Late last year, I reviewed Rugby 15: an arcade rugby union title from HB Studios with few noteworthy qualities. You can read my review here, but the long and short of that experience is that Rugby 15 was a stinker. Fast-forward nine months, and the same developer is releasing much the same game, with many of the same flaws as Rugby 15, plus some new ones.
I was initially excited to see that HB Studios had attempted to address some of the concerns of Rugby 15. The static tutorial screens are still there, but they showcase additional rugby union nuances atop last year’s offering, as well as some minor but important default control changes. There’s a practice mode now, but the free play option is redundant (you might as well play a friendly match), while the focused training sections are short in quantity and shallow in quality.
The AI-controlled players no longer stand around waiting for you to move before they’ll react, which is an improvement over last year. Unfortunately, more movement from the AI highlights the lack of attention to proper or even practical rugby defensive/offensive formations. You can use the D-pad to cycle between offensive and defensive presets, but this is never explicitly conveyed (I stumbled on it in the controls menu). It also doesn’t alter the atrocious AI.
On one hand, it’s technically easier to score a try, as there’s the option to touch the ball down, on top of a diving mechanic that doesn’t make the ball-handler leap over the dead-ball line (as it once did). On the other hand, most of my tries were scored when I was tackled over the line due to the returning sin of player encounters being determined prior to the animation playing out. In practical terms, this means unresponsive controls when the game has determined that you’re about to be tackled.
Worse than this, though, is the game-breaking bug that happened to me on multiple occasions, wherein being tackled over the try line resulted in completely unresponsive controls and the inability for my opponent to interact with me. On a couple of occasions, I was able to get the player back on his feet by cycling in and out of the menu, but I still couldn’t pass the ball or be tackled. On another occasion, frantically button mashing seemingly repaired the damage and allowed me to complete my try. The other times, I had to simply run over the dead-ball line to reset play.
I could have quit out of these matches in question, but doing so during the titular Rugby World Cup tournament, the main mode and selling point for this game, would result in a forfeit, registered loss (of 0-30, no less) and eliminate me from the qualifying rounds. That’s hardly a practical option considering friendly matches and World Cup mode are the only two modes on offer in the game outside of free-play practice.