paces and play with some actually recognisable names and faces.
Rugby 22 offers a fun but not super addictive experience. It is a game for the hardcore fan of the franchise and not anyone else, in all honesty. The initial experience is a bit confusing and thus maybe a little off-putting to the casual player looking for a new and fun experience. That being said, I believe the hardcore fan will get a great many hours of fun with this title.
I came, I saw but didn’t quite conquer. Rugby 22, while it has some faults and issues, is a fun experience worth playing when perhaps you need a break from that favourite that you play so much you start dreaming about it. It is what it is and definitely not what it’s not. This is not FIFA, it’s not Madden, nor is it NBA2K. But on its own merit, Rugby 22 is and can be a fun experience.