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April 1, 2005
EA Sports Rugby 2005 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
17/3/2005EA SportsHB Studios1- 4GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
735KBDolby PLIIYesNoNoneNo

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Graphics are much improved.
I'll be honest, after EA's rather dismal Rugby 2004 I approached this title with much trepidation. Could the gaming superpower redeem themselves with this years Rugby title? The result was quite surprising. In the space of only 18 months Electronic Arts, or should that be developers HB Studios, have totally reworked the game resulting in a vastly superior, but still not quite perfect, rugby game. If you're a rugby fan then EA Sports Rugby 2005 is a game which should pique your interest. I assume that if you're reading this review you know what the sport is about, so let's get onto the games features and technical achievements.

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Kicking for goal...
When you first start this title your best bet is pay some attention to the 'Rugby 101' training mode. Typically I find training modes quite annoying, especially in action titles, however the one in Rugby 2005 ensures that you're familiar with all the rules and gameplay options and is well worth paying attention to. In terms of inclusions EA Sports Rugby 2005 incorporates eight major Rugby tournaments such as the World Championship, Tri-Nations, Six Nations, Ten Nations, Super 12, European Trophy, World League, and Lions Tour. As expected the title also includes a wide range of official teams (61 in total) from both international and national leagues, as well as the key players. If you don't like the players provided EA Sports has, as always, included a player creation tool where you can change the appearance and characteristics of you player. It's not as detailed as those in EA's Tiger Woods titles, but still detailed enough.

What really makes this game a vast improvement over last year is the enjoyment while playing. While the AI is still a little suspect in the way CPU controlled players cover areas or hold formations there is no doubt that the engine has been overhauled. The right analogue stick can bow be used to perform massive hits on opponents while in defense, or fakes while in offense. It's possible to call plays on the fly during games which adds a bit more excitement to the game. Scrums are still a little problematic however their implementation and effectiveness seems a little more leveled out then those in the previous title.

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Damn All Blacks....
It must be said that as a single player game this title is good, as a multi-player game (for up to 4-players) it's fantastic. There's nothing like making a massive hit at the last moment to stop you mate scoring the match winning try. Sadly EA Sports Rugby 2005 lacks any online options. I guess given the limited audience for the title (even if it is getting a release in America) makes it quite unfeasible to set up the servers. Still, it would have been a nice addition. Another issue I have with the title is that kicking for goal still isn't as easy or enjoyable as it should be.

Certainly the most recognisable change from previous titles is the improvements made to the graphics. The stadiums and pitches all look wonderful however the detail on the players seems to have been bumped up and has the biggest impact. They're still well below player models in games like FIFA Soccer and Madden NFL, but at least they are serviceable now. With the assistance of motion capture the animation on the players has also been greatly improved. Unfortunately the crowds still look less then stellar, but I guess we're still waiting for next generation to get this aspect looking good in any sports game.

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Got him!
In terms of audio EA Sports Rugby 2005 delivers a concise, but quite good, package. The music tracks are provided by bands such as Grinspoon, Powderfinger, The Futureheads and Jackson United just to name a few. It's a great mix that suits the pace of the game perfectly. Perhaps more important to the overall package are the sound effects and commentary. Sound effects such as crowd cheers and on-pitch sounds are realistic and, combined with the Dolby Pro Logic II support, really puts you in the stadiums. The commentary is fairly accurate and while not up to EA's American sports titles is certainly better then expected.

EA Sports Rugby 2005 is a superior game to EA Sports Rugby 2004. The graphics, sound and gameplay are all improved and while still not brilliant the series is at least heading in the right direction. If you're a rugby fan then this is a game you should certainly check out.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version)
GRAPHICSGraphics, while not perfect, are much improved from Rugby 2004.
SOUNDFairly good commentary with adequate background sound effects.
GAMEPLAYMuch smoother then last years title and more enjoyable too.
VALUEThe range of teams and tournaments is good, but no online options.
OVERALLEA Sports Rugby 2005 is a much improved title over the previous game, but it's still not perfect. Still it's a step in the right direction, and one which rugby fans will likely appreciate.

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