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Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge preview

As the 2011 Rugby World Cup rages in New Zealand over the next two months – the championship match takes place on October 23 – a similar battle is taking place on consoles. Two games are vying for your time and money, attempting to capitalize on the ever-growing popularity of rugby union competition. While it’s not the “Officially Licensed Game” of the tournament, Johah Lomu Rugby Challenge is arguably the more compelling of the two. Sporting more licensed teams, leagues, and tournaments – and, oh yeah, one of the greatest players ever – it’s got fans buzzing. Naturally, we jumped at the chance for a hands-on preview.

A few things caught our eye. First was a nifty set of tutorials that took us through the basics of the game; we appreciated the chance to learn the mechanics as well as get some in-game cash to use for some extra swag later on. After plowing through those, we fired up a match as the New Zealand All Blacks (one of the favorites to win the Cup) against the Team USA Eagles (not, um, exactly a contender) and had a go. The results were delightfully ugly.

Granted, the difficulty was Easy, so we expected to have our way with the hapless Americans. And we did. Before the start, the New Zealanders went through their traditional Haka dance as the Eagles watched in stone silence. Then, from the opening kick, the All Blacks zipped around the pitch with relative ease. Even with the full 15-on-15 teams smashing into each other at full speed, our match ran smoothly as we passed, rucked, kicked, mauled, and scrummed our way to a dominating victory. One of the more interesting aspects was the presentation: while long stretches of the game took place from a faraway camera angle giving us ample view of the pitch (which is crucial to planning your next move), a “roadie cam” would happen when we were sprinting towards the goal for a try. This was a nifty touch, adding to the intensity of the match even if it obscured our vision of would-be tacklers. Overall, the pace was quick, the stadium was rocking, and we were left wanting more. That’s always a good sign.

Rugby Challenge has several modes to interest casual and hardcore fans alike. An interesting take on a career mode lets you take the reins of both a club team and international squad at the same time (or just pursue them separately) over the course of 13 seasons. Customization options abound as well, as you can make significant adjustments to individual player attributes and likenesses, modify tournament and league setups, as well as your team’s kits. It certainly appears to be a tinkerer’s playground.

There’s also online play, and we’ve already lined up some matches with a friend in Australia so he can destroy us as badly as we crushed Team USA. We may have to bust loose with the Jonah Lomu Legends team to have much of a shot, and it will be interesting to see how well (or not) the game runs crossing the globe. Unfortunately, the online options are limited to one-off matches and leaderboards and don’t support full leagues.

As mentioned, there’s a solid array of officially licensed club and international teams (the most important being powerhouses New Zealand and Australia), tournaments (such as the Tri Nations), and stadiums. Due to the existence of the officially licensed World Cup game, though, many of the international squads lack their real kits and player likenesses, but the customization option may mitigate those issues for dedicated players.

We’re pumped up to dive a lot deeper into the Rugby Challenge, especially as it coincides with the World Cup. Rugby’s a crazy sport, and Jonah Lomu’s game looks like it’s going to be a serious contender on the PS3 and 360 international sports game scene this fall. Check in with us in a couple of weeks for a full review.

Sep 15, 2011

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9 comments

  • pollenski - September 16, 2011 6:02 a.m.

    lazer - It rates as the fifth most popular team sport across the world, and in the top 20 of all sports, coming above American Football (in both obviously) - yet there seems to be no trouble for EA in shifting the next NFL game each year. I'd say a more reasonable assumption is that there is little overlap between people who enjoy rugby and those who enjoy gaming. From the 30 people in the clan I run, only 3 of us are following the current World Cup with any interest.
  • lazer59882 - September 30, 2011 9:32 a.m.

    lol whatever you say dude. thats why theres only 6 comments on this article, 2 of which are mine. cause the whole world cares about rugby
  • david-allan - March 14, 2012 6:07 a.m.

    Cheap commet, I Assume its from an American, who's country invents sports that only they play and then call the winners of those sports world champions or world leagues
  • lazer59882 - March 18, 2012 12:14 a.m.

    5 months late to the party, are we? and hey guess what? im not even sure if this fucking game came out cause it was literally on nobody's radar, no one gave a fuck about it, no one bought it, and aside from this article i never heard a single thing about it. so yeah. some impact it made. like i said, waste of fucking time and bandwidth. i guarantee theres never another rugby game.
  • sternparez - September 16, 2011 2:46 a.m.

    why can't they just upscale Jonah Lomu from the PS1
  • sensual_otter - September 15, 2011 7:23 p.m.

    Somebody obviously has never actually played rugby. The games may not do the best in the us, but realistically, rugby is enormous throughout large parts of the southern hemisphere and europe. Along with that, union is on the rise throughout the rest world. So no, the games won't bomb, there will be more, and some guy who's never bothered to give union a chance will make a nearly identical comment when rugby challenge 2 and rugby world cup 2015 come out in four years.
  • lazer59882 - September 15, 2011 6:51 p.m.

    hey awesome, a video game no one will buy based on a sport no one cares about featuring (apparently) some big star that no one's ever heard of. sounds good......rugby is the most ridiculous sport ever (what with dudes randomly stacking on top each other and making cheerleader poses), and i guarantee after both these games bomb there'll never be another one
  • cj12297 - September 16, 2011 1:22 p.m.

    you are a troll. And an idiot Rugby is awesome.

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