EA SPORTS Rugby 2005 - XB - Review
Okay, so it has taken a long while for American sports fans to warm up to the international sport of soccer. Well, some still won’t embrace the sport no matter how many soccer moms there are in the States. Let’s face it, America has a long and loyal love affair with the NFL, MLB and the NBA and, to some extent, NASCAR. Yet the legion of fans out there that enjoy all sports will tell you that the sport of rugby is the most hard-hitting contact sport around. Rugby 2005 has finally come to the Xbox and while it might not be as popular here as it is in - say - the UK, this is rugby at its finest.
Don’t know what rugby is or how it’s played? That’s understandable considering the fact that not everyone comes from England (like yours truly) or other parts of Europe where the game is popular, and not everyone played it as a scruffy lad at school (like yours truly). What the game promises is funny headgear, a misshapen ball and plenty of rough tackles and truly the most intense action you’ll find in a sport outside of NFL football. The rules are complex, but luckily EA Sports was kind enough to include Rugby 101, which is basically a coaching video that covers all the basics. If that weren’t enough, you’ll be forced to play a series of exercises geared at learning the game’s controls and other basics like scrummaging or rucking.
For those of you who are familiar with the sport or have seen it televised on cable, this is the 15 players per team version of the game. You’ll find plenty of international teams such as Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, South Africa and even the USA. To keep these teams company you’ll even find the Super 12 teams like the Sharks or the Chiefs and European teams like Newport Gwent or Leicester. There’s even an International list of teams from Japan to Argentina. In short, there are enough teams here to satisfy any fan of the sport and that’s a good thing considering the game features many of the usual tournaments including the Lions Tour.
The tournaments included in the game are World Championship, Tri-Nations, Six Nations, and Super 12, Ten Nations, European Trophy, World League and the Lions Tour. Unfortunately there is no Xbox Live support so don’t expect an online multiplayer mode. Yet with this nice assortment of tournaments you’ll be more than busy playing through weeks of fixtures using your favorite teams. Among the most entertaining, the Super 12 tournament steals the show.
As for how the game plays, Rugby 2005 has decided on a more simplistic control scheme and thus makes all the basics easy to pull off without much trouble. The is a good thing, especially for gamers new to the sport, and something long-time fans will appreciate as well. Whether you’re engaging in a scrum (that’s players locking heads or attempting to score a try (worth five points to your team) the game still gives you plenty of pointers even after completing the exercises. Thanks to this simplicity of the controls and the Practice mode gamers will quickly learn how to keep the opposition from forcing a turnover by binding a ruck (pressing the A button will call in more teammates).
The problem is that winning rucks isn’t easy in the game and you’ll be called offside just one too many times in one match. To top it all off, kicking isn’t exactly a precise action due to the fact that the camera angle for kicks doesn’t offer a fair view of the playing field. Of course, these are hurdles that - with practice - can be ignored once you’ve gotten the hang of the game’s flow. For fans that know the rules and have become accustomed to the controls, the computer-controlled opposition offers quite a challenge and often times makes some pretty great plays if you drop your guard or allow them to control the field.
Visually speaking, Rugby 2005 looks very good. The player models are detailed enough that you’ll notice how dirty the player uniforms can get as the match goes on. There are also plenty of facial expressions and a pleasant assortment of player animations that never become too annoyingly repetitive. Even the tackles look amazing, although sometimes the camera doesn’t quite follow the action - particularly during kicks - as well as it should. The fans still look way too pixilated, but the stadiums look delightfully authentic.
Listening to the fans sing and chant or hearing the other players shout words of encouragement as your teammates are forcing a turnover will bring to mind those excellent televised matches. Top this off with authentic-sounding tackles and the sounds of bodies colliding with brute force and you have a game that brings the sport to life. Ian Robertson is magnificent as the Rugby 101 coach and does an even better job commentating on the matches with his equally insightful partner. The EA Trax is filled with alternative rock bands like The Cops, The Libertines or 28 Days. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea but they do compliment the menu screens.
It’s great to see a hard-hitting sport like rugby on the Xbox and even better when it’s done right. Rugby 2005 is an excellent introduction to the sport and, by far, the best rugby game EA Sports has produced thus far. While its rules might come off as too complex to American audiences unfamiliar with the game, it’s easy-to-get-into controls should be able to satisfy any sports fan willing to give it a shot.
#Review Scoring Details for Rugby 2005
The controls just feel right and the game moves along at a smooth pace. In short, this is a game easy to get into whether or not you’re new to the sport. While kicking is an aspect of the game that could have been handled a tad better the game plays better than last year’s PS2 exclusive.
The dive tackles look so brutal that you’ll be apologizing to the other team’s player for slamming into him at that speed. The player models are also quite stunning and watching their uniforms get real dirty is a nice touch indeed. Even the stadiums, especially the one in Glasgow looks accurate.
You’ll want to play this one with a great sound system because during matches you’ll be surrounded by a wall of sounds that range from players getting psyched up to referees calling out penalties. When players collide you will really hear it and even kicks are heard perfectly. I do love the commentary but the soundtrack - in my opinion, anyway - just isn’t all that great.
The opposing team AI might not be as good as Madden NFL 2005 but they’re able to come up with some pretty brilliant plays. Going up against the much stronger teams like New Zealand will really have you sweating during line-outs. If you’re new to the sport just make sure to check out Rugby 101 first.
True happiness is finding a game with all the familiar teams you’ve cheered for since you were a wee lad so imagine my delight in finding good old New Castle. If that weren’t enough there’s plenty of tournaments like the Super 12 and even the Ten Nations tournaments. Even the team lineup is current and the Create A Player is wonderfully deep. What more can we ask for except for Xbox Live support, of course?
Up to four players can get into the action and that’s not bad at all. What is bad, however, is the fact that the game has no online multiplayer action. EA Sports, we love the fact that many of your titles have Xbox Live support, but if soccer has a loyal following in the US then surely there are rugby fans just dying to play against other fans.
Rugby 2005 on the Xbox has all the right goods to make this one a worthwhile game for fans new and old. For gamers unfamiliar with the sport the complex rules might be a bit of a turn off but then again its head-butting, shoulder-mashing action should attract fans of American football. For longtime fans - like myself - the controls make it easy enough to make this a rucking good time.