Rugby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and its growing popularity can only mean one thing: more Rugby video games.
Rugby 20 is the latest in the franchise from Bigben Interactive, and it’s a game looking to take that next leap towards bringing the sport to the forefront of sports gamers. With deeper modes, updated animations, and new gameplay mechanics, Rugby 20 is gunning for the try without any hesitation. But does it convert?
The first thing anyone wants to know about a new game, especially one from a smaller studio, is how does it play? Well, compared to Rugby 18, Rugby 20 plays far better. There’s a certain flow to it that makes the games more enjoyable and actually fun to play that Rugby 18 just couldn’t achieve.
The addition of set plays, despite them taking longer to choose than one would like, is a great addition to the game. They don’t always work out the way you want, but when they do, it’s a great way to get an advantage on the field. There’s also an incredible feeling when you make an oncoming tackler look like a fool as you get past them. Speaking of tacklers, it would be nice for multi-man tackles to be a thing. Everything is one-on-one, and it just feels kind of weird.
Those one-on-one tackles though? They feel and look great. The animations are fluid and give a true feeling of impact when laying down the boom, even if you may be penalized for it.
The animations can come off as a bit stiff at times. Where I found it to stand out the most is when getting out of scrums or rucks. It just feels like your player’s legs move 100mph while the rest of the body slowly follows behind. And passing out of one? The ball can either look like a normally passed ball, or fly out like it was shot from a cannon. It all depends on the position of the moon and the stars.
One thing that I highly suggest no matter what is going into the tutorials. Even if you are a longtime fan of the sport, the tutorials are key for understanding how the actual game plays. If for nothing else, just take the time to practice kicking.
Kicking is the bane of my existence in Rugby 20. You can’t simply aim your kick, and get the proper power. No. That would make too much sense. Instead, you have to perfectly time a flick of the right stick, and then apply just enough aftertouch to get the ball to go somewhere close to where you hope. Even after 20 hours with this game, kicking remains the most frustrating aspect of this entire game.
There’s plenty to do in Rugby 20. Whether online or local, there’s something for everyone to play. That said, not everything is great.
Starting with the good. The game’s League mode is a standard season mode that sees players take a team through a given league with the sole goal of winning a championship. Whether its for the Nations Trophy or the Premiership Championship, there are a number of leagues to take part in. While some would’ve liked more licensed leagues, I’m not going to hold that against the studio due to licensing being tough for any non-AAA studio to come by.
That said, I would’ve liked the League mode to be more than just a single season. Nothing’s better than taking a lower-tier team and building them up to be contenders over the course of a few seasons. Rugby 20 doesn’t give you that satisfaction.
If you want to experience a multi-year mode, you can dive into the Solo mode. This mode, which requires you to create a Squad, is a manager mode that acts as a combination of a typical dynasty mode and ultimate team. It has its charm but is held back by quite a bit.
The fact that you have to use a created team in the mode is a turnoff. Like I said earlier, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to take a perennial loser and turn them into champions. While you can do that with your custom team — that you create using a pretty limited creation suite — it’s just not the same as taking an established team to the top.
What I do like about the mode is that you don’t have to worry about contract cards for players. On top of that, you can even train your players to improve and spend funds for improving your staff. Hell, there are still some AAA games that don’t even offer coaching staff management, so that’s a major plus in my book.
Personally, though, the ultimate team-like mode feels like an unnecessary addition. If they would’ve just made this a straight management/dynasty mode, I would’ve enjoyed it a lot better. If a card-collecting mode is going to be added, at least do it after ironing out the other issues that desperately need improvement.
Speaking of areas that need improvement. The game’s presentation is just…bad.
The worst offender of them all, however, is the awful commentary in the game. It’s like we’ve gone back to the late 90s-early 2000s with this audio. Splicing is nearly non-existent, and it sounds as though everything was recorded in one rushed take.
It won’t take anyone more than a minute or two to go to the settings to turn the commentary off. It really is that bad.
As far as positives go, the stadiums are well-crafted despite none being officially licensed, and the player models, despite starting to look outdated, still look good for this generation. The game introductions, albeit repetitive, do a nice job of setting the foundation of the match at hand. It was actually refreshing the first time I loaded up a game as Team USA, and they talked about the growth of the sport in the country and the establishment of Major League Rugby back in 2018.
Hopefully, the next game in the series will have the licensing for the league.
Rugby 20 is a game that has a lot of really good things going for it. The game is deeper than any of the prior installments and is definitely a smoother experience on the field. The major problem I have with the game is that it’s not very friendly to the casuals.
Diehard rugby fans will have no problem diving in and enjoying what they have. I mean, this truly is the best Rugby game fans have gotten in over a decade. For everyone else, however, it may be tough to justify the time it takes to not only learn the controls enough to play a match but get good enough to actually enjoy the game.
What do you think of Rugby 20? Join the discussion at the official SGO Subreddit.
**NOTE: A copy of Rugby 20 was provided to SGO for the purposes of this review**
Rugby 20 has some good things going for it, but it’s just not quite ready to be a major player in the sports gaming market.