Last Saturday I received a rather exciting special delivery from hb Studios, an exclusive copy of the new Rugby World Cup 2011 video game. Having been a big fan of many previous titles, mainly Rugby 2001 and 2008 which I still play, I was pretty excited about testing the new game out, having had about 10 minutes getting to grips with it at a demo back in July.
The first and most obvious similarity to ’08 is the gameplay. The controls structure used in the previous release remains, but has been tweaked in order to the make the game more competitive at the breakdown with a new rucking system, which also has a very handy “quick-pick” option before the ruck has formed. This is brilliant because it makes the game feel more authentic, as well as speeding up your attack when an opportunity is on.
The other clever addition of a chip kick was something that ’08 sorely lacked, so again this is another major improvement. For those familiar with the previous title, picking up the controls will be quick and easy, whilst for newcomers it will not take long to get to grasps with the game itself.
Inevitably, I had to play a Rugby World Cup to enjoy the game’s full experience. Although there are other modes such as arranging a friendly or warm-up tour, as well as a place kicking shootout, this is what RWC 2011 is all about. Picking an England team with a midfield of Shontayne Hape and Delon Armitage, take note Johnno, the players have a strong resemblance to their real-life counterparts. I attempted to use the whole range of skills available to me, including side-stepping with Chris Ashton, dropping the shoulder with Tom Croft, and breaking off the backs of rucks and scrums with Ben Youngs around the fringes. Oh, and the obvious drop kick with Jonny Wilkinson.
Winning the tournament did bring a degree of satisfaction given some wobbles against New Zealand and Australia, which was encouraging seeing as I was playing on easy. Rugby ’08 got boring very fast when the hard setting just wasn’t hard enough, and it’s evident that the difficulty levels on 2011 have been worked on and taken up a notch. Space does not just appear out of nowhere, you have to work to create the opportunities on the wings or for your kickers to strike.
The only lingering doubt I have over the game is it’s longevity, given you can only play as the 20 World Cup sides, with no club sides available, and that rival title Rugby Challenge is set to feature multiple leagues. However the Online Play will be where this is salvaged, with players able to play against either friends or randomly online as with the FIFA franchise.
Is it worth purchasing? Absolutely. No other game will offer the experience of winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
by Ben Coles