Since 2007’s Rugby 08 from EA Sports, rugby fans the world over have been clamoring for a top-tier rugby title to enjoy. And for years, great games have been hard to come by with Eko Software’s Rugby franchise battling Wicked Witch’s Rugby Challenge series for supremacy atop the rugby gaming landscape. With Rugby 22, Eko Software’s third attempt with the series, the studio is gunning for the try after its last installment set things up for the future.
And though the game is an improvement over Rugby 20, there’s still a number of issues that keep it from being able to take the crown as the best rugby game ever released.
Like football, rugby is a tough sport to build out for a video game. So many studios have tried, but only a couple continue to push forward.
Rugby 22 is clearly a game that tries its best to recreate the action seen on the pitch each game. And, to be honest, there are areas of gameplay that are enjoyable. But they are unfortunately scattered in between a number of questionable on-field issues.
Right off the bat, you’ll realize that the learning curve of the game remains far too difficult for newer players. If you’ve played any of the prior games in the series, picking it up shouldn’t be too bad. If you’re new, however, good luck. Even with the tutorials available, it’s still not a game newcomers are going to get the hang of quickly.
Once you eventually get a grasp of the controls, the gameplay can suck you in when it’s going right. Movement is quick and responsive, and the way players interact with the ball makes every decision on the field matter more than any game in the series.
Each try earned in a game feels as rewarding as the last. Nothing feels cheap or given to you, which makes things more fun. Even things like tackles feel spot on and as physical as you’d expect when watching a rugby match.
Again, when things are going well, they go well in this game. It just might take you a long while to actually get to that point on the field where you actually feel comfortable.
For players who enjoy depth in their games, Rugby 22 tries to offer a lot of it. Key word: tries. Aside from the typical quick match, Rugby 22 features Career and League modes along with events, training, and online matches.
Training and online matches are exactly what you’d expect from any sports game. Online matches run pretty well with no real hiccups, and games against real players are 10x more enjoyable than any AI contest. Events are various challenges that get updated every so often, allowing players to earn various rewards.
The two big modes are the previously mentioned League and Career.
Career sees you build a custom team via cards you earn via purchasing card packs with in-game currency. You start in the lowest-tier league with a piss-poor group of players that can barely handle a ruck let alone win you a game. As you grind and grind and grind, you’ll earn the currency to buy your blind-pick packs.
It’s clearly the mode that Eko wants you to go to, but, to be honest, it’s just not all that enjoyable in its current state. They call it a “career mode” but there’s really nothing that feels like a career. It feels like nothing more than an Ultimate Team mode – without some of the biggest names in the game – with leagues acting as the ladders you grind through.
Moving on to League, this is the mode I find myself having the most fun despite the extremely limited options. You only have five leagues to choose from – Top 14, Premier League, URC, Pro D2, and Nations’ Trophy – as you work to manage a real team to championship glory.
You take your team and manage your roster in various ways. The problem with this mode is that it’s a one-off option. No offseason; no year two. It’s pick a team, play the season, repeat.
The first thing I noticed with the game’s presentation is just how bad the audio is in Rugby 22. From the opening moments of the game to the final whistle, all the audio just seems off, especially with the commentary. The splicing sounds like something straight out of 2002 with poor inflection and random gaps between words. Even the action being called will sometimes fail to match the action on the field. It’s just an all-around mess in that area.
Visually, the game looks ok. Player models are solid enough and the animations are pretty good most of the time. There are some hiccups during long sprints and tackling, but nothing that turns you off from playing the game. Overall, it’s pretty smooth.
The menu design is pretty unique, and things do move quite fast. For me, that alone is worth a tick in the positive box. A slow and clunky UI will kill a game before you even get a chance to get into the actual gameplay. Luckily, Rugby 22 doesn’t suffer from that.
The lack of a replay system – aside from the random in-game ones – is also a downer. It would be nice to go back and watch my set play at various camera angles. Speaking of camera angles, the game doesn’t have nearly enough camera options to get the view just right while playing.
Rugby 22 Review Verdict
Rugby 22 is certainly a step up from its predecessor. The problem is, there are still too many things missing to make this a good or even great game. The learning curve remains too steep, the in-game presentation lacks any immersion, and the modes get dry and dull pretty quickly.
If you are a rugby fan or have played the series before, I would recommend picking Rugby 22 up because it’s still the best rugby game we’ve gotten in years. That said, it’s not going to be a game that’ll draw in any new fans or players.
Rugby 22 Review
Rugby 22 does some things a lot better than any rugby game of the past decade, especially on the field. Unfortunately, everything off the field keeps the game from having any sort of replay value unless you are a diehard.