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Rugby 20 review

With the Six Nations underway there couldn’t be a better time to release a new rugby game. With this in mind, Bigben and Eko Software recently released Rugby 20 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

There aren’t many rugby games that stand out in my mind from all of the years I’ve been gaming with the exception of Jonah Lomu’s Rugby from way back in 1997 on the original PlayStation. Other than that I couldn’t name another that has done justice to the sport.

View the Rugby 20 launch trailer below:

In Rugby 20, you can play with over 60 official teams from the Top 14, Pro D2, Premiership and Pro 14, as well as many national teams. You can create your own team in Solo mode and add new recruits from over 2,000 players recreated in the game. There is also a multiplayer mode where you can play with friends both locally and online.

Once the game was installed I simply dived straight into a quick match to see what Rugby 20 had to offer. This was a mistake as straight away I couldn’t decipher the control scheme and kicking was virtually impossible. There are button prompts on screen to help you along but these often disappear quite quickly. Thankfully there is a fairly robust tutorial which I recommend you work through before you dive into any matches. Despite completing the entire tutorial I still found the controls incredibly clunky and in some situations, I devolved into a button-mashing ape.

Other aspects of the control scheme are simply weird. Take scrums for example. In a scrum, you can gain the advantage every time by following some basic button commands, after that a mini-game appears above the scrum and all you have to do is keep a cursor inside a moving circle to win. Don’t even get me started on line outs, I’ve still no idea whatsoever as to what I should be doing in these!

Rugby 20
Credit: Bigben / Eko Software

Ok, that’s enough bashing the controls. On the good side passing is a breeze and once you’ve got to grips with it the kicking aspect of the game also performs really well and feels intuitive. There is also a set play option that you can bring up mid-game. This slows down the gameplay dramatically and allows you to set up some rather impressive moves. They are difficult to pull off but if you manage them you will tear your opposition to pieces.

Graphically Rugby 20 isn’t beautiful but nor is it overly offensive either. There are a few issues with some of the player animations which can feel a bit stilted. These issues are common but don’t detract from the gameplay itself.

I was surprised by the lack of some of the bigger international teams in the game. Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, Argentina, Fiji and Uruguay are all missing and a Rugby game without these big hitters is like having a sandwich without bread.

Rugby 20
Credit: Bigben / Eko Software

The local multiplayer worked pretty well when I tried it out and this was a game mode  I was really rooting for. This, for me, is where Rugby 20 actually became fun, sat on the sofa with a friend and a few beers. None of the games we had were high scoring, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the controls, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Solo mode is Rugby 20’s take on Fifa’s Ultimate Team mode and if I’m honest it doesn’t come close. Solo mode can only be played with a team you have created and the players are locked behind card packs which you can unlock using currency earned in the game. The mode lacks any real direction or purpose and it would benefit from online competitions where players can pit their own squads against the rest of the world.

To summarise, Rugby 20 is ok but it’s not amazing. I can’t see it converting anyone who isn’t already into rugby and even existing fans of the sport won’t be blown away. With a few key licences, some simpler controls and a more exciting solo mode the game would be a much better proposition overall.

     23rd January   

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