Two years in development and finally the next Rugby Challenge game has come out. There was so much to love about the original. Mainly just that it looked like a games developer was taking the sport seriously for once, but bad AI and glitches all over the place made for a frustrating experience. So two years behind closed doors and things are looking promising for this latest instalment.
On the face of it things are basically the same visually. No new cut scene animations or anything like that, but that’s not a problem as Rugby Challenge is still a great looking game. The detail and textures on the kits particularly are really impressive. The commentary has also been slightly improved, and while it’s still pretty bad, there is at least a bit more variety, particularly from Justin Marshall. The menus have also seen a slight improvement, mainly by making them orange, and they’re a bit quicker. All looking rosy so far then.
Considering the miniscule budget of Rugby challenge 2, they’ve taken the time to refine rather than reinvent. Among the problems of the last game were some gaping holes in the rules and the ability to do things like driving mauls from lineouts, or number 8 pickups from scrums. Now though they are in, as is a new selection of strategies to set your defensive line, prepare your kicker, send runners on the right or left of breakdowns, all sorts of stuff. The ability to steal the ball at a breakdown as well as remove players from a ruck or maul mean that overall this is a much more accurate representation of the sport than in the first game.
Unfortunately, all these improvements are often undercut by some basic, underlying AI problems that are a hangover from the first game, and without them addressed, nearly puts all of Sidhe’s hard work to waste. Simply put, on attack your players are out of position too wide, and on defence they are out of position too compressed. Here’s some examples, see here how the scrum half passes to the fly half, who is stationary, the whole back line has moved in front of him, and now they suddenly disappear so far wide that the defence has enough time to easily tackle the centre and get a turnover. This isn’t an off and on glitch, this is generally how wide passing for you will work. When this doesn’t happen, you can create some truly glorious tries but these are too rare for it to be worth the frustration. Now on defence, you will find that even after setting your line to wide, your players are liable to just all sprint vaguely towards the ball carrier and two passes wide will have the computer scoring with ease.