World Championship Rugby PlayStation 2 Official Website
Developed by Swordfish Studios
Released - Out Now
Price : £34.99
Whilst football fans can enjoy an almost accurate simulation of their sport with the wonderful Pro Evolution Soccer 3, it's not quite the same story for rugby fans. There have been various attempts at creating an accurate rugby game and so far the only one that's been a worthy effort is Jonah Lomu Rugby, which appeared many years ago now. Since then the various games that have appeared have been at best barely acceptable. It's been a rather poor state of affairs however, that's all about to change as Acclaim and Swordfish Studios (the creators of Jonah Lomu Rugby) have bought us World Championship Rugby.
World Championship Rugby, as you would expect, concentrates on the international game. The game includes 20 national sides ranging from the mighty New Zealand to the lowly Namibia and there are a variety of modes to choose from too. You can play either a friendly, competition or challenge game. The competitions on offer are World Championship, Euro Nations, Three Nations, Tour, League and Cup. Tours can be organised for Europe, Africa, Oceania or America. Leagues can be organised and can consist of up to 8 teams. Similarly Cups can be organised and can consist of 16 teams. There are various challenge modes on offer too. Classic Matches puts in a famous match and gives you an objective to achieve. There is also the self-explanatory Beat the All-Stars mode and finally there is a survival mode where you have to win as many games in succession as you can (thankfully you can save in between the matches). Matches can be either 3, 5, 7, 10 or 15 minutes in length and you can set penalties to on or off. Each team is rated between 1 to 5 stars and in addition there are three levels of difficult which are fun, normal and the hugely challenging intensive care difficulty mode.
But how does it play? Well in short it's pretty fantastic. Initially the controls will take some mastering and it can be tricky to string passes together and the fact that there is no tutorial does little to ease you into the game. However these problems can be solved either by playing on the fun difficulty level or by playing on the normal difficulty level and selecting a strong side and playing a side who only has a 1 star rating. This gives you a heavily one sided game which acts as a practice game and allows you to get to grips with the controls. By default the actions available to you are shown on screen (L1 is shown above the player who you can pass left to for instance) and this helps you to become accustomed to the game play. Once you are accustomed to the game though you're in for a treat. It feels like an improved version of Jonah Lomu Rugby and everything from the passing to the rucks and mauls and line-outs is just how it should be. The tackling feels right too which often feel just plain wrong in other rugby games that I've played. The movement of the players also looks good and a lot more realistic than in previous games. You can even perform dummies and sidesteps and once again they look good.
Without a doubt then it's certainly the best rugby game that I've ever played. However there are some elements of the game that could be improved. Aside from the Welsh and English teams the rest are completely fictitious. This isn't a major problem though as an editor has been included and you can enter the player's real names should you want to. There are only a handful of stadia on offer too. Now I'm no rugby expert but I only recognise Twickenham as a real ground and my guess is that the others have been made up. However such is the excellence of the gameplay you won't even care about it. In fact all the stadia look good but it's the rugby action that you buy the game for and World Championship Rugby does not disappoint.
Graphically the game looks good. I don't think Swordfish went for a completely realistic look with the players, more of a slightly exaggerated look I suppose, but they look good. I was also impressed with the crowd graphics which actually animate and don't simply look like cardboard cut-outs. In fact with all the detail in the games visuals it's very pleasing to note that there was no slowdown at all and the frame rate was rock solid throughout. A 60Hz mode has also been including if your TV supports it. The interface has been kept simple and clean and allows you to get into a game as quickly as possible.
World Championship Rugby is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. The only speech in the game is the match commentary and although this isn't subtitled it's not really a big loss as it is rather repetitive. You are notified in text when fouls have been committed such as forward passes and any choices that have to made, such as the size of the line-out, are all given in text so there are no problems at all.
It's been a long wait to have a worthy successor to Jonah Lomu Rugby but at long last we have a game that has surpassed it. Whilst it's undoubtedly the best Rugby game out there (and is the rugby equivalent to Pro Evolution Soccer) I would have liked to have seen national sides in the game. Online play would also be a great inclusion as would the ability to create your own online leagues. Of course more official team names and official stadia wouldn't go amiss. In fact the more you think about it the more it becomes obvious that there is massive potential here for at least a couple of sequels. What's important though is that the game play feels right and completely trounces over all previous rugby games. At long last rugby fans have a game to call their own.
Game Rating: 8.7/10
The best rugby game you can buy. The true successor to Jonah Lomu Rugby has finally arrived.
Match commentary isn't subtitled but aside from that it's absolutely fine.