Publisher: Tru Blu Entertainment
Platforms: Playstation Vita (reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Dates: 27/06/2012 (Vita)
Price: AU$69.95 (Vita)
Rugby Challenge goes by many names (Wallabies Rugby Challenge, All Blacks Rugby Challenge, Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge) but it is the same game: rugby union. Last year, a console and PC version of the game was released as New Zealand celebrated the Rugby World Cup (they won it, by the way). Bring time forward to June 2012 and the game re-appears on the Playstation Vita, complete with what the console counterparts have to offer. Is it enough to warrant a purchase on Sony’s newest handheld or will the problems of the console version plague the handheld outing?
Rugby Challenge nails the rules of rugby union quite well. The game does flow well, no matter how long or what difficulty the game is played in. Each team has 15 players per side. Players pass, run and kick the ball in order to gain territory and breach the opposing line of defence in order to score a try, worth 5 points. A conversion kick can add another two points to the team’s score. The controls are well responsive and tight. The shoulder buttons are used to pass the ball down the line, as well as selecting players while defending. The action buttons are various kicks, which range to massive bombs to distance-drilling punts. The touch controls are also used. Flicking on the touch screen is reserved for the lineouts and conversion/penalty kicks. The rear touch pad is used for sprinting to give your player the extra edge.
While it should be easy to pass the ball, there are times where the AI will act dumb, especially on the wings. The ball will miss the winger entirely because the AI player doesn’t catch up. This will put the ball over the sideline, conceding an avoidable lineout. The Al also causes problems when it comes to offloading, which is passing while being tackled. At times, the ball will just miss your players completely, giving the opposition time to grab the ball. Speaking of offloading, the opposition AI will constantly offload the ball, thus not giving the player a chance to tackle the ball carrier. I have watched rugby union games and they do not offload as much as these virtual players.
There are a few modes for the player to try out. The single match is a quick match with all of the included teams, save a few locked customisable teams. Settings such as stadium, time of day, playing strip and difficulty are chosen here. Then there is Career Mode, where the player takes a club team, an international team or both through a ten year period. Career Mode is quite dull to say the least. All the player does is choose a squad for their team and play the competitions. Spring and Autumn test matches are not included if you choose an international team. The player is also stuck with the one club team for ten years instead of given an option to change competitions. Competition mode is practically the same as Career Mode. The only difference is that it is one competition. Players do have a choice to choose more than one human controlled team. With both modes, the player can only go through one Career and one competition, which is quite disappointing. Online matches are also available.
One of the most important aspects of any sports game are the teams included. Rugby Challenge offers a plethora of licensed teams for players to fiddle with. These include the two top international sides (all in a matter of opinion, of course), the Wallabies (Australia) and the All Blacks (New Zealand, current World Champions), gaining an edge over the other rugby game. The United States and Georgia are also licensed. This is where it does get a little disappointing. Those four international teams are the only international teams licensed for the game. Other top international sides, such as South Africa, England, Ireland and even Argentina, the new frontier of rugby union, are not licensed. With that said, it is possible to make a team through the fact that the top club competitions are licensed. The Aviva Premiership (England), the RaboDirect Pro 12 (Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy), Top 14 (France), the ITM Cup and Ranfurly Shield (New Zealand) and the Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby teams are all licensed. With that said, some players will not be transferable due to licensing issues.
Customisation was big on the console versions and that is successfully brought over to the Vita. All of the options of the console version are present, bringing an extensive player, team and competition customisation. It is quite good, in fact. The options for creating a player range from detailed customisation of the face and body to attribute setting. Teams also have their own attributes as well, which can be applied to any team there, as well as home stadiums and stripes. Custom competitions are based on a template of one of the pre-existing competitions, but then it is free reign. The problem is that the teams must be pre-selected, unlike most sports games where the teams are chosen when the tournament is being created and played straight away, like FIFA. This means, for a separate set of teams, its back to the competition set up to change them, then starting from scratch. There is also an in-game rugby store and tutorials for those who don’t know the basic rules of rugby.
Visuals and Audio
The visuals are not bad, but they are not great either. The stadiums are awesome to stare at, the guys at Sidhe did a wonderful job, especially the Australian and New Zealand stadiums (which dominate the game). With that said, the character models could have been perfected. Faces on some notable Australian players, such as Giteau, that didn’t look right. The menus could have also been more touch friendly. The touch screen can navigate through the options, but the menu must be designed to accommodate it.
The audio is quite the mix bag. Menu music is bland and the commentary team of Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall are quite poor, lacking any chemistry (and not because they are Kiwis). The team behind compiling the commentary also did a poor job in implementing it in the game, as it sounds broken. There were even times the commentary didn’t exist for some matches, leaving the player with an unenthusiastic crowd. There were no massive cheers when the home team scores a try. At least it is dead quiet when the away team scores. Other sound effects, such as the crunching of players as they tackle each other, are quite accurate.
Rugby Challenge is quite a good rugby game great for those who want to take the Wallabies or the All Blacks on the go. The game does not sacrifice any features from the console counterpart but doesn’t offer anything new either. A few of the Vita’s touch features are used and, at times they are used well, even if it has limited usage. With that said, the AI could have been tweaked instead of the constant offloads performed. The rosters for the licensed teams are also outdated by a couple of years. A great game for the hardcore rugby union fan, since it contains two of the most important international teams. However, it is a hard sell for others, as all sports games are… unless you are FIFA.