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October 3, 2003
Rugby 2004 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
24/9/2003EA SportsHB Studios1-4GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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See the head in the arm?
Rugby League, Rugby Union. As a Melbourne born and bred person it's all the same shit, with a slightly different smell. AFL ruled the roost down there and Rugby of either kind never got a mention. But I've been living in Queensland for a decade now and the tables are turned. I still follow AFL but being a sports nut in general I have learned a lot about both versions of rugby. Rugby 2004 is based on Rugby Union, the version which most of the world plays, and more importantly the sport which this months World Cup is based upon.

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All lined up for food.
A couple of years ago Electronic Arts released EA Sports Rugby, a game which I praised way too much for one reason or another. It was good, but certainly shouldn't have scored much above 70%. This sequel promises so many improvements from the earlier versions, and it delivers. The biggest change from the previous game is obviously the addition of analogue stick support. Only being able to use the digital control in the original was a massive oversight from the developers and this new control system is much more appropriate and responsive. Other improvements include the control over the scrums and line-outs.

While the controls have been improved they still aren't perfect. Passing the ball along the line isn't responsive enough, and often seems too inaccurate. The actual AI of the players seems to have been improved somewhat from the orginal game, but still leaves much to be desired. It's still way to easy to pass the ball (or run it) way out wide to the sidelines and then sprint to the end for a try. On several occasions I have also managed to pass the ball forwards and get away with it. Sure real umpires make mistakes but this is passing the ball forward a few meters.

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It doesn't look this sharp.
Rugby 2004 includes a variety of game modes such as the European Trophy, Tri Nations, Six Nations,Super 12's and of course the World Cup tournament which kicks off in a weeks time. Of course it's the World Cup in which you will spend some time during the actual tournament as you attempt to steer your team to the ultimate reward. Unfortunately the presentation of the World Cup mode does little to distinguish it as the premiere tournament. There is none of the flair found in EA Sports' impressive FIFA 2002: World Cup title released a couple of years ago. In total the developers have included 95 teams and over 2000 players.

A player editor lets you change every element of each player on your team including height, weight, look, and playing attributes. The user can also create players using the player editor that they can also buy/sell/trade during the game. Rugby 2004 also includes a player trade mode, which will have you trying to manage your lineup off the field. The co-op multiplayer mode allows players to team up with a companion, and go 2-on-2 in 4-player mode, which provides smple entertainment for a few hours.

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Going for the kick.
Graphically, Rugby 2004 is an extremely disappointing title. The animations on the players are limited and the stadiums, while modeled adequately have poor grass textures. What is the real killer is the detail, or lack of, on the players. The texturing on their faces is almost non-existent (just check out the screenshots) and pulls you right our of the game. What's even worse, however, is the crowd. The screenshots here show a crowd that at least looks real, but the final game has a crowd, especially during replays, that is a blurry bitmap with no definition or resemblance to a crowd. I've seen better stuff in FIFA 98 or on almost any PSOne game.

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Scrums... I still don't get it.
Sound is, as you can probably guess, also disappointing. What should be one of the most impressive parts of this game, the commentary from John Inverdale frmo the BBC and Channel 7ís Gordon Bray, is broken and uninspiring. "Australia", "scores a", "try". The music is atmospheric enough during the menus while the sound effects are mainly limited to crowds, and also, very average.

Although the scores I have awarded this game appear very low, especially compared to the previous EA Sports Rugby, this is the superior game by a long shot. In hindsight I really should have scored the original game much lower, but as the first rugby game in a long time it was a good first attempt. Rugby 2004 is a much better game in almost every area from graphics to gameplay, presentation to sound. Having said that this game could, and should, have been better in many areas and it doesn't compare to the other EA Sports titles, but given the small audience for such a title it's understandable. Rugby fans will certainly get much enjoyment from Rugby 2004, especially with the upcoming World Cup.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSAnimation is passable but the graphics are let down by poor crowds.
SOUNDAverage commentary, average crowds and average.. well its average.
GAMEPLAYEasily the best representation of Rugby with some minor niggles
VALUENot as deep as other EA Sports titles, but enough to keep you busy.
OVERALLEA Sports Rugby 2004 has been timed nicely to coincide with the World Cup over the coming months. The gameplay is solid enough while the presentation and graphics should have been much better. Rugby fans will enjoy this title.

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