I’m not a rugby fan.  In reality I’m not really a sports fan either.  BUt I do have fond memories of renting Jonah Lomu Rugby for the PS2 all those years back.  I’ve always wanted to go back and play it some more, but with no new Rugby games coming out I had resigned myself to never playing Rugby on a console ever again.

But then the Rugby World Cup came around and there are two rugby games vying for your gaming money.

Sadly this means that both games are going to have to compromise.

For Kiwi players wanting to lead their team to World Cup victory, Rugby World Cup 2011 has some very bad news for you; you’ll have to play as a generic New Zealand team.  The All Blacks have already signed a sponsorship deal with the other rugby game.

For me this wasn’t such a big deal.  The New Zealand team still dress in the iconic black uniform, and apart from not recognising anyone on the team (not that I would recognise that many anyway!) it’s not too much of a distraction.

So then there’s the game itself.  In a world where we’re used to the polished graphics of EA’s annual sports releases, Rugby World Cup 2011 comes off a little sub-standard.  Graphically the game plays ok, but in places it a laugh, and that’s not good for the whole immersion into game play.

Gameplay is pretty simple and should be easy for most people to just pick up and play.  To be honest, it feels pretty much the same as I can remember  Jonah Lomu being, which on the one had is a good thing, but on the other, it feels just like a four year old game with a graphical update, rather than a game built from the ground up for the current generation of consoles.

Then there’s the AI.  Whilst the AI does get progressively difficult as you make you way through the quarters and semis, and ramps it up to making the final a real challenge (as it should be!), it’s a fairly easy road getting to the finals as the opposing teams seem to like to leave big gaps in their line for you to exploit.

Of course on the flip side, if you’re not on top of your game, your team will do the same.

So Rugby World Cup 2011 is a rugby game that’s been a long time coming, it is a little bit too little, and it would have been nicer to see it a couple years back so that this release could have benefitted from a few more upgrades.

Outside of the World Cup there isn’t a lot that the game offers, but for fans, it does give you the opportunity to change history and take your team to the finals.  If you’ve got a few rugby mad mates, then playing online together will give the game some much needed legs, along with some severe bragging rights to the winner.

Essentially, Rugby World Cup 2011 feels more like an XBLA game than a fully fledged retail release, but having said that, it is a fun game to play, and it’s nice to finally be able to play rugby on a console again.

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