Rugby World Cup 2011 Review
Limited licences, stripped features, and disappointing presentation make Rugby World Cup 2011 disappointing to even the most ardent fans of the sport.
- Captures the pace of the sport.
- Broken AI
- Disappointing visuals
- Lack of key official licences
- Bad value.
AU REVIEW--Every now and then, Rugby fans crawl onto the rooftops and howl into the darkness, lamenting the lack of video games to suit their sporting preference. Darts fans have PDC World Championship Darts, football (soccer) fans have the annual choice of FIFA or the Pro Evolution series, but Rugby fans are left scuffing their boots and playing the releases of yesteryear. Rugby '08 for the PlayStation 2 marked the sport's last major outing, and while RWC '11 is the sport's debut on current-generation consoles, it's a poor game whose hopeful swan dive towards the goal line lands well short--face first in the grass.
This is the gaming equivalent of Swiss cheese. While bearing the official Rugby World Cup 2011 logo on the box and emblazoned across menus, in tandem with the iconic "World in Union" tune, in reality only around half of the international teams taking part in the quadrennial tournament are officially represented in the game. Australia and New Zealand, the world's top two sides, the latter of which is also this year's host nation, are present--but not in any authorised capacity. There are no Tri-Nations, Six Nations, or Sevens World Series tournaments to be found, and where developer HB Studios' Rugby '08 allowed you to relive more than two dozen classic World Cup scenarios, in its place is now a forgettable goal-kicking mode.
Regardless of which of the handful of game modes you decide to take on, you'll fall victim to the inconsistent artificial intelligence. At the easiest settings, you can run straight through gaping holes left in the opposition's defensive line, run parallel to the other team without them taking the initiative to tackle, and watch as they forget what they were doing and give up chases early. The AI scales in difficulty as the tournament progresses, and teams do summon some enthusiasm on the way to the grand final, but expect a mostly unimpeded run for the silverware. At the easy and medium difficulty settings, rivals don't put up much of a fight, but cranking it up to hard provides significantly more challenge. At this highest setting, opposition players rush and lunge at you from a distance like over-caffeinated super cats as you attempt to clear from the ruck, and smother you before you can offload the ball after winning a line-out. Even when grossly outnumbered, the AI never attempts to hold you up in goal as you crash over the line. Fullbacks can be danced around with a late change in direction, and, once you've broken through, the opposition team follows you around like a pack of stray dogs chasing cars made out of steak.
Controls are overly complex and poorly handled, with shoulder buttons responsible for left and right passes, and differing functions depending on whether you're attacking or defending. Regardless of whether you're running the ball or protecting your turf, once a player has been tackled, you need to quickly tap either the A or the X button to fill a power meter, with the fastest fingers to do so gaining possession. The offensive team receives an advantage retaining the ball, but the mashing mini-game can take a moment to begin, and is mapped to the same face buttons used for offloading passes, kicking, and intensifying tackles in defence. The result is spilt possession, accidental kicks at inopportune moments, and the risk of drawing penalties for overzealous rough play.
With the exception of loading screen reminders and a multi-page button diagram in the options menu, controls are poorly explained, and there's no tutorial here to get new players up to speed with what to press and when. If you're considering picking up Rugby World Cup 2011, you probably have at least a passing interest in the sport. Non-sport followers will have a tougher time, since there's no explanation of some of the more esoteric rules, and video replays of penalties are seldom available. When to hook in scrums is never demystified, field goals become an exercise in trial and error, and line-outs are a guessing game as you roll the dice on intercepting either a short-, mid-, or long-range throw. Basic tutorials would have made the experience much simpler to get to grips with--but are alas, missing.
Last year's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa proved that offering a game built around a single event doesn't need to come at the sacrifice of innovation. Like FIFA's World Cup edition, Rugby World Cup 2011 forgoes domestic club teams to focus on international squads. This could be forgiven if its narrow appeal had managed to represent the bulk of the national sides faithfully alongside compelling gameplay in a range of modes, but this is not the case. Many of the 20 teams included are comprised of fictitious players, and once you've exhausted the short Full Tournament mode and taken your chosen team to victory, triumphantly raising the cup for a few poorly animated moments, there's only one-off and a series of friendly matches to take on. The International Tournament and Warm-Up Tour modes allow you to pick a side and take part in one-off matches, or two-, four-, or six-game competitions sewn together.