When I got this package in the mail and opened it, seeing something called Rugby 06, I was confused. What is this rugby? It says EA Sports, but is it a sport? So, I asked someone with a passing clue about sports, and got the following conversation:
Me: What is this Rug-By thing?
Friend: Well, there’s these guys, and there’s a ball, and they’re trying to score with it.
Me: So it’s football.
Friend: Well, no, they can’t throw it forward, and the goalposts are narrower, and they don’t wear pads.
Me. Oh. So it’s stupid football!
With that minimal knowledge of just what the heck Rugby was all about, I sat down to attempt to make sense of Rugby 06 from EA Sports.
There’s one thing that is going to be easily noticed when playing Rugby 06, whether it’s for the first time or the hundreth, and that is that the actual images you get on your television in gameplay look absolutely nothing like what has been shown in the screenshots. It’s not that the graphics are worse, it’s that the camera angles and the distance from the camera is nowhere near being the same. While in many of the screenshots the camera is placed close enough to the players to be in the center of the action and give great amounts of detail on the player models, the default camera position is above the sidelines, quite similar to how the default camera in Madden is. There are actually times that the ball isn’t even visible on the field, especially during a scrum.
The second issue also deals with the camera angles as well, especially during some of the goal kicks. The game gets so overwhelmed with the camera angles that some times you’re viewing the action from what appears to be behind the wall of the stands. Other times, you’re looking at a weird angle so that you’re not even sure if the ball went through the goal or not.
The third issue is a common one with any game that has a crowd, and that’s the dreaded “Paper Crowd” theme. The crowd is very two-dimensional and has an extremely limited number of animations. It really takes away from the value of this game, graphically, especially when you look at how well-detailed the players themselves are.
It’s like the folks at EA Sports ran out of budget after splurging on the artwork of the players themselves and only had enough to draw basics for the crowd and a few other things. It’s really a shame when it comes down to it, because there are times that it’s a very beautiful game…and then times that the ugliness shows up, which makes for a jarring difference.
The first thing I noticed when playing this game is that the music wasn’t the standard pop rock junk that EA Trax is generally littered with. Instead, the music tends to be by unknown or lesser known artists, more specifically European, Austrailian and New Zealand acts. Unfortunately, there’s very little variety in the music.
The sounds in the game itself are quite nice, the crowd definitely gets behind the players and gets into the game, and the sounds of the game itself are also quite nice. The commentary is solid from both Ian Robertson (returning from Rugby 05) and All Black legend Grant Fox. The accents take a bit of getting used to, but it definitely lends to the authenticity of the event. There are some issues with repetitiveness, but it’s not nearly as bad as some other sports games tend to get.
Rugby 06 does a good job at teaching you how to use the controls, and the controls themselves tend to be rather basic. Pressing X passes the ball to the left and B to the right. The left trigger chooses the nearest player to the ball while the right trigger causes him to sprint. The A button handles both a diving tackle while on defense and punting the ball while on offense, while also handling all kicking duties. The Y button seems to only be used for line outs.
There’s some definite lag in the controls, especially in the menus, and during the game there’s quite a bit of rather fervent button pressing, possibly due to this reviewer’s infamiliarity with the game of Rugby itself. Still, it almost seemed like there were times that I was waiting on the game to respond to a button press in the menu, which led to minor frustration.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game, myself included, Rugby evolved from the game of football (or soccer), specifically at the Rugby School in Rugby, England, sometime in the eighteenth century. The differences in the game primarily involved the ability to pick the ball up and run with it. The game itself evolved from there, with numerous national clubs picking up in the early to mid 18th century and reaching its climax with the founding of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The game has since gone on to take over Europe, South America, Austraila, New Zealand, and even the United States in some fashion.
Upon starting Rugby 06, you’re given only the option to play and set options. This immediately puts you into some basic tutorials to get the player knowledgeable about how to play the game and how to control the game itself. It doesn’t go into great detail, only covering the necessities needed to get involved. Once that is done, you’re given the option to either play a World League, which is the equivalent of Franchise mode in other sports games, or one of approximately a half-dozen leagues which go from various British leagues to a world-wide one.
You’re given the option of three difficulties levels (Club, Pro and Elite) and three time options for each half (5, 10 and 20 minutes). The game of rugby itself takes 40 minutes per half where each team tries to push the ball across their opponents goal line as much as possible.
The World League gives you the option to begin with a Division 3 club with the goal of reaching the championship match, trading your players and achieving club goals along the way.
The matches themselves are played well, with solid commentary and decent cut scenes, almost making you feel like you’re watching a live match. The camera can interfere with goal kicks from time to time, but normally does a decent job in the match. The addition of off-load passing and impact players helps to enhance the gameplay.
In the various leagues, the goal is pretty much the same, winning the championship, but without much of the managerial tasks involved in the World League mode.
At only $29.99, Rugby 06 is definitely not the worst deal in the world. If you’re even remotely interested in rugby, or are a fan of the sport, this is a definite pick up. If you’re completely clueless about the game, as I am, it’s still worth picking up as a rental to see if the game is enjoyable for you.
With all the various leagues and the World League itself, there’s quite a bit of gameplay in here if you look for it. Granted, being a sports game, and rugby at that, it’s definitely not for everyone and this should be noted.