Rugby 06 Review (PS2)
When I was a kid, I spent countless Saturdays at the park playing a game we called “Kill The Man.” OK, some of us called it that. Well, actually, to be honest, that was actually the alternate name for it that we rarely used. All right ,no one called it that. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, a far less politically correct time, our actual name for it involved the word “smear” and a word that rhymed with it.
The rules of the game were simple. Take a Nerf ball, playground ball, or anything that could be easily substituted, throw it in the air, and let all hell break loose. The ball was live. If you had it… you were the “Man”. Everyone else... they handled the “Kill” part. Once you went down, you threw the ball up in the air and play continued.
Not much technique.
Running. Tackling. Hurting.
When I first got a glimpse of Rugby, or a version that I saw called “Australian Rules Football”, I thought it was a slightly more organized version of the game we played at the park. During my college days, there was an intermural Rugby league that I decided to take a shot at. I learned quickly, that it wasn’t that same game I’d spent my Saturdays on.
There was strategy.
There was technique.
The only constant from my childhood version was the running, tackling, and hurting.
Fifteen years later, I’ve long since forgotten anything I learned about Rugby when I was 19. So, when EA Sports’ Rugby 06 showed up in my mailbox, I was a tad intimidated. I know that EA takes this market very seriously. They are not a company that just caters to their U.S. audience with releases for the “four major sports”. If they were doing Rugby, they were planning on doing it right.
When you first open the case, whether you are a long-time player or a newbie, I would suggest starting off in the tutorial system. Rugby 101 will give you a high level overview of the sport itself. It really is an absolute must to at least understand the basics before firing up your first match. I actually spent some time out on the ‘net furthering my education on the topic before kicking off. The more you know, the more you’ll be impressed by the title.
Besides the basics of the sport, you’ll also find a tutorial on the basics of actually playing the game - the video game, that is. The lesson takes you through player controls, moves and other in-game techniques that you’ll need.
Once you’re ready to jump into a game, I’ll give you a free little piece of advice. Play with the camera angles for a while till you find one that you are comfortable with. The default camera is basically a sideline cam and I, personally, found it quite difficult to play with. I found it much easier to execute set plays, certain moves and kicks after finding a camera I liked. To each their own, but if you find yourself frustrated right out of the box, try tweaking the cameras.
The action on the pitch was, in a word, fun. Again, I’m not a Rugby expert (I’m barely a novice), but playing the game felt very natural and exciting. The AI appeared to make logical decisions both with and without possession. They’ve even taken a page out of the NCAA Football franchise and added “Impact Players”. Once you learn the strengths of your club and learn to utilize those players, they really dominate a game. Rugby definitely seems to be a game that rewards you for playing smart, possession-type offense versus going for the superstar play.
The most rewarding “skill” that you’ll want to master for Rugby 06 is off-load passing. Almost like running the option in football, off-load passing is pitching the ball to your teammate just before or as you are being tackled. Learning to use this at the right time and situation are crucial to competing at the higher level.
The game plays very smooth and fluid on the PS2. The animations flow well with the gameplay, although, if Rugby fans are anything like Madden fans, you’ll be quick to note the absence of gang-tackles. Also, I did pick up a very Madden-esque case of vacuum hands on some of my wingers. Balls that should have been past me, suddenly were sucked into the hands of a sprinting forward. While the player models move well, the level of detail is average at best. It doesn’t take away from the experience, but they definitely left some graphic potential on the table.
Player models aside, the presentation in this title is top shelf. You get a real TV-styled look and feel to this game. The cut scenes are excellent and the commentary, while slightly limited, stays perfectly in sync with the action. The crowd roars and rumbles right on cue and rounds out the experience wonderfully.
Rugby 06 features nine different licensed tournaments for you to choose from including series like the Guinness Premiership, the Ten Nations, and World League. You’ll find officially licensed teams from all over the globe including a World Championship with a host of national teams.
The “season mode” in Rugby 06 is actually the World League Tournament. You take over a Division-3 team and try to meet a certain set of goals to elevate your club to the next division. This is certainly a nice mode that adds much needed depth and direction to the single player experience. That’s very important here, because Rugby 06 does not offer online functionality this season.
I went into this experience a Rugby novice with more than 15 years away from trying to play the game. I walked away with an interest in the sport and a great gaming experience. That has to be exactly what EA Sports hoped to achieve with this title. At the unbelievably low price-point, Rugby 06 is a steal. If you like sports games and are looking for a solid, action packed title, you owe it to yourself to give Rugby a try.