Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Reviewed On: PS4
Developer: Wicked Witch Software
Publisher: Tru Blu Entertainment
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
Release Date: 22 April 2016
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Let us get straight to the point, when it comes to rugby games, we really don’t have much choice. Gone are the days of EA Game’s Rugby 08, and now we live in a time where the cost of game development does not warrant making a game for such a niche audience. Well the guys over at Wicked Witch Software have defied the rules and developed a half-decent rugby game which is probably just as good as the last great one in 2008.
Compared to last year’s Rugby 15, Rugby Challenge has really knocked it out of Ellis Park when it comes to a few of the features in the game. The game has acquired official licenses like the Springboks, Wallabies and more. All the teams have all their official branding like badges, names of players and more. It is pretty impressive just how well Rugby Challenge 3 relates to the world of rugby we know and love. Not only do the official teams exist in the game, but so do the world-famous tournaments that we all watch like the Currie Cup, Super Rugby and a few more which are related to international championships too. Saying that, not every licence is available in the game, some major ones like the IRB are there, but they are named differently. Regardless, you get the point when playing them, even though they aren’t really there.
Although we love rugby, we felt a bit rusty when jumping into the game. Luckily there is a detailed tutorial mode which teaches basically everything there is to know about the game. Once we were done playing a few practice matches we were ready to take on full matches at Free State Stadium, all the way to Loftus Versfeld. There are a few other modes to choose from when playing the game: you have your practice game, singles matches, and the wide variety tournaments to take part in.
Rugby Challenge 3 is not up to the standard with like FIFA and NBA 2K, but it’s pretty decent. A match flows well as you play through it and one of the biggest headaches, the camera, moves when you need it the most. Passing the ball with the L1 and R1 buttons transitions the position of the game pretty well. When it comes to the more complicated mechanics of the game, you really need to pay attention to what you are doing. Like most modern sports games, button combinations have been implemented to make sure you can get out of a scrum or deflect a tackle. In Rugby Challenge 3, the analogue stick is your best friend in this regard. Timing it in an upwards motion to control the ball, and choosing your players to pick the ball up. This is all then followed by a perfectly timed press of a button to take possession of the ball.
Most of the tactical situations in the game are all fairly complicated to master as they all rely on perfectly mastered button presses to either drive the opposing team away, or tackling a player to steal the ball. You then get your strategies which can be called out using the D-pad. Here you can send out a player in the direction you want, or even get them to fall back. Using the L2 and the D-Pad will open up even more options for commands of the other players. We just wish we could make use of pre-sets to certain buttons to suit our play style. In a nutshell, the game runs pretty well and its mechanics and gameplay is solid, or more a work in progress for things to come in the future.
Visually the game lacks the shine we expect in today’s games. Stadiums and crowds are something we saw on the PS2, and sound design lacks polish altogether. Commentators are loud and their voices crackle as if they were recorded using a cheap microphone. The music has the same issue, which we could forgive, but the voice work is just unforgivable. There is also no South African commentator, which is a questionable decision given the game’s massive marketing campaign in SA with the Springboks, and our overall love and passion for the sport.
As much as we want to pull the game apart, we cannot help but appreciate its honest and classic take on a much-missed genre. The game is playable offline with a friend on the couch, like the classic PS2 games. The game also has a decent fanhub area where you can download teams, custom-made tournaments and players, so the customization never ends.
Sure Rugby Challenge 3 still has a way to go before it is as polished as FIFA and the likes, but it is a great sign of things to come. Finally we have a decent rugby game which we can play.