And so cometh the dayâ€¦ After waiting for what seems like an age, I finally got my chance to get to grips, for around an hour and a half with EA RUGBY 2005!! To cut the story short, I was expecting to get my hands on a preview version of the full xbox game, however, due to changes at EA HQ, that didnâ€™t happen! Instead, I had to make do with the PS2 demo version! So I was a touch disappointed, but at least Iâ€™d know how the game played at long last. Obviously the demo has lots of omissions that will appear in the full game, so this preview applies to the demo only! Not only that, I couldnâ€™t find any instructions anywhere, so I had to â€œfeelâ€ my way through a couple of games first! Like you, Iâ€™ve been dying to know loads of things about Rugby 2005, especially after seeing those stunning screenshots and viewing the teaser trailers! Asking questions like â€œIs it better than 2004?â€, â€œWhat are the sidesteps like?â€, â€œIs the passing/tackling/kicking any good?â€, and most important of all, â€œHave HB Studios redeemed themselves after the travesty that was Rugby 2004?â€ The answerâ€¦. â€œYou bet your arse they haveâ€ When Rugby 2005 first boots up, you can tell straight away that HB have really gone to town on this! The graphics are nothing short of amazing! Player detail is superb etc, but you know that! Youâ€™ve seen the screenshots and movies, so I wonâ€™t dwell on this aspect of the game, Iâ€™ll stick to the gameplay, and boy oh boy, this has gameplay in spades! The default view for the demo is like the â€œSide camâ€ view from Rugby 2004, so itâ€™s pretty easy to see where everything is right away! The two teams (England & Australia) stride out onto the pitch to a HUGE reception. The crowdâ€™s buzzing and the sound is awesome! Then they line up together as each national anthem is played. I swear to God, the goosebumps on my arms as this was happening were amazing! As I watched, I just KNEW HB Studios wouldnâ€™t let us down a second time! They really have done a great â€œBuild upâ€ sequence to the matches! Ok, Whistle's blown and the game kicks off. What next? You get a little frustrated because itâ€™s slightly hard to get to grips with. I donâ€™t usually play with this camera angle, so I had to get used to it! More often than not, when Iâ€™d secured the ball from a ruck, I passed to ground. However, I realised I wasnâ€™t picking a set play and that was why! Once that was sussed, I was well on my way! What should you do then? Well I'll tell you, pause the game, go and gather Rugby 2001, Rugby 2004, World Championship Rugby, NRL and, yes, Jonah Lomu Rugby, hold them in your arms and drop them into the nearest bin because I swear down, once you've played this, there's no going back to ANY of those games!?.EVER! Everything you remember from Rugby 2004 that gave you nightmares has gone. The animation is super smooth, the passing is responsive and crisp, the tackling is varied and completely spot on and the speed of the game is pinpoint perfect! In order to give you a clearer view on how it plays, I've set out the rest of this preview as a Question & Answer list! 1. Passing, how's it controlled, what's it like? Cut out passes? L1 & R1 - if you hold it down u miss a man 2. Tackling, any good? Amazing, the variations in tackles, and the inertia of the tackles being made are a joy to behold! Not only that, time it right with the Right analog and WHACKâ€¦. BIG HIT!!! 3. What's this "On the fly" business all about? When you have secured ball in a ruck you can press up, down, left or right D-pad button to set up classic, pivot, pocket etc. It works surprisingly well. 4. Is the kicking any good? Kicking is like 2001 - square, circle, x and triangle all do diff kicks. grubber, punt, drop goal , up & under 5. Step... any good and what's it like? The step is class! The way you can run across the line, then tap the analogue stick to slip through a gap is totally superb! Brilliant addition 6. Fend... any good and what's it like? If a tackler is coming into you, push the right analog stick into the attacker and you fend. These work great if youâ€™re a bigger man!!!! 7. Scrums and lineouts.... work okay? Lineouts are similar to 2004, but a lot less fiddly!!! Youâ€™ll see more clearly on the vids. Scrums are far better than 2004, similar system, just a lot slicker 8. Goalkicking, any better than last time? Goalkicking has a tiger woods like bar - bit easy as the bar goes slow! The thing that amazed me the most was the sheer fluidity of the game! You can tell instantly thatâ€™s itâ€™s using the fifa engine, thereâ€™s no question of that! But the animation is out of this world! Players dive into tackles, ankle tap, grab one leg, crunch tackle, hit head high and so on and so on! The whole game feels how a Rugby union game should feel. Breathtaking. . So there you have it! The demo version of Rugby 2005 in a nutshell! HB & EA have totally redeemed themselves! Rugby 2004 should never have been released, and by the quality of this title, even the demo version, HB & EA know this! They really have put the effort in, and after playing it, I can now see why theyâ€™re having training camps etc! Theyâ€™ve got a sure fire hit on their hands with Rugby 2005! It wouldâ€™ve sold thousands of copies anyway, but it makes it soooooo much sweeter knowing that RUGBY 2005 is a game that deserves this accolade! I personally cannot wait now for the full version, and Iâ€™m really disappointed that I only managed an hour and a half on the demo! I wish I had the damn game here now, because sleep would go out the window!!!!!! Sidhe and Swordfish, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown downâ€¦. Over to you!!!!! By the way, As soon as I sort out my VCR problem, I'll have some gameplay footage for you. This will more than likely be in the next 48 hours! I can't do anything now, cos everywhere's closed over here!!!!