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August 22, 2003
EA Sports Rugby 2004 - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
12/9/2003EA SportsEA Sports1-4$99.95

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Nice crowd... not!
I'm not too sure how well the original EA Sports Rugby on PS2 managed to sell but Electronic Arts had stated the due to the lack of year in the title, yearly updates weren't going to happen. Indeed this sequel is appearing over two years after that original game. Unsurprisingly the game is being released to coincide with the Rugby World Cup that is taking place in Australia in October/November this year. As you would expect with so much time passing from the previous game EA Sports Rugby 2004 certainly looks much improved - visually at least.

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Where's that contact lens?
Electronic Arts are promising quite a bit from this game. The developers have worked on an all-new control system which should make the game more fluid. All the regular Rugby components have been recreated faithfully including the tackles, scrums, tries, lineouts, and kicks. The player AI has also been reworked considerably. Every player now encompasses individual attributes, playing style, varying form, injuries, and special moves. Players play better on their home pitch than they do on away pitches because of crowd support.

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Tackle animations look good.
Not only does the game include the European Domestic Leagues but also the Tri Nations, Six Nations, Bledisloe Cup, Super 12's and of course the World Cup tournament. The developers have also included Historic Matches to participate in to rectify any wrongdoings, or miraculous recoveries. In total the developers have included 95 teams and over 2000 players. Even if your country hasn't qualified for this years World Cup they can still participate.

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. EA Sports Rugby 2004 also includes a career-building mode which will have you playing well into the night. An all-new co-op multiplayer mode will allow players to team up with a companion, and go 2-on-2 in 4-player mode, which should provide more then a few laughs.

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Sponsored by Ford.
On a graphic front it's clear the two years has given the development team plenty of time to get used to the Playstation 2 hardware and improve the graphics. This is evident in the 75 stadiums on offer from around the world (including all those to be used in the World Cup) as well as the many new camera angles. All new highly detailed motion capture for bone-crunching tackles, scrums, lineouts, kicking, and passing adds to the realism of the action. The game includes realistic pitch types such as normal, hard, soggy, or muddy as well as pitch wear, and weather conditions during the games. The crowds will also be tailored to support the home team although the surrounding screenshots doesn't seem to convey this as yet.

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The most pointless thing ever...
Sound has also been improved with new crowd effects and commentary from the BBCs John Inverdame and Channel 7s Gordon Bray. The developers have visited actual matches to capture the sounds and excitement to include in this game.

I've never been a fan of rugby (as is possibly evidenced by some comments on the screenshots) but I do love sports in general (and no - synchronized swimming isn't a sport) but that doesn't stop me having some interest in EA Sports Rugby 2004. This game certainly looks good, and fun, and I'm certainly keen to have a look at this title when it's released in early September.