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Jan. 7, 2006
Rugby League 2 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
8/12/2005HESSidhe1-8, 2 GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Graphics are quite functional.
As many of you know Australia has two main football codes over the Winter months. The first is the AFL (Australian Football League) and the second NRL Rugby League. Personally, and due to having grown up in Victoria, AFL is my sport of choice. I never even really knew much about Rugby until moving to Queensland about 12 years ago now, and even now it's still not a sport I generally watch on TV let alone real life. But I do understand the game. Why? Because I still love all sports, a lot of my friends are League fans, and it can make a fantastic video game. Indeed Rugby League 2 is just that - a fantastic video game. This is the sequel to Sidhe's 2003 smash hit NRL Rugby League, and having been in development since February 2004 gamers will be pleased to hear that this game contains so much more then updated fixtures and player lists.

As expected Rugby League 2 includes all the major teams and competitions such as NRL, Super League, State of Origin, City versus Country, and a range of international teams such as Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, and USA. The developers have used the 2005 fixtures in the game and all the major sponsors have been included for authenticity. The developers have also re-created around 40 stadiums all of which - unlike the Sony’s AFL title - include real stadium names.

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An actual in-game screen!
So the game has all the necessary items, but how about game modes. Well as well as a Quick Match and Single Matches (the latter which allows you to select teams and gameplay options) gamers will be thrilled to see the inclusion of a Competition mode and more importantly a Franchise mode. The latter two are where you'll spend the majority of the time. The Competition Mode allows gamers to take their selected team or teams through a single year of a given competition. In fact if, for instance, you have several mates around it will be possible to each pick a team and follow them through the entire season. The Competition Mode includes Super League, NRL, State of Origin, City vs Country, and more.

Where I really got hooked in this game is the Franchise Mode which allows you to control a team both on and off the field for up to 10 years. Besides selecting a local team (we naturally chose the Brisbane Broncos) you can also sign up for City Vs Country, State of Origin or International duties. If you only want to control the action on the field you can let the CPU manage things like contract management and training, or you can do it yourself. As you progress through the season you'll receive news updates via a new ticker, updates for your team via e-mail, and can look at all manner of statistics from all the teams current Win/Loss records, player and team stats and much more. This is a wonderful game mode and one to keep you playing for weeks on end.

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Missed the tackle.
The final game mode included is that of online gameplay. Sure, it's only for two players but the couple of matches we played were very enjoyable, and beating a human rather then CPU is always satisfying.

Now all this would be for nothing if the game wasn't enjoyable, but there's no worries in that department. The developers have capture the speed and essence of the sport with several major additions over the original title including ball stripping, shoulder barges, diving on and kicking the loose ball, contesting the high ball, pass to playmaker and more. The passing is done with the simple press of the L1 or R1 buttons with the square, triangle and circle buttons determining how far along the line to pass the ball. Kicking is done by simply pressing down the circle button which slows time down allowing you to aim a direction arrow. Hold on too long though and the opponents will get close enough to tackle you before the ball is kicked. The same method is also used for a field goal (but with the triangle and circle buttons pressed). Defense is just as enjoyable as offence with the ability to hold up the play and strip the ball being new highlights, and adding much more realism at the same time.

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Sponsors logos in the background.
There are still some small issues with the game. Firstly I found the way the game cuts to replays and player reaction shots to be quite jarring with a flash to a large Rugby League 2 symbol before and after each shot. It disrupts the game experience somewhat and while you can turn them off that removes some of the atmosphere. We just want them to be less disruptive to the gameplay. We found that diving for try's were a bit haphazard, sometimes the player wouldn't dive when we wanted him to. Perhaps more irritating were the video ref decisions. Sometimes they looked correct, but other times there was obvious No Trys awarded, and other Trys not. Another slight annoyance is the slight delays when changing between options in the menus. There’s definitely a pause between pressing the button and the next option coming up making selecting quite a chore a times and one which should have been fixed. Finally while I can understand why they made the decision I'm still quite disappointed by the lack of fighting in the game. Rugby is known as a thuggish sport, and there's rarely a weekend go by when you don't see another player slug another in the head. Surely if the NHL can include fighting in their games it should be available in Rugby League 2.

Prior to release developers Sidhe and publishers Tru Blu were keen to stress the effort put into the graphics in this game with motion capture being undertaken by Weta Digital - the New Zealand based visual effects company that worked on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and King Kong movies. Sidhe have also individually modeled the likenesses of over 500 players and officials and while they aren't as detailed as those we see in EA Sports' titles, they're infinitely better then the mess seen in AFL Premiership 2005. The games backgrounds and crowds could have done with a bit more life and detail but the game retains a pretty good frame rate during play which is nice to see. The game includes plenty of in-game camera angles, but the most important one, the close-up replay to see the tries is missing - perhaps it's due to the inaccuracy of the video ref. Sadly there is no 60Hz, Progressive or Widescreen modes.

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The Franchise Hub Menu.
As with any sports game the commentary plays a major part. Channel 9's Andrew Voss has taken up the duties in Rugby League 2 and despite the occasional repeated line, or incorrect call the overall commentary is adequate for the game. Referee comments are provided by Steve Clark although they are quite repetitive as expected "third tackle", "fourth tackle" and so on. Crowd effects are pretty good but not quite as lively as one would expect while the music is lively enough to get you in the mood to hit the field.

Sure, there's still the occasional glitch but I'll be damned if Rugby League 2 isn't one of the best Rugby games of all time. The graphics and sound are adequate but the gameplay is tremendous fun be it in single player or multi-player. The game also has a decent set of game modes and a Franchise mode that will have you hooked. Overall a great improvement over the original game and well worth adding to your collection. Now, if only we could get Sidhe to develop the AFL game we wouldn't have to put up with the same processed shit from IR Gurus...

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSNot the most detailed, but a solid frame rate and good animations.
SOUNDCan become repetitive with some mistakes, but overall its adequate.
GAMEPLAYBe it inoffence or defense this game is pretty good with few problems.
VALUEAll the teams, over 40 stadiums and online gameplay it's great value.
OVERALLIf you're a Rugby League fan you really can't, or shouldn't, go past this title. It captures the spirit fo the sport perfectly with some solid AI and great fun to be had. Well done Sidhe.

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