EA SPORTS Rugby 06 - XB - Review
If you’ve never seen a rugby match, it’s quite a sight to see the lads in their funny shaped helmets prepared to square off against a rival team in a full-contact sport with fans all over Europe as well as South America. Even if you never heard of a ruck or know what a scrum is there’s a reason you’re reading this review right now: you love sports and you’re interested in a game that might resemble NFL football but plays faster and harder. As an Englishman, it was quite a pleasure to see an EA Sports rugby game last year and even more so to see it return with EA Sports Rugby 06 … by far the best rugby game you will play this year.
Last year’s game delivered quite an impressive rugby game with just the right elements to give gamers new to the sport a good idea of what rugby is all about. It was also an impressive game for those who are familiar with its style, rules and exciting hard-hitting plays. It lacked a few details, yes, but I’m happy to report that Rugby 06 is a different story. This year we get to see some additions to the gameplay that make the difference between straightforward simulator and realistic sports action. It also looks and sounds better than it did the first time around.
If you’re a fan of New Zealand’s All Blacks, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that not only does it find Centre Wing powerhouse Umaga in the lineup but the team also performs the Haka - a traditional dance familiar to New Zealand culture - before the match. While this isn’t one of the new differences from last year’s game, it’s but taste of a new franchise attempting to bring new elements no matter how small to make this a game that looks and plays just like a rugby game.
The changes that do make a difference are centered on the gameplay and, as I mentioned above, keep the game from being just a straightforward simulator. You now have more control over your tactical plays, allowing you to set up to 25 tactical set plays that can be assigned to the D-Pad. This allows you to change strategies when you need them within specific situations that often arise in a match. So during a scrum, ruck or a maul you can execute a pre-assigned set play quickly and effectively. This is a big help considering that this year there are now impact players - star players that stand out among their teammates just like they do in real life. So you can expect All Blacks’ Umaga to play like the threat he is and make some spectacular plays.
You can also make quick line-outs that can add to the pace of the match and become a great asset offensively as well make quick penalties (you’ll be prompted to take a quick penalty and thus adding more realism). Unlike last year’s game the addition of the Australian team is a nice addition as well as various other teams in the Super 14, European, Representative and International teams (everything from Canada, Fiji, Uruguay and the United States). There are even better tournaments in this game, including the Guinness Premiership and the RBS 6 Nations. World League mode allows you to build a team from the Transfer Market (you can even create your own players) and take charge of your team’s business.
The game’s controls for the basic moves hasn’t changed much, which is a good thing seeing as the controls were nicely handled the first time around. Offloading a pass, a new feature, allows you to easily offload the ball out of a tackle by pressing A. It’s simple enough, right? Executing plays during a maul and binding players during a ruck is simple while feeding the ball during a scrum is a breeze. Now this is rugby at its finest.
For those who enjoy EA Sports FIFA games, Rugby 06 resembles the soccer franchise in terms of player models, detailed stadiums and that dreamy lighting that seems to give the game its soft glow. The player faces are nicely detailed and their reactions are wonderfully natural. Even the player animations see more variety this year, although a little of the same clipping problems are back. Still, on the field the game looks great and the presentation is spectacular and there are a variety of weather conditions.
The two-man commentary team of Ian Robertson and the addition of All Blacks player Grant Fox is a very nice treat indeed. Not only are they on-the-spot but they’re also informative and hardly ever repetitive. The stadium sounds are also impressive, giving gamers a feeling that they’re watching a televised match straight off the BBC to the point that you can hear familiar (or not so familiar) team songs and cheers. There are some solid sound effects but they’re often drowned away by the commentary. As for the game’s soundtrack, there’s a short list of unknown artists such as The Casanovas to Amusement Park On Fire that’s actually pretty good.
EA Sports Rugby 06 is not only an improvement over last year’s great game but it’s also a much better one that will make a fan out of any sports fan and rugby enthusiast. The improvements, both minor and major, are welcome additions to the franchise despite the lack of online multiplayer. If you missed out on last year’s game and are looking for a really good rugby game then you will not want to miss this one at all.
|Review Scoring Details for EA Sports Rugby 06|
Thanks to the new gameplay features, this year’s edition not only plays far better but it is starting to feel like a solid rugby game sports fans new to the sport can easily get into it. The game modes aren’t plentiful but with enough teams and great tournaments you won’t find a better rugby experience this year.
Resembling EA Sports FIFA games, the player models and stadiums are looking a lot sharper. There are some great player animations that are never repetitive and the replays are handled just like a televised match. There’s still some clipping but it minor this time around.
A short but decent soundtrack isn’t bad at all but the real treat here is the great two-man commentary team as well as the ambient stadium sounds … even the Haka sounds as good as it looks.
The opponent AI has been beefed up this year to make the impact players formidable foes on the field. This means you’ll have to watch out for key players and come up with better strategies while going up against powerful teams like New Zealand’s All Blacks.
Rugby 06 captures the feel of the sport much better than last year’s game and the new enhanced features just add more depth to the matches and gameplay. While there is no online multiplayer, World League Mode alone is worth the price of admission.
Up to four players can play against each another but the lack of Xbox Live support is quite a letdown to any rugby fan out there.
Rugby fans, EA Sports have finally given us a great game worthy of the hard-hitting European sport. EA Sports Rugby 06 not only looks like a realistic game of rugby but it also plays like a dream and thus making this year’s game worth your money.