It’s been such a long time since I played a Rugby game on a console, we’re talking as far back as Jonah Lomu rugby long time here. For the most part Rugby Challenge 3 has gone some way to restoring my enjoyment of rugby games, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
In terms of presentation it’s clear from the off that there is plenty of work to be done. The music so pretty ropey and the UI is pretty forgetful. Player models are not too bad, you will recognise your favourite players pretty easily. Rugby Challenge has also managed to secure licenses for pretty much every team, league and major tournaments apart from the World Cup & Six Nations, for a small studio they have done a great job on that front.
On the pitch, the crowds react perfectly to game they are watching, the stadia and weather effects all look good too. But the player audio is dreadful, when players are in the scrum it sounds like they are all giving birth, when you add the fact that the commentary team of Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall sound like they are eating the microphone it really doesn’t help. The commentary also lacks the fluidity of most sports games, you can easily pick up when the audio for a team name or certain player is mentioned as the tone of voice completely changes. Also when you have scored 4 times in the first half and they suggest your team isn’t doing very well doesn’t really help.
The gameplay is thankfully pretty solid, though again there are plenty of oddities that need addressing, players occasionally ghost through tackles, or sometimes players don’t tackle at all!
The kicking game works well, though it is too easy when it comes to conversions, I haven’t missed a single one, though it seems much more difficult for the AI. There are other little things that annoyed me, when players score a try the ball just seems to stop dead but the player is still finishing the move to score and the camera can be hugely frustrating at times. If you manage to break free of the opposition the camera goes into glory mode, it zooms right in on the player, which is fine if you are really clear of defenders but if they are close you aren’t able to see any options for passing the ball. Passing is as simple as using the shoulder buttons to pass to your left or right, it’s great when you open up the opposition find that all important gap break through and score.
It feels like I’m giving the game a really hard time and you’d be right, but actually there is something rather addictive about it. Alongside the huge amount of competitions, there is a really good Be a Pro mode, where you get to create your own player and take them through their career in rugby. Before each game you are given objectives to meet, such as scoring a try or getting involved in a certain number of tackles, meeting these increases different attributes. As you play better and become more skilful you’ll get the chance to become your current team’s captain or even find yourself signing for a bigger team. It would be great if this mode taught you a bit more about positioning, a bit like when FIFA puts arrows under their Be a Pro’s to ensure you stick to your formation. It still stands up as a good mode and saw me put plenty of hours into it, I’m looking forward to getting capped by my country.
Rugby Challenge 3 gives you the opportunity to also play some rugby sevens, it’s interesting to see how much more open the game is, if you are new to the game it might be worth starting with this match type before playing with fifteen players. There are plenty of tutorials to show you how to make use of the various controls available to you, with gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs in each scenario.
To give the game more of a community vibe there is a Fanhub section that allows you to upload and download created players and teams, you can rate other players work and also see how your uploads are also doing. The customise section is pretty extensive, allowing you to edit or create players, teams and competitions. The online mode let’s you play in sevens and fifteens matches, though you’ll struggle to find many other people to play, which is a shame.