If your favourite team has performed disappointingly at the World Cup and you want to correct that fact (mentioning no names… okay, England), or if your team has done well and you want to relive those triumphs (our grudging congratulations to Wales) then you might be thinking of picking up a copy of Rugby World Cup 2015. Unfortunately, it’s a decision you’ll quickly come to regret. This game has been rushed out to coincide with the event it shares a name with, and it really shows. With AI so poor that it can barely simulate a game of rugby, you’re better off sticking with reality this time around, even if you end up broken-hearted.
The centrepiece of Rugby World Cup 2015 is – and I don’t think you’ll have guessed this – the World Cup itself, which is the main game mode. The teams are locked into the draw as it is in real life, so at first glance it seems to be echoing reality as closely as possible – but this is not an illusion that lasts for long. The first thing to shatter it is the realisation that most of the teams consist of made up players rather than their real life counterparts – including hosts, England. This leaves the commentators to limply proclaim ‘the winger’ or ‘the forward’ when they get the ball, rather than actually saying their names.
Of course, even if this weren’t the case, you’d soon realise something was wrong when you get onto the pitch. There are a few basic tutorials so you can learn how to play, and an utterly pointless free play mode which sees you running around on your own, but from there you’ll be diving straight into the game. Given that this is supposed to be sport at its highest level, you might expect seasoned professionals in these games. You’d be wrong. The AI is remarkably poor, so much so that it seems unfamiliar with how to actually play rugby.
None of the players on the field have any conception of what they ought to be doing. Many is the time you’ll find yourself charging forwards, ball in hand, only to realise that everyone else has been so slow off the mark that, far from being on your shoulder, they’re still far behind. Every pass becomes an issue of lost ground; in their eagerness to avoid a forward pass, your teammates will stay too far back and – particularly following the first pass after a ruck – actually run even further backwards, leaving you exposed and alone as a dozen burly men bear down on you.
The ruck itself is another frustrating affair. It’s governed by a mini-game using the right analog stick, and on easy difficulty you will turn the ball over or keep possession every single time – which in turn leads to ridiculous games where you never have to defend. On any higher difficulty, however, the mini-game is almost impossibly quick and becomes a question of pure luck. It’s a similar story with the other elements that use this same mini-game, such as the scrum, but this tends to be less annoying as they come along less frequently than the all-important ruck.
Of course, if you do choose to play on easy and find yourself constantly in possession, it might not be such a bad thing given that the AI is even worse in defence. It’s like watching a school rugby match between the 1st XV and the kids who neither know the rules nor want to play; your players will constantly run out of position, panic, mill around, and meekly allow the ball carrier to run straight past them. You might think that taking control manually would help, but the button to change player often makes nonsensical choices and only makes the problem worse. Ultimately, you have no choice but to watch your line collapse and the opposition run in as many tries as they wish.
If you’re hoping for at least the spectacle of a rugby match, then you should prepare to be disappointed on that front as well. The available weather conditions are ‘clear’ and ‘overcast’ so there’s no chance of a muddy match, and though there are wind and day/night settings they make very little difference. You never get close in to the action, either; there are action replays, but they’re all from the same perspective as you’ve been playing from. Rugby World Cup 2015 features none of the venues from the actual tournament, and it doesn’t put much effort into rendering the fake ones it replaces them with.
The animations are also of a low quality. Often a tackle will be made without ball-carrier and tackler actually making contact, or they’ll pass through one another, or they’ll overshoot and then bounce back together in defiance of the laws of physics. Sometimes, players will even brush tackles off as if they weren’t even there. Perhaps worst of all, when the ball-carrier is already over the try line but is tackled, they will still turn and put the ball behind them in readiness for a ruck. While this usually still results in scoring, there was one occasion when a player was tackled just as he crossed the line – only to put the ball back on the other side of it, rather than choosing to score a try!
Is there anything positive to say about Rugby World Cup 2015? Well, the mini-game for kicking conversions and penalties works alright, but it’s one of the few things that does. The AI is less artificial intelligence than artificial idiocy, and the game is far from pretty to look at. Even the commentators don’t make much sense; once, after two time world champions Australia recorded a routine win over Romania, they declared that it would send shockwaves through the sport. (Unlikely, for those of you who don’t know.) In short, if you want to experience the excitement of the World Cup, just watch it on the television. After all, you won’t find any excitement here.