We get it: some sports are just incredibly difficult to replicate in a virtual setting. Take cricket, for instance; there are many technical issues that need to be considered for it to be turned into a decent video game, which is apparently difficult enough that few developers even attempt it.
Rugby on the other hand, isn’t that hard. Sure, there are a lot of elements that go into a match, but the actions are fairly simple to replicate. Touch, pause, engage… and off you go.
At least, that is what you’d expect. Electronic Arts has, for many years now, been able to successfully replicate American football in video game form, so complex sports can definitely be done.
As it turns out, Canadian-based developer HB Studios struggles a bit to make a video game based on rugby. What makes this worse is that this isn’t the first time the studio has tried its hand at making a rugby game – it was responsible for last year’s disastrous Rugby 15.
Hoping to start fresh (we can only guess), it stuck its hand up when development duties were being dished out for Rugby World Cup 2015.
What HB Studios rather should have done, was sit on its hands and look the other way, because to say that Rugby World Cup 2015 is a mess would be a bit of an understatement.
The controls to steer players and pull off rugby moves across the field is simple enough from the offset, but it soon becomes rather apparent that it involves controller gestures that are unnecessary.
As an example, during a scrum or a ruck you need to move the stick in the direction on the screen. This is the only way to move the scrum forward – the longer you keep it pointed in the right direction, the harder your team will push. Like we said, it sounds simple, but there is no real sense that you are trying to push a scrum, ruck or maul.
Depending on your difficulty setting, the ball will pop out at the back of the scrum and it will then just sit there until you once again press the corresponding button. Once the scrum half retrieves the ball, the gameplay will pause, allowing you time to decide which way you want to pass or if you want to run/kick.
Passing is a simple button press, but if you want a bit more control there is a combination you can press and hold to manually select your direction.
The only aspect of Rugby World Cup 2015 that remotely makes you feel as if you’re on the field is when it comes time to take a penalty kick. The camera moves to a close-up third-person view, and you have to adjust your aiming depending on the distance and wind speed. With that said, the strength bar to kick is a simple up-and-down affair. It works, but is rather boring if you ask us.
Besides the fact the control scheme doesn’t make you feel like you are part of the game, the actual gameplay is pretty awful as well.
Passing the ball couldn’t have been animated any worse, as it looks like the ball carrier is having a fit before accidentally slipping the ball in a particular direction.
But the bad design doesn’t stop there, as there is actually a simple trick to score a try: find a gap. It might sounds true-to-life, but not on this scale. If there is even the slightest of gaps between opposing players, chances are that your man can squeeze past his opponent and run all the way to the try line – no matter how far away he starts out.
Opponents also seem rather reluctant to tackle the ball carrier, as they would rather opt to surround him with as many players as possible before taking a leap.
Every now and then you’ll find one player on the opposing team that wakes up slightly and runs after you, but deliberately running in a zig-zag pattern for a bit is all that’s needed to shake them off and score a try.
In short, make all the jokes you want about the intelligence of real-life rugby players, the AI opponents in RWC 2015 take the cake in the stupid department.
We find it very hard to recommend Rugby World Cup 2015 to anyone – even if you are an ardent rugby fan.
The graphics, as you can see in the image above, just don’t look like anything one would expect from current generation consoles, made all the worse by awful controls.
And finally, Rugby World Cup 2015’s most egregious transgression is the fact that the game isn’t licensed, and thus can’t give you real team and player names or real-world stadiums. That’s an unforgivable sin for a game called Rugby World Cup 2015, which banks on the competition’s name to sell copies, but doesn’t deliver anything officially World Cup-related at all.
That means teams and players have random names, and are entirely unrecognisable as anything more than a parody of the real game. There is also no way of downloading current real-world squads, so if you don’t want to play with Albert Michael Fitz-Joubert on fly half, you’ll have to change his name manually.
The game might, might be worth it if it pops up on a 90% off sale in the coming months after after the actual tournament concludes – which it no doubt will.
Until then, you will find more enjoyment out of watching the USA take on Canada on 11 October in the real Rugby World Cup.
Rugby World Cup 2015 is available on all major gaming platforms and retails for R799 on current-gen consoles, R599 on previous-gen and R399 on PC.