Rugby World Cup 2015 has been released in the lead up to the blockbuster sporting event (for some countries at least) of the same name, which is set to kick off on the 19th of September. I must admit that I haven’t played a rugby game since early high school, so I was keen to see how many improvements a new generation of consoles could bring to the sport. I have distinct memories of having a lot of fun playing this series with my mates in my salad days, so it was with optimism that I threw myself into Rugby World Cup 2015. Unfortunately, my overall impression of the title can be summarised in two words: frustration and disappointment. I tried as hard as I could to enjoy the game, but at every turn it found a way to set fire to my hopes of a good rugby game, and piss on the ashes while cackling wildly. With some truly awful graphics and an abundance of game-breaking glitches, I feel like Rugby World Cup took a piece of my soul that I will never get back.
One thing I will give the game is that it does an all right job of replicating the great game of rugby with accurate statistics, players, teams and pools/divisions. However the fact that it feels like there has been no effort to make this a game that people will actually enjoy is a real slap in the face. Mega popular sports such as soccer, American football and basketball all get quality yearly iterations and it stands to reason that a less popular sport like rugby (even though it is actually enjoyed by millions) gets far less love and attention from developers. Diehard rugby fans who have waited patiently for a faithful representation of their sport virtually will have to continue to wait however, as this game is not what they’ve been waiting for. Rugby World Cup 2015 plays like an extended middle finger to the ardent fans who would give a good rugby game a strong community in a heartbeat if it had even a little bit of enjoyable content.
It seemed like every time I liked something, the game would actively try and turn those good feelings into bad ones. Take the scrums and rucks for instance, which even those with a passing knowledge of the sport will recognise as an integral part of the game. An intuitive system is in place here, where you use the right thumb stick to move in the direction you are going and you have to keep moving it up and down until you have the best angle to play the ball. This sweet spot is indicated by a green colour on a meter that pops up. You then press R2 to secure the ball and play it. This would be fine and dandy, however sometimes when the meter is in the green and I went to press R2 to secure it, it would inexplicably seem to jump to yellow or red, which would give away penalties. Successfully rucking and scrumming in this game felt like I was continually trying to pick up a slippery bar of soap in the shower, and we all know how that goes. This seemed to work in the favour of the person who already possessed the ball, making it more realistic. If the meter was more stable, or there was actually a reason for this fluctuation, it might make the game more playable and less yelly at the screeny! The worst part is you get the feeling the developers and publishers probably knew about how unpolished this turd was, and rather than take the time to make sure there is a solid foundation, they rushed it out the door to cash in on the hype surrounding the World Cup.
So there are 4 offline play modes: The World Cup, Friendly match, Training and Custom Cup. This is all the game offers as there are no online game modes, but there is split screen multiplayer for up to 4 players.
World Cup mode is the whole game pretty much, you can hedge your bets and pick as many teams as you want by pressing X to assign them to player-controlled teams before the tournament. This means that if you get to the quarter final and two of your chosen teams come up against each other (which is invariably the case), you just pick one or the other. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be fired. What is the point?
The game looks bad too. Really bad. The rugby games I was playing in high school looked better than this poor excuse for a game. It’s almost like they took that old game, updated the names, statistics and menu and swiftly kicked it out the door. To accompany the terrible visuals, there is a tedious repetition of weird animation glitches. Quite often a player will just stay lying on the ground after rucks. I think this is because that player is supposed to be injured, but then the game just keeps going and you can literally run through the player like he’s a ghost or something. Sometimes it will indicate that he is injured and then you can sub him but sometimes it doesn’t. Also, there were a few times where I got tackled over the try line and I got up and everyone else was still in the tackle position on the ground. This gave me a moment to run around in circles like a mad man waiting for them to get back on their stupid feet (this was quite amusing though, so I wasn’t even mad).
Every mechanic that the game has is subtly or not so subtly broken. To pass the ball you can either press R2 and the player will automatically pass it or you can use the right thumbstick to choose direction and then press R2. Seems intuitive enough, but very often the ball doesn’t go where you want it to and almost seems to have a mind of its own. You also seem to be limited to passing it to two people along the direction you are running, but the passing did feel pleasant and fluent (most of the time). The use of the thumbstick for precision passing is a good idea as it gives you a choice as to which player you want to pass to rather than just pressing a button and hoping for the best, it’s just a pity it is so poorly implemented. There is also another option for passing which is the flick behind pass, but this is useless as your teammates don’t run close enough behind you to make this effective. Rather than a true flick behind, my player would either throw it to the ground or pass it back making it about as effective as a normal pass.
Conversions also suffer from some aggravating issues. The right thumbstick is used to line these kicks up and execute them, and at first glance seems like a decent system. But I found that straightforward kicks shanked out to the left all the time, or when I pushed the thumbstick forward for power it seemed to glitch or stick and not recognise that I had pushed the stick forward. Even after I had gotten the power to work in my kick, a white line comes up to indicate the direction of the kick, and even if the line was straight the kick simply drifted wide. None of it felt right to me.
Line outs are pretty pointless too. There is a selection of three people to throw to and the opposition just has to guess and jump randomly to try and intercept the ball. From what I can see, there is no indication of where the other team will throw the ball, and if you don’t jump before the opposing team does you’re too late.
Unless you want to gain some ground by kicking the ball out or a drop goal (that’s if you are quick enough or just plain lucky), kicking is useless. The player takes too long to kick usually, and you get tackled, drop the ball or kick it straight to them. They’ll catch it every time too, it is very rare that any player drops a ball unless you are the one actually trying to kick it. So in my opinion, kicking is never a good option so don’t even bother. If you have a quick player they can easily run the field and score a try most of the time, or just keep unrealistically passing the ball to each player up the field in one direction and then turn around and come down the other direction until you get to the other end of the field. Once you get over the line (regardless if you are being tackled or not you will score) there is no, “oh maybe the defender will hold him up in goals,” he just scores. When you are defending, only one player actually tackles a player at a time, and the rest stand around watching the attacker score, which makes me want to reach into the TV and slap those lazy bastards around. Adding to the authenticity, when you score a try the commentator says “it’s a score!” It’s a try mate, it even says it’s a try on the screen not a score, carrn!
So after about two hours or so (I was controlling 2 teams), I won the World Cup Final. Was there a YAY YOU WON! or any kind of corny podium cut scene celebration? No. No there wasn’t. You are simply taken back to the World Cup Mode menu where if you’re interested (and how could you be at this point?) you could look at the summary of the tournament and past games in that tournament. I just sat there thinking surely that’s not all there is? But indeed it was. So I went back to the main menu and started a new tournament thinking I would try different teams. Then a caption came up on the screen saying that starting a new tournament would remove all saved data. One save file? It’s like the game actively punishes those who play it for too long.
Rugby World Cup 2015 is a game that redefines terrible, a hastily thrown-together piece of garbage whose sole purpose is to draw some attention to the fact that the Rugby World cup is coming. It felt like no real effort was made in making this game any good, and it is virtually unplayable. This is the epitome of a soulless cash grab, and fans of rugby or sports games in general will be mortified to see just how much a genre can be massacred. Buggy, glitchy and rushed, someone ought to take this game out the back and shoot it. I hope they double tap (always double tap) to make sure it’s dead, then set it on fire. Even if a friend gives it to you for free, throw it back at them and run away. Whoever willingly allows you to play this game is not your friend, and you don’t need them in your life.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
Just some examples of the frustration I had to endure through this game in the video below. Enjoy!