June 17, 2001
EA Sports Rugby - Review
Release Date Publisher Developer Players Rating Price
13/6/2001Electronic ArtsCreative Assembly1-2G$99.95
Online Gameplay Difficulty Save Size Vibration 60Hz 50Hz Border
NoHard296 KBYesNo None

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The standard in-game viewpoint.
Having grown up in Victoria I knew almost nothing about Rugby, let alone that there were two variations of the game, League and Union. However, after moving to the Gold Coast in Queensland some 8 years ago the sport has become more familiar to me. To see EA Sports Rugby on the Playstation 2 so early in it's life is nothing short of stunning. While the sport is big in England, France, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia it is hardly going to sell millions of units on such a new system. Does this mean that Electronic Arts have taken the easy route and rushed development of the title? Hell no. This game is as polished as any other EA Sports titles. If you're a Rugby fan you must read on.

Thanks to licenses from the RFU, ARU, NZRU, SARFU, FFR, the Bledisloe Cup and the Tri-Nations, EA Sports Rugby includes over 600 real players from almost 20 countries that can all participate in the World Championship. Other tournaments featured are the Tri-Nations, 6 Nations and Friendly Exhibition matches. The developers have included 23 real stadiums from around the world, including the MCG and Stadium Australia, as well as a variety of weather effects such as sun, rain fog etc and different times of day for the kickoff from 12-9pm. This is as close to the real thing as most of us are ever likely to get.

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It's pretty hard to stop that one.
Actually playing EA Sports Rugby is very enjoyable with fluid play and some wonderful tackles and passing. Passing the ball is done simply by pressing the L1 or R1 buttons depending which side you wish to through to. One addition, which would have been welcome, would be some sort of radar or arrow indicator to show when there is a player off screen to either side of you. You'll tear your hair out when you think someone is to the right and you pass the ball to see it bounce on the ground with no one there. Another minor niggle is that the game seems to go into too many scrums during play. Almost every time the ball is held up the players soon form a scrum, which is quite tough to win when the opponents have similar strength. Strangely the developers have opted to only use the digital control to move the players with no option to use the analog control. It still works perfectly, well but is a strange move nonetheless.

As with almost every other EA title EA Sports Rugby includes as many options as you could ever want. Before beginning the match it is possible to choose from several set plays for offence and defence. It's also possible to view the players stats as well as selecting the starting players on your team. Also selectable is the games injuries, the automatic replay after a try, the time of each half (from 2 to 40 minutes), the time of day, the stadium, and the volume for the speech, sound fx, music and crowd. This game will keep you entertained for week, if not months.

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Going for the kickoff to start play.
In many respects the graphics are both the best and worst part of this game. Importantly the animation of the players is very solid thanks to the latest motion capturing technology used and a rock solid 50fps frame rate to keep everything running smoothly. Creative Assembly have been smart enough to include a wide enough viewing area to see most of the surrounding players. Unfortunately this also results in the ball being a little too far away making is impossible to see what is happening close to the ball. Fortunately the developers have included a swag of camera angles to select from. Another slight disappointment is the lack of texture mapping. The MCG is surrounded by EA Sports logo's and lacks a lot of the detail in the crowd which you would expect.

The replays in EA Sports Rugby are also worth a mention with some stunning camera angles and absolutely none of the slowdown present in games such as NHL 2001. It's the replays in which you will see the intricate detail such as mud on the players or near tackles prior to scoring.

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Oh OK, this seems is a little dodgy.
The biggest challenge with any sport game is to re-create the atmosphere surrounding a big match, and most of that comes from the crowd, the players and (for the TV audience) the commentary. Play by play commentary is provided by legendary commentators Bill McLaren and Jamie Salmon and for the most part is fairly good. Occasionally a phrase will be said a few seconds after it should have but it is definitely no worse then any other of EA's games. The music is the typical pumped up Electronic Arts style and perfectly suits the brutality and excitement of the sport.

Despite pre-release concerns EA Sports Rugby has turned out to be a very impressive game. The graphics are impressive, the frame rate solid and the gameplay as good as you can expect. If you love sport, and especially Rugby (Union or League), then this is the game for you. Electronic Arts and Creative Assembly have developed a great Playstation 2 title.

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