Your Chance to Remedy the World Cup (Unless You’re a Kiwi)
The latest version of the Rugby Nation series seeks once again to condense the violence, chaos and occasionally balletic beauty of the great game in to something playable with two thumbs on a phone. So how does it get on?
Jogging in for Another Easy Score
The overriding problem with this Rugby game, as with many others, is that the players appear to be jogging all the time. Even when you’re running in open space and doing your best to gun it to the touchline your man appears to be out for a Sunday jog to the newsagents to pick up a broadsheet newspaper. This is obviously an inevitability about playing a rugby game app on your smart phone but still, if we’re being picky, couldn’t you just make their legs at least look like they’re moving quicker?
Running with the ball in your hands is still the best way to score in this game. Often the AI resets the defence quickly so finding a natural overlap isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Neither is the kick chase, which is made difficult by the “fancy a Sunday jog?” approach mentioned above. That leaves it to jinking and sidestepping past opponents to get a clear run in at the line. The controls are such that you set your direction by rotating the phone like a steering wheel. That’s fine for running an angle, but it makes sidestepping nearly impossible (unless you’ve got the wrists of a martial arts practitioner.)
The kick controls are actually pretty well done. Conversions and penalties are obviously only as hard as the place where you kick from but slotting the posts is by no means a dead certainty in this game. You get the view of the posts that the player gets and have no guide other than a screen swipe with your own finger. If you feel that kicks are hard, then watching the AI struggle as well should stop you feeling too disheartened.
Speaking of AI, the opposition are not completely devoid of ideas; in one of my first games I’d held them up near the try line only to watch their fly half slot an angled drop kick. I was furious. Dropkicks aside, in attack the AI doesn’t offer that much, certainly not when they’re running (which is mainly right at you.) The real skill of the AI is it catches you out for trying to ignore the basics, regardless of what difficulty setting you’re on. If you don’t commit to a ruck or put a shove on in the scrum they will take the ball off of you. This naturally causes you to smash your players in to rucks and mauls without thinking but at least it adds a level of difficulty that means you’re got something to challenge yourself with and improve on over time. Some may cry foul and say that it’s impossible to spot when you’re about to be turned over (and in some ways it is) but if you commit a lot of people to a ruck you’ll hold on to the ball.
Speaking of mauls, this does seem to be a slight flaw in the gameplay. If you want to score and you can’t break down their defence, then just start mauling. It’s success rate is pretty high and it’s by far the easiest thing to do. It won’t work against the best, but if your self-conscious about losing early on then mauling is the way to glory.
Release Date: 23/03/2016
Available on: iOS, Android
Not a Cauliflower Ear in Sight
Who’s your favourite rugby player? The answer is irrelevant because he’s not on here. In fact, no one is; it’s all “MacArthur” and “Evans” designed to make you feel like you are playing on a Scottish or Welsh team. That’s obviously a licensing issue and you can’t use it to write off the game, but it does detract from the reality that they’ve attempted to inject elsewhere. It’s probably for the best though as you can guarantee that Rugby Nations 2016 would have done an excellent job of making him look like he’s been made by a disgruntled teenager on work experience at Madame Tussauds. The fact is that this either bothers you or it doesn’t and may have zero bearing on your actually enjoyment of the game.
In terms of the pitches, to give credit where it’s due they’ve done an excellent job of actually making stadiums look like the real life stadiums. If you know your rugby, you will agree that Twickenham looks like Twickenham and that does count for something. Whether this came at the expense of the crowd graphics I do not know but it is fair to say that apart from the occasional camera flashes and rather wooden flag waving there doesn’t really appear to be anyone in the stadiums, unless you see only in 2D in which case you could claim to see a few people smushed flat against their sets. Ultimately the visuals of the stadium cover up for that and they do give you a sense of importance when you’re playing the big international games.
Reinventing the Oval Wheel
In terms of game modes, there really are more than there needs to be on here and you can guarantee that you won’t play many of them more than once. The “Friendly” setting is an easy enough starting point and it’s the only real opportunity to practice. Having the ability to choose from international and domestic teams does add some variety but again, when none of the players are real (and a lot of the clubs are missing) what’s the point? It’s certainly a good practice ground which you’ll need if you want to have a crack at the tournaments.
Speaking of which the 6 Nations is easily the best thing on here. It’s universally known as the most exciting annual rugby competition in the world and as every team plays five matches it fits nicely into an app; it’s neither too long nor too difficult to pull off. The other added bonus is that most of the teams that feature in the 6 Nations actually measure up to each other fairly well so whitewashes are by no means inevitable – at least at first. The other real life competitions are not that compelling with maybe an exception made for the World Cup, but only if you really have a lot of time on your hands.
The “Conversion” mode is very one dimensional and has been done far better by other games and the “Challenges” feature (where you are dropped in to the pivotal moment of an important game and tasked with achieving a victory) would only be good fun if you were dropped in to a key moment of a genuinely pivotal moment in the sports history (Sydney 2003 perhaps?) The cringe inducing commentary does little to help these modes either.
With simple enough controls and a genuine attempt to make a rugby game that focuses on the basics as opposed to just running up and down the field, Rugby Nations 2016 does a decent attempt and will give you some good egg shaped fun. However, if you’re looking to re-live the real-life glory moments of this year’s season, look somewhere else.
Rugby Nations 16 is developed by Distinctive Games.