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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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